Interview with Kerry Roper representing Northern Ireland on Great British Menu 2023 – Women In the Food Industry
Great British Menu (GBM) returned to our screens on 31st 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. Continuing our series, our co-founder, Mecca Ibrahim, interviewed Kerry Roper, Head Chef and Development chef at Stix & Stones in Belfast, who is representing Northern Ireland.
How did you start working in the hospitality world and where did you train to be a chef?
I didn’t train anywhere really until I started working with Michelin-starred chef Danni Barry at Clenaghans. I got all my fine dining training from working with her since 2016. I had been cooking for about four years at that stage.
This is your first time on Great British Menu, how did you get onto the show?
I was just about to open up Stix and Stones and I got a phone call that morning, completely out of the blue asking if I would like to go on the show. That was pretty cool so I said yes.
How did you prepare for the animation theme at GBM?
Firstly I think it’s a really good brief in that everyone has nostalgic things they could do. However on the show it has to be related to your region (Kerry is originally from London), and that was quite tricky. But I got more familiar with Paddington which was lovely. Revisited some Paddington which is good for soul. Lots of reading and lots of late nights watching 1980’s animations. That wasn’t bad homework.
How did you find it working with the cameras and a film crew?
It’s definitely very different to working in professional kitchens. It was an eye-opener. Everyone on set is lovely. The producers, camera people, home economists, everyone. It’s just quite difficult to have an camera in your armpit when you are working. But it definitely wasn’t bad, just different.
What did you find the hardest course to prepare for?
Everybody is probably going to say the starter this year because it has to be vegan. It can be difficult. However the construct of my dessert was quite difficult. Very simple elements but actually the physical construct was quite difficult. I had a couple of sleepless nights thinking about it.
GBM is very much known for its props, did you embrace the props on the show?
I think I did yes. Looking back I probably could have gone bigger. The worry is that if you haven’t done it before you don’t want to fall into all cliches that they say year on year “ie without the props what would the dish be?”. But I did go hard on props definitely I did a lot of home made stuff. Essentially made most of it. People on my team and people who I worked with and my family all chipped in. It was really nice.
Photography by Shuttersalt
Which chef that you have worked with has given you the most inspiration?
Probably Danni Berry is the most talented chef that I have worked with. Her work ethic too. She’s pretty inspiring stuff.
One of my old sous chefs too, he makes bread now actually. At Counter Culture he’s called Sean Kelly. He was definitely a big inspiration with his drive and work ethic. There are certain people who you have worked with, you can still hear in your head when you are in service and he’d be one of them. And my team now, they are pretty inspiring, people I work with every day.
Photography by Shuttersalt
If you were marooned on a desert island, what was the one type of dish you could happily live on?
It’s stuck between two. I am a real burger and chips kind of human. Done really well, it doesn’t have to be too out there. Just a really good burger and chips. It would be my death row meal. Plus Christmas ham. I could live off Christmas ham.
Finally, what do you know now that you wish you could have told your younger self when you were starting out?
I’ve probably only very recently learnt not be propelled by panic or to have that as the fuel. Great British Menu was great for my confidence. Just to be asked. I think I know that whatever is in front can be done. You don’t need to go through all the turmoil to get there. It will happen, it will be allright.
Kerry will be appearing on Great British Menu from Tuesday 14th March 2023 representing Northern Ireland. Look out for more in our series of interviews with the great women chefs on Great British Menu 2023 soon.