HE’S a top Great British chef – and that’s official!
Super chef James Durrant returned to his pub victorious after triumphing in a television competition against dozens of other culinary kings.
James was watched by millions in the final of BBC2’s Great British Menu last Thursday, where it was revealed he would be cooking the main course at a banquet to honour the veterans of D-Day.
The 35-year-old, who owns The Plough Inn, in Longparish, with his wife Louise, had spent two months competing in the contest, for the chance of cooking at the banquet at St Paul’s Cathedral, to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
Four chefs were selected by the judging panel to cook each course, with James chosen to prepare his Blitz Spirit as the main, after it received high scores from the judges. The sharing dish, designed to reflect the community spirit shown during the Blitz, included roasted loin, braised cheeks, sautéed sweetbreads, beans, mushrooms and toast.
James said: “It was an amazing experience – it really was. It was very humbling and exciting to be there.”
The final show of Great British Menu saw James and the other chefs work together to prepare the banquet.
James was also seen visiting Prime Minister David Cameron, who showed the father-of-three where wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill stood to watch bombs landing on London.
James said: “I didn’t know the visit was going to happen until the producers said we were filming in London, and asked if I had any strong political views. I entered a cooking competition last August and never expected to meet the Prime Minister!”
Mr Cameron was a guest at the banquet, and gave a speech ahead of the special event.
But the preparation did not run smoothly for the chefs, who had to construct a kitchen in St Paul’s before they could get to work on their dishes.
Thankfully, guests at the event, including James’ wife and 12-year-old son Charlie, had no idea of the chaos behind the scenes.
James said: “They really enjoyed it. It was lovely to have them there and for them to see what it was all about and where I had been for the last few months.”
James’ food was inspired by his wife’s grand-father, who served in the Army during the war, aged just 17, and was one of the first to land on the beaches on D-Day.
He said: “Once it was all done, to be able to go out into the room and talk to the veterans made it so real. It was a really special thing to do.”
And a very welcome side-effect of appearing on the show is that it has also boosted business at The Plough Inn.
James said: “People are booking now for the next three months. We are taking bookings for October. It’s really had a huge impact.”