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RAF Valley to star in The Great British Menu
RAF Valley to star in The Great British Menu - Thursday 7 May 2009
The Search and Rescue Force at RAF Valley has played host to two renowned Michelin Star chefs as they go head to head in the regional heats of ‘The Great British Menu’ to be shown on BBC Two at 18.30 on 07 May 2009. Stephen Terry from The Hardwick in Abergavenny and James Sommiren from The Crown at Whitebrook spent the day with the ground and aircrew from 22 Squadron C Flight before heading into the kitchen to compete against each other in a timed challenge.
Squadron Leader Iain Wright, Officer Commanding of C Flight, welcomed the duo to the station before they embarked on their day. The mighty yellow Sea King helicopter, synonymous with Search and Rescue, took centre stage as the pair joined a scheduled training sortie; an experience met with a mix of trepidation and excitement! James Sommerin, Head Chef at the Crown, which retains one of only two Michelin Stars in Wales, admitted to a phobia to heights so this was a particularly challenging experience for him. Once back on terra-firma he said:
“It was my first time in a helicopter and because I have a bit of a height phobia I was determined to push myself to do it and conquer my fears. It was great though and being here with the RAF is a mind-blowing experience – I’ve had a brilliant time!”
With the theme of the series ‘A Taste of Home’ the chefs were particularly interested in life at home and contrasting this with ‘on-call’ duties when meal times can invariably be interrupted at any time by emergency call-outs.
It was then time for the chefs to roll up their sleeves and feel the heat of the kitchen. To reflect the conditions that the RAF Valley chefs work in everyday, James and Stephen were tasked with cooking an evening meal, to include a main course and dessert, for the cost of £1.00 within a one hour limit.
With limited ingredients in front of them both had to make fast decisions as to their menu. With the clock ticking, the friendly banter between the chefs escalated throughout the hour. Both clearly wanted to impress the crew who had flown them earlier and who would now critique their meals and choose a winner. James Sommerin compared the cooking challenge to his everyday role and said:
“Cooking like this has been completely different because I work in a fine-dining restaurant and everything is made on site. We don’t really have a budget to stick to, so today has been really different.”
As both chefs served up their offerings, Stephen Terry, who first gained a Michelin Star at the age of 25, reflected on his day and said:
“The one thing that will stick in my mind is how professional everyone here is and what an amazing job they do and the service they provide. I think perhaps some people may take that for granted as they don’t have an insight into how a RAF station works and how much effort goes into saving lives”.
The decision on the dishes can be seen on Thursday’s programme, one of the 46 episodes being shown across a three month period. The Armed Forces take part in other episodes with the RAF, Army and the Royal Navy hosting other regional heats. The RAF will feature in the series final when the two chefs who have best captured the ‘Taste of Home’, according to public vote, cook a banquet for Armed Forces personnel returning from overseas operations. This four course meal will be cooked and served against the grandeur of Halton House in Buckinghamshire where the 2009 winner of The Great British Menu will be determined.
Editor: Sal Davidson
Photographer: SAC David Rose, RAF
Image 1: (Larger size) A participant peeping out of an RAF Search and Rescue helicopter.
Image 2: (Larger size) Filming two renowned Michelin Star chefs as they go head to head in the regional heats of ‘The Great British Menu.