Interview with Melissa McCabe representing Northern Ireland on Great British Menu 2024 – Women In the Food Industry

Great British Menu (GBM) returned to our screens on January 23rd for season 19. The BBC2 show puts the nation’s most talented chefs to the test. At Women in the Food Industry we are continuing our series of interviews with the strong female line-up of chefs from across Britain competing to serve their dish at the final banquet. Our co-founder, Mecca Ibrahim, interviewed Melissa McCabe who runs her own food truck Street FEAST based out of Camlough.

Melissa McCabe Great British Menu 2024

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

I came into this industry unplanned, I did event management in school. My first job was cooking in a takeaway restaurant aged 15 for four years. Without realising I was building kitchen habits that would prove very useful in my later years. I went travelling the world in search of new culinary experiences, working in Australia and New Zealand to name a few. I soon realised that my life was destined to be spent in the kitchen and I fell in love with the industry. After returning to Ireland, I worked my way up the ranks before working in the west coast of Scotland then to London. So you could say I’ve covered all bases from take away, two Rosettes to working in Michelin star restaurants.

Northern Ireland Chefs - Great British Menu 2024

How did you get onto Great British Menu this year and how did you prepare for the Olympics theme?

I was approached for Great British Menu. I was on my food truck deep cleaning for the weekend and I saw I’d missed a call so listened to the voicemail and couldn’t believe what I was hearing! The last call you expect to get as a chef I was mind blown especially as I grew up
watching it.

After a few ‘Did they get the right Melissa?’ I started to take it in and felt extremely proud.

Not going to lie I found the brief very difficult at the start, until you start researching and then you become naturally very interested and proud of your region.

Melissa McCabe - Great British Menu 2024

This will be your first time on the show, how did you find it working in the studio kitchen and under the eye of the cameras?

This was my first time on the show and my first time in a cooking competition. I have always pushed myself, I have learnt over the years if you don’t shoot you can’t score, aayyoooo! Better to take the chance than never find out at all. It was an incredible experience, very challenging both vulnerable and rewarding.

Haha who knew trying to talk, cook while being filmed was so difficult, sure it’s only going on the telly. It was tough at times, you make silly
mistakes under those pressures.

Great British Menu is as mentally challenging as it is physical, you have to pick yourself back up quick and keep on pushing! The cameras added a a huge amount of pressure and take a lot of getting used too.

At the end of the day you are there to film a cooking series. The crew were a great bunch, I had a great laugh and managed to enjoy myself under all the pressures.

Which was the hardest course to prepare for when you were researching for GBM’s Olympic theme?

I found the main course hard for linking to the brief and time constraints. But I got there in the end. To be honest preparing for the competition I found very challenging.

My little food truck is 2.2 metres wide with little to no equipment. I cook with two small BBQs and have a small fryer. If it wasn’t for my good friends with a restaurant in town (Finegan and Son) I went down some evenings after their service, I wouldn’t have got half the practice in.

Melissa McCabe - Great British Menu 2024

Did you embrace the props on the show?

I found the props a challenge, you could say I’m very simple in my cooking. I understand with this show that props play a massive part but for me personally less was more.

Northern Ireland Chefs - Great British Menu 2024

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

Pan Con Tomate

Melissa McCabe on Great British Menu 2024

Which chef have you worked with in your career who you found the most inspiring?

I would have to give Chris and Sebastian a shout out for this. They really took me under their wing in Melbourne, built my confidence and really made me fall in love with the industry.

Great British Menu Northern Ireland Chefs

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

Keep pushing, trust the process and embrace everything coming your way!

Melissa will be appearing on Great British Menu from Tuesday 5th March 2024 representing Northern Ireland.  Look out for more in our series of interviews with the great women chefs on Great British Menu 2024 – this page will be regularly updated.

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