Interview with Charlotte Vincent representing the South West region on Great British Menu 2023 – Women In the Food Industry

Great British Menu (GBM) returned to our screens in January 2023 for series 18. The BBC Two show puts the nation’s most talented chefs to the test. At Women in the Food Industry we are interviewing the strong female line-up of chefs from across Britain competing to serve their dish at the final banquet. To continue our series, our co-founder, Mecca Ibrahim, interviewed Charlotte Vincent, Head Chef of Colsons Restaurant, Hotel Indigo, Exeter in Devon.

How did you start working in the food world and where did you train to be a chef?

I was in the army. I did nine years of training there and then went to work with Michael Caines at Gidleigh Park.

How did you get onto Great British Menu again?

I asked actually. I really enjoyed it last year and wanted to do it again. So I asked but was initially told that I couldn’t as I was in transition for a job. But then they rang back and said that they would like me back again.

How did you prepare for the animation theme?

When I first got it, I thought, this will be so exciting and there will be loads of stuff that I can find and use for the West Country.  I found absolutely nothing. All there was at the start was Wallace and Grommit and a few other things. But the more I sat and did some digging, I found there were some really interesting things from the West Country.

Wallace and Grommit started off in a garage in Axminster with The Trapdoor cartoon. The more research I did I found there were a lot of retro’y type cartoons that had been forgotten. Also discovered that a few of my favourite illustrators were from the south west. So it was a difficult one, but in the end I was spoilt for choice.

This is your second time on the show, did it differ and in what way?

It was tougher this year. I didn’t realise that I had fractured my leg went I went for filming. I was on painkillers for much of the show and when I came back I found that I had a hairline fracture on my shin. So because of that I was really not my normal self as I was being much more careful in the kitchen. I probably shouldn’t have gone in hindsight.

Which was the hardest course to prepare for?

It was the starter because it was vegan this year. I put a lot of work into it but you’ll see it didn’t quite go to plan. I found it hard putting all the elements together.  I should have just played it safe.

GBM is very much known for its props, did you embrace the props on the show?

I did this year. I spent a lot of money on the props this year. I went really went for the humour on my fish course and I think it worked.

Olivia Barry, Elly Wentworth, Paul Ainsworth and Charlotte Vincent from Great British Menu 2022

Which chef that you have worked with has given you the most inspiration?

Paul Ainsworth absolutely without a doubt. This time last year I had never met him. But when I was voted off the show last year he took me outside. We sat down with a cup of coffee and we had a really sincere and frank chat. He was so good and he changed my life that day. He gave me the confidence to believe in myself and push myself out of my comfort zone.  He’s an amazing man and I’ve told him several times what he did for me. He always gets a little bit shy about it. I rate him very highly as a person as well as a chef.

If you were marooned on a desert island, what was the one type of dish you could happily live on?

I am going to say noodles, I am really into noodles this year. Because I am right in the middle of Exeter now, I am spoilt by the Asian culture we have and all of the Asian supermarkets.

Finally, what do you know now that you wish you could have told your younger self when you were starting out?

I’ve learnt more lessons in my forties than I’ve learnt ever. When I was younger I was wanting everything to happen straight away and when it didn’t I was getting frustrated. I’d tell my younger self to be patient and work hard at the right things.  Don’t be a busy fool. Look after others around you as they are all you’ve got. Just cherish every moment.

Charlotte will be appearing on Great British Menu from Tuesday 7th February 2023 representing the South West region.  Look out for more in our series of interviews with the great women chefs on Great British Menu 2023.

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