Interview with Sabrina Gidda representing Central on Great British Menu 2021 – Women In the Food Industry
Great British Menu (GBM) returns 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. Our co-founder, Mecca Ibrahim, interviewed Wolverhampton born, Sabrina Gidda, Executive Chef at Allbright who is representing the Central region starting the 24th March.
How did you start working in the food world and where did you train to be a chef?
I started working in food at University when I was front of house as a waitress. When the chef injured himself I stepped in and that was when I had my epiphany moment. I’ve had no formal training and am entirely self taught.
What were some of the key skills you learnt from your experiences of the Roux Scholarship Awards – as you reached the finals twice?
I learnt a lot about myself as a chef. In the first instance, I never thought I would make the regionals let alone the finals. I realised how much I loved food and I loved cooking. More crucially for me, it started a great friendship with Chef Albert Roux and whilst I didn’t win the Scholarship, I really did win in other ways. It was an incredible competition, very challenging, but also really exciting.
How has life been treating you during lockdown?
It has been challenging for lots of people for lots of different reasons. But specifically when you are a chef and a creator of things. It can be a little bit different trying to create at home and your audience is totally different. Luckily for me, I have a fan club at home. It’s been a nice time to reflect and to rest. At all other points of my life my approach to wellness and looking after myself has often been in conflict with my work and my career. So it’s been quite lovely to have a year of working out, eating better, resting properly, reading some of the hundreds of books that I have and working on new and exciting things for when the world does reopen.
You have been on Great British Menu, twice before – how different was it this year?
After a year off, people tend to think that if you have done it more than once that you have some kind of advantage. But frankly it’s equally challenging and just as stressful. It really is challenge and anything can go wrong in that kitchen and sometimes it really does.
How did you prepare for the British innovation theme at GBM?
I really wanted to represent what my region meant to me, and that meant a mix of cultures, a mix of heritage and that’s something I really wanted to tap into. As is always the case when I do things on TV, and compete in these shows it’s really critical for me to be inclusive of a lot of different cultures that I grew up enjoying in the Midlands. So that’s what I tried to replicate with my food.
Which was the hardest course to prepare for?
They each had their own little moments, but I would say it was the starter for me. The other courses I was quite confident with, although did have a couple of issues with the fish course.
GBM is very famous for its props, did you embrace the props on the show this year?
I am the least proppy person that you could possibly imagine, and I think that didn’t necessarily help me. I am always all about the food and the meaning and the story behind it. I am not getting an A in woodwork or craft. There are aspects of props but nothing too crazy.
In your round there are an equal number of men and women chefs, and we’ve seen the biggest number of women taking part in GBM this year, why do you think it’s important to have at least equal numbers of women in the kitchen?
The kitchens at one point at Allbright were 60% women and 40% men and have always been the 50/50 or 60/40 side of things. To me it’s important because it’s about balance. Kitchens are built on balance, mutual respect, talent and graft. When all those things come together, that’s when magic happens in terms of teams and brigades. It was really nice to be in an evens stevens kitchen as that’s the way it should be in the world.
Which chef that you have worked with has given you the most inspiration?
Through my career I’ve been privileged to work with some phenomenal chefs. I guess I’ve never worked directly under them in that capacity. There are some amazing people, one of whom was the guest judge on the show. So it was really incredible to meet them and cook for them.
If you were marooned on a desert island, what was the one type of dish you could happily live on?
How do you ask that to someone who’s as inherently greedy as I am. If there was a real surplus of Pan con Tomate and Jamon Iberico then I think I’d be fine. Having said that, you could ask me that question every hour on the hour and I’d have a different dish!
Finally, what do you know now that you wish you could have told your younger self when starting out?
In a nutshell it would be “Yes you can”. Because in the early days of being untrained, and wondering if I could ever do what I’d always dreamt of doing, I did wonder if I would ever get to do it. The unwavering ambition and hard work kicked in and then I realised that as long as that happened, then yes I could do it. So to worry a bit less and then yes, you can do it.
Sabrina will be appearing on Great British Menu from Wednesday 24th March representing the Central region. Look out for more in our series of interviews with the great women chefs on Great British Menu 2021 soon.