Interview with Simmie Vedi representing Wales 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 Simmie Vedi, former Head Chef of Bully’s and currently at Kin + Ilk, who is representing Wales.
How did you start working in the hospitality world and where did you train to be a chef?
I working in the food world seven years ago, I was 23. I started in a Marston’s pub, doing very basic food. I found this useful as I had no exposure to the food industry before. It eased me into a lot of very different roles and the process of how a kitchen worked. I gained a lot of skills in that first job and I had an amazing Head Chef. He was classically French trained. We were the Marston’s pub that won all the awards, everything was always cooked fresh. He really spurred on my passion for food.
This is your first time on Great British Menu, how did you get onto the show?
I had been approached a few times and I also know some of the competitors from previous years. I am a bit of a fan girl when it comes to chefs and I’ve sought out previous chefs. I’ve talked to them and built up relationships with some of them.
When I was approached by one of the producers this time I felt more confident and we started the whole process.
How did you prepare for the animation theme at GBM?
Lots and lots of research online. With the theme of animation it’s something that really resonated with me. When I was a kid I wanted to be animator and wanted to draw. I was really good at art. I used to make story boards and would write really elaborate stories with the characters.
So I tapped into those childhood feelings and those childhood memories of what animation meant to me. It was all about how I could put myself onto a plate using my emotions and the connection I have to animation.
How did you find it working with the cameras and a film crew?
I am quite experienced with cameras and film crews. I grew up doing a little bit of photography. With doing social media stuff, I’ve done shoots so have been in front of cameras. What I will say is it’s very different doing that in a competition setting. I always go into things with not very much anxiety and then the reality hits me. Then I realise that actually it can be quite nerve wracking. But I am fairly adaptable and didn’t let it phase me too much. I think for me, the cameras were the least of my problems.
What did you find the hardest course to prepare for?
Just in general for me it’s pastry. My enthusiasm and excitement for food is really based around savoury food. So for pastry it’s more technical and for something like this competition you really have to wow. Pastry was taking me down routes I hadn’t done before. So I was working with techniques that I had a few months to practice for as opposed to other techniques that I had years of experience with and could use across the other courses.
GBM is very much known for its props, did you embrace the props on the show?
I think that if I did it again, I would definitely find someone to help me make the props. This time I ended up doing a lot of the prop work on my own with no outside help. Because I was new to the competition, I didn’t utilise props as much as I could have.
Which chef that you have worked with has given you the most inspiration?
It’s actually my boss at the moment. I am planning on starting my own private dining work. But at the moment I’ve gone into food production and logistics. My boss, Mike Regan, is one of the most inspiring chefs that I have had the opportunity to work for and that’s purely because of his attitude to work life balance. He has worked in some amazing places and can make really incredible food with his eyes shut. But for me, the most important thing is finding ways of working in this industry where it’s healthier and less of a toll on your mental health. We deserve to have a work life balance.
There’s a lot of other chefs that have completely influenced me. My friend Kareem Roberts he works in Cambridge and really supported me when I first started. I used to ask him so many questions about the industry.
Sabrina Gidda is absolutely amazing. I have all of the time for that woman. I am so glad I messaged her and fan girled her, she’s given me a lot of support.
Photographer: Bradley @ The Content Creators for Afon Mel Meadery
If you were marooned on a desert island, what was the one type of dish you could happily live on?
I would have to say my Dad’s lamb curry. I would want that home comfort if I was by myself.
Finally, what do you know now that you wish you could have told your younger self when you were starting out?
Take your time and set your boundaries. I felt like a lot of the time I have spent in this industry I have been rushing to get to the next level. It’s only now I have been here for seven years, you realise that you need to find good leadership. Don’t overthink and when you understand what good leadership is, don’t let it go. It’s really special. I am learning about logistics now and the more technical side of running big businesses. That gives you longevity and so many more options.
If I was talking to my younger self, I’d also say plan for your mind to change. Don’t be so tunnel visioned. Look at different options and understand the industry is huge and there’s more to it than owning your own restaurant. I don’t want the stress of working all hours like that. I want to do something where I have such excellent skills that I can have that balance.
Simmie will be appearing on Great British Menu from Tuesday 14th February 2023 representing Wales. Look out for more in our series of interviews with the great women chefs on Great British Menu 2023 soon.