Interview with Elly Wentworth representing South West on Great British Menu 2021 – Women In the Food Industry
Great British Menu (GBM) returned to our screens in March 2021 for series 16. 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. Continuing our series, our co-founder, Mecca Ibrahim, interviewed Elly Wentworth, Head Chef at The Angel in Dartmouth. Elly is representing the South West.
How did you start working in the hospitality world and where did you train to be a chef?
I trained and qualified in Plymouth. I started work with Chris and James Tanner at Tanners Restaurant in Plymouth when I was about 17. I was there for two years which was my first real insight in cookery and fine dining. I moved to Simon Hulstone in Torquay, which was my first Michelin starred restaurant. I was with him for just under two years. It was quite different style of food. We used to grow all of our own vegetables in poly tunnels and collect all the edible flowers and veg in our breaks. I then moved with my partner to Wiltshire and started working at The Manor House under Richard Davies. He had a Michelin star too and I worked there for 3 years and went from demi chef to junior sous chef there. He was trained by Gordon Ramsay, so it was quite a hard kitchen.
I worked in all the sections and started entering competitions, such as South West Chef of The Year, which I won. I found I really enjoyed competitions and liked the pressure. I met a lot of chefs that I looked up to. From there I went to Lucknam Park and was there for three years under Hywel Jones. So in total I had worked for around 10 years in Michelin kitchens. I started here at The Angel in September 2018 as Head Chef.
We’re really established and trying to bring back the restaurant to what it was when Joyce Molyneux was here. She was the first female chef to get a Michelin star. It was lovely to be asked as a woman to take over her legacy. Her name is always going to be renowned and people came from across the country to eat here and we want to keep up that reputation.
How has lockdown been going for you?
It’s been a bit of a tough lockdown this one. But it gave us time to refurbish the whole restaurant, so I’ve been painting. The whole decor has changed. We want everyone to feel really relaxed and we are showcasing as many Devon suppliers as we can. For example all of the butter dishes have been made by a lady in Devon. Really looking forward to getting back. We have a new Elly Wentworth Chef Academy and we’re training up chefs.
This is your first time on Great British Menu, how did you get onto the show and how did you prepare for the British innovation theme at GBM?
I was approached by one of the producers who has been following me for a while. I did MasterChef The Professionals too, and have done a bit of telly before. They asked me how I would feel about going on the show. To be honest it’s one of the shows I have been watching since God knows how long. I can remember Daniel Clifford doing the chicken and the egg like it was yesterday. It was a bit surreal then they asked me. You are nervous as you’re not just representing yourself but your restaurant, your staff, your region, the produce. It was a challenge but I really enjoyed it.
When it gets to meeting a brief I went with an inventor that really hit home, so they had to have a connection of where I worked, where I lived or a connection when I was younger. I then matched my food to the inventor. It took a couple of weeks, but once you start researching it’s quite easy.
How was it working under the cameras?
It was a different pressure to MasterChef The Professionals. That’s the unknown, you are walking in and you do not know what you are going to be asked to cook which is scary as it is. But with GBM although you know what you are going to cook, it’s a different environment. The four of us chefs got on really well. There were no egos. We all helped each other, it wasn’t really like a competition we were all just cooking.
Which was the hardest course to prepare for?
Probably the dessert, I probably spent seven weeks preparing. It was one of those dishes that I really wanted to get to the banquet with. There was a real connection with my father so I wanted to make him proud. I went all out with it.
GBM is very much known for its props, did you embrace the props on the show?
For me, if you are going to go on GBM you need to give it your best shot – if it means you have to spend a lot of money on props that’s what you’ve got to do. Every prop that I used meant something to the dish and went well with it.
Which chef that you have worked with has given you the most inspiration?
I have two. Chris Tanner is my best mentor and I speak to him literally every week and Hwyel Jones form Lucknam Park. I’ve worked for a lot of Michelin star chefs but these two have taught me that it’s about the management of staff and building a great team that helps you get stars and accolades. They are both father figures to me.
If you were marooned on a desert island, what was the one type of dish you could happily live on?
Not necessarily a dish, maybe a few snacks. So a Wispa. I love a Wispa. Not many people are going to like this but I love salad cream on crumpets. There’s something about it. People think I am mad with this, but don’t diss it until you’ve tried it.
Finally, what do you know now that you wish you could have told your younger self when you were starting out?
When I was younger I dedicated my whole life to my career I didn’t really go out much. So I’d like to have gone abroad and done a stage somewhere overseas. It would have been great to know different styles of cuisine more. I would have liked to have eaten out more as you don’t get that much time to eat out as a chef. I want to try to go to Sweden this year and get some new ideas.
Elly will be appearing on Great British Menu from Wednesday 12th May 2021 representing the South West. Look out for more in our series of interviews with the great women chefs on Great British Menu 2021 soon.