Interview with Nat Tallents representing the South West region on Great British Menu 2022 – Women In the Food Industry
Great British Menu (GBM) returned to our screens in February 2022 for series 17. 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 Nat Tallents Development Chef at The Lost Gardens of Heligan. For the first time in Great British Menu’s history this is an all female line up of chefs.
How did you start working in the food world and where did you train to be a chef?
My parents helped me get a job at 14 at a restaurant as a waitress. To be honest, I hated it. My Mum said if you want to quit you have to tell them. But I was painfully shy so I couldn’t. So I ended up staying there and in effect I started to enjoy it. The turning point for me was being in the kitchen. My parents didn’t cook fresh food so I was fascinated with what was going on. After college I worked as a restaurant manager and thought the chefs have way more fun than I do. So I quit and got a job as a commis for a chef in Yorkshire. Two years later I was head chef at the same place. I’ve never had any training other than on the job. I’ve been a chef now for 12 years, which sort of came out of nowhere.
I started a degree in Sustainable Tourism during lockdown and saw a job for Development Chef at The Lost Gardens of Heligan which really lined up with what I wanted to do. It’s an amazing place.
How did you prepare for the broadcasting theme?
I was really excited about this one. I’m from a family that loves TV As soon as I found out, the research was really fun and interesting, compared to science from last year it was something I felt I could get my teeth into it more.
You have been on Great British Menu before, how did you find it working under the cameras this time?
I think I’ve definitely got used the interviews and talking in front of the camera more. But as soon as the camera comes onto me when I am cooking – I am like “Oh my god I can’t cook, what am I doing?”. I completely doubt what I am doing. Because when you cook normally, no one is watching you. But the film crew are amazing and are really good at helping by saying “you can do this, you are all right, what are you doing next”.
Which was the hardest course to prepare for?
I think it’s always the fish course for me. Especially being a Northerner representing the South West, I feel like there’s much bigger pressure to really do well in a fish course. Fish is notoriously quite difficult anyway score wise so it’s always quite a tough one.
GBM is very much known for its props, did you embrace the props on the show?
Probably not as much as last year. There’s a lot of work to go into the dishes without the props. I just didn’t want it to be too proppy and I wanted to focus more on the food.
Which chef that you have worked with has given you the most inspiration?
It has to be the first chef I worked with Tim Bilton in Yorkshire. He did Great British Menu about 11 years ago and I helped him through the process. So it’s really nice to be doing it now looking back at where I started. He took me on, and too be honest, I couldn’t even make an omelette. He geared me in the right direction. He’s incredible. He’s got cancer yet he still works, he’s running marathons, he’s writing, he’s filming. He’s amazing. I’ve got a little logo from his restaurant tattooed on my arm.
If you were marooned on a desert island, what was the one type of dish you could happily live on?
It’s got to be lasagne. Like proper mum’s home cooked real lasagne. Obviously not my Mum’s lasagne as I don’t think she’s ever made one. But somebody’s mum could make me lasagne. I could just live on that.
What was it like being part of the first week of all female chefs on Great British Menu?
I am super proud to be part of that first week to have four women. I have to say the atmosphere was really different. Although it was competitive, it was really supportive. It was really fun. We really bounced off each other. We were really encouraging each other. I have to say it’s about time we had four women in a heat. There are so many amazing women in this industry. It doesn’t need to be something special, but we need to see it and we need to see more it. When I walked into the kitchen, I was like “Wow, this is really cool”. But it’s also added pressure. We are all chefs still and all have something to prove. I hope that comes across on the camera.
Finally, what do you know now that you wish you could have told your younger self when you were starting out?
To enjoy the journey. You get so fixed on goals and aspirations, you forget that part of the fun is actually doing it. If you embrace all of the little things. On Great British Menu it’s not all about how far you get and the scores, it’s about being there and experiencing it and this year I really did that.
Nat will be appearing on Great British Menu from Tuesday 15th March 2022 representing the South West region. Look out for more in our series of interviews with the great women chefs on Great British Menu 2022.