Favourite Tables

Tag: Masterchef Masterchef


The Chef’s Table team chat with George Blogg, Head Chef Gravetye Manor

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Growing up in Dorset the young George Blogg was fortunate enough to be introduced to meals containing fresh produce, rather than the prepacked food prevalent at that time. Meals at home more often than not had vegetables or fruit from the family allotment with George helping his mother to prepare dinners evenings and weekends. However, his route into restaurant kitchens came about by chance. Originally studying to be a Geologist, when his mother had to turn down a few shifts at the local Italian restaurant she put George forward to cover. Washing up led to Veg prep and then to junior chef roles. So what started as a means of paying for his studies evolved into a vocation. In his early twenties, the then geology graduate gave up the Earth Science’s to follow a full-time gastronomy career.

His résumé makes for impressive reading with time spent at two Michelin-starred restaurants: Philip Howard’s The Square in Mayfair and David Everitt-Matthias’ Le Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham. George has also completed stages at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire, The Ledbury in Notting Hill and Noma in Copenhagen. Each playing a part in forming his chef’s style and they instilled many of the benefits around his use of locally sourced and foraged produce. Then following a very successful tenure as executive chef at Hotel TerraVina in Hampshire George moved to the AA Hotel of the Year England 2013-14, Gravetye Manor in June 2014. Gravetye was awarded a Michelin Star which has been retained for the past four years.

Q: If you could change any misconceptions about restaurants/restaurant food, what would they be?

A: That fine dining, or whatever you would like to call it, is not dying. No matter how many places are moving towards more casual dining concepts, this is as much to do with companies trying to improve profits/costs as it is a shift in public need. People expect good value for money, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to spend less.

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Q; Have you been featured or would you like to be featured on any TV food programmes, are these types of shows a good thing for the restaurant industry and chefs?

A: I’ve been fortunate enough to host a semi-final of Masterchef Professionals in the kitchen here at Gravetye, filmed over 2 days. As a marketing vehicle, TV is an excellent way to get noticed and improve business. The downside, that I feel some chefs fall into, is that it takes you away from the kitchen, and ultimately that is where you need to spend your time making sure that your guests receive the best experience possible.


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Q: How important is a Michelin star? a growing number of chefs and restaurants have recently asked that they are removed, because of the pressure – your thoughts

A: If you cook for the recognition of any guide, you are not cooking for the right reason, which is for your guests. If you care about offering your guests the best experience, then should it make a difference if you receive an accolade or not? Pressure only exists if you care more about the guides than your guests. So I don’t really understand why anyone would ask for a Michelin star to be removed unless they were worried about losing it and/or trying to implement a controversial marketing strategy.

Q: What do you think about negative reviews?

A: I don’t mind negative reviews as long as they substantiate why something is bad in a considerate way instead of being negative just for the sake of elaborating a story.

Q: What would be on your menu if you were creating a diner and could have all the previous owner of Gravetye – Richard Infield, Kathrine Compton, William Robinson, Peter Herbert and Jeremy & Elizabeth Hosking around the table?

A: I would serve them our current tasting menu. We call this menu Time and Place, and it reflects where Gravetye is at the moment. Hopefully, they would all be interested to see what Jeremy, Elizabeth and the Gravetye team have accomplished.

Click for Current Tasting Menu

Click for Current Tasting Menu


Q: What is your favourite dish on the current menu, that you have created in the past 6 months and why.

A: We have a cold starter using cured Isle of Gigha halibut, mussels, turnip, caviar, coastal herbs and sesame. It is a dish with a lot of interesting components. It is delicate, but has a healthy richness and looks beautifully natural.



Q: If for one night you could be invited to cook alongside any Chef past or present who would that be and why?

A: Paul Bocuse, because who else could you choose?




My Favourite Tables 

Two restaurants I have visited and why?


Restaurant (1): Umu, London. It’s a fantastic Kyoto style (more traditional food) Japanese restaurant off a side street in Mayfair that serves impeccably fresh fish and a stunning selection of Sake. It has 2 Michelin stars, and is excellent value for money considering the quality.

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Restaurant (2): Ynyshir, Wales. Gareth and Amelia have created a unique must-visit destination restaurant with rooms.

Ingredient led, flavour-driven, fat-fuelled, meat-obsessed. This is how Gareth describes his food. I love it.

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Crockers Chefs Table

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If you’re looking for a different kind of dining experience then ”this could be the place for you. The clue is in the name of the restaurant seating a maximum of 10 around the chef’s table so that you can watch the chef prepare the food right in front of you and also engage in conversation with the chef Scott Barnard & owner Luke Garnsworthy and also with the other guests. On this occasion, there was just the two of us but believe me that didn’t take away anything from a fantastic Tasting Menu Lunch where the food was amazing and matched with a great choice of wines. We started with a lovely selection of snacks before we tried the fantastic Tring Brewery Bread & Marmite Butter.

Then a nice refreshing Sardine & Tomato course this was followed by an Aerated Pea & Broad Bean Soup before a delightful Plaice course with a fricassee of Lobster & Cauliflower.  Then came the main a fantastic Rump of Lamb a Caesar Dressing & Baby Gem Lettuce. The next course was cheese but not what you think as it was a Lancashire Bomb cheese and homemade Piccalilli served on a cracker and it was amazing.

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Then followed a refreshing pre dessert before yes dessert itself a Chocolate & Tonia Bean Cremeaux, Kirsch parfait , poached cherries & almonds this brought to end a great lunch which I would highly recommend whether you’re a couple a small group plus the fact that the menu is changed every month which also makes it ideal if you decide to become a regular customer which I myself could quite easily become

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Favourite Tables at the Italian Embassy…again!!

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Imagine our excitement at being invited to the Italian Embassy again ( Chefs Table with Danilo)

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The occasion:  MasterChef The Professionals 2015 finalist and head chef at the Italian Embassy in London Danilo Cortellini would be launching his new cook book




‘4 Grosvenor Square’, the first cook book from Danilo Cortellini is a celebration of his time at the Italian Embassy in London, featuring recipes that reflect the day-to-day life at the Embassy; from business lunches to grand gala dinners and family meals to drinks receptions.

The reception was attended by world famous chefs, television celebrities, food writers and critics who all welcomed the fresh approach Danilo has applied to his book. Chef’s family and friends where also on hand to lend support.


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The hardback book contains authentic Italian dishes using some of the finest produce available. Featured dishes include some of the Ambassadors personal favourites; multi-coloured burrata tortellini with Sicilian red prawns in a smoked artichoke broth; Veal Cheek “pizzaiola”, and a Pumpkin panna cotta with apples and mosto cotto.

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You can read about Danilo’s culinary career in his “Chef’s Table Interview

The book is divided sections that reflect the running of the embassy based on style of occasion instead. This provides an insight on how Danilo plans his menus at the Italian Embassy, and how certain recipes are perfect for particular events. If you are looking to impress someone at home, each dish is applicable to home cooking and home kitchens. Nothing is regimented in this book, and Danilo encourages you to experiment and interpret dishes and elements of recipes as you like.

Danilo says: “I never underestimate the comforting side of food and cooking is truly an act of care and love. He is a great believer in using quality produces and also an advocate of not wasting food. A section of his book is dedicated to supporting the food charity Food Cycle (@foodcycle) and the work they do supporting people at risk of food poverty and social isolation.


Despite no Ferrero Rocher.. the evening was a great success and we wish Danilo every success with his book “4 Grosvenor Square” – the address of the Embassy if you were wondering.

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4 Grosvenor Square is published in English and Italian and available for pre-order from Amazon now with general released on 30th November from Waterstones and all good book shops. RRP: £25.00.



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The Flying Scotsman, A Frog and the BBC

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The Flying Scotsman:

Chef Adam Handling could be described as the “Flying Scotsman”. His culinary career is certainly steaming ahead with cook books, artisan chocolates, olive oil and even his own branded Gin. His restaurant, Adam Handling at Caxton and Adam himself have received critical acclaim and accolades over the past months since he came to the attention of restaurant goers, foodies and the avid fans of the BBC MasterChef, the professionals in 2013, where he reached the finals.

The Frog…

Adam has recently parted company with the Hotel Group which housed his restaurant and Adam Handling at the Caxton is to be rebranded with a new image and a pared down menu, introducing a grill restaurant, offering steaks and burgers. So the leap forward, excuse the pun, for Adam is the opening of the first of a series of restaurant he plans to open over the next 8-10 months. Welcome The Frog (brilliant logo concept created by the inimitable @fatpunkstudio )


Plans will see another two “Frog” concept locations and an eponymous flagship restaurant in the West End. The first Frog will be found in East London in part of the Old Truman Brewery (Hanbury Street/Brick Lane area). When Favourite Tables meet with Adam and the team, Head Chef Steve Kerr, Development Chef Jamie Park and Sous Chef Connor they were all on site, shirt sleeves rolled up. Work was just starting on converting what was previously an Italian restaurant in Ely’s Yard.



When we re-visited a few days later,  lots had changed in the kitchen area, the bar and cocktail area.

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Equipment suppliers, installation companies, builders, electrical engineers and Adam were all onsite and working very hard to meet the opening night date of 7th June. When asked how confident Adam was to having everything ready for the 7th, his immediate reply, “oh we will be open”

The menu, still in development, will be based on a 5 course taster menu, at around £40 per head, which will be listed on a daily blackboard. As much as possible, ingredients will be sourced from the local suppliers on their doorstep. So if they only have six mackerel then the course will be replaced on the Blackboard when all have been sold. When pushed for a little more detail of the types of dishes available the detail of “Mad as a Box of Frogs’ were explained: Frogs Legs and Chicken lolly pops with a Wild Garlic emulsion served in a wooden box. An A La Carte menu is also under development, which, knowing Adam as we do, will be worth waiting for.

The BBC…

On the day of our revisit to Ely’s Yard, it had just been announced who this years BBC Great British Menu chefs would be and Adam Handling was confirmed as representing the Scottish Region.


Although filming had taken place several months ago, whilst he had been competing in the Chef of the Year, Adam remained tight lipped about how he got on and the outcome. Some secrets are meant to be kept!

We will be glued to the television when the programmes are aired later this month and cheering him on nonetheless.


The Frog, 2 Ely’s Yard, Old Truman Brewery  Hanbury Street, London E1 6QR

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We Chat to MasterChef Finalist Scott Barnard

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Scott Barnard may have ultimately missed out on becoming a MasterChef champion at Christmas, but he believes his starring role could be a springboard for his career. However, cooking and fine dining are far removed from his home life growing up in Plumstead, South East London. As we talked he joked about growing up on Pie and Mash, which this life long Millwall supporter still enjoys from time to time.

His family relocated from London to near Bedford when Scott was a teenager and he admits to not having a clear idea as to what he wanted to do on leaving school. My interest in food started around this time and I remember between the ages of 13 to 16 spending family holidays in France, Spain and Italy. Staying in a tent was never glamorous but I would always get up early in the morning and visit local bakeries for the freshly baked croissants and baguettes, to eat with regional cheese and cold meats. As I grew older I became a little more adventurous trying rabbit, horse and the smelliest of cheeses.

On his sixteenth birthday, he remembers getting a surprise from his Mum. She had signed him up to work in the kitchens of a local North Bedford hotel and this he attributes to being the real start of his food career. He attended Barnfield College near Luton and spent three years studying Catering and Hospitality. In his final year he focussed on patisserie, as he saw this as a key skill he would need in later life if he ever got the chance to run his own kitchen.

Flitwick Manor was his first role as Chef starting as CDP and progressing to Sous. The restaurant received two rosette status during this period. During 2006 he moved to work under Dean Timpson at The Complete Angler in Marlow.

Scott is now senior sous chef in Colettes restaurant at The Grove hotel and Golf complex in Hertfordshire and has been here for eight years. Living locally with wife Deanna (Dee), daughter Esme and a soon to arrive addition to the family, he says that he is really happy with life in Hertfordshire and throughly enjoys life as a chef.

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When I applied for MasterChef, The Professionals, back in January 2015, passing two phone interviews and a screen test. I knew roughly what to expect as I’d been encouraged to enter by close friend and chef Steve Barringer, who had been a finalist in the programme back in 2011. I had worked with Steve at Flitwick Manor ten years ago and we are former students of Barnfield College in Luton. His skill in the kitchen saw him progress all the way to the finals week of the cooking contest, which featured just the three surviving chefs. Judges Monica, Marcus and Greg had praised his food throughout but ultimately it wasn’t quite enough to take the title which went to Mark Stinchcombe from Eckington Manor in Worcestershire. Scott reflected: “I did want to win it for my family, but I can hold my head up high.” My wife has been a huge influence. She has stuck by me and supported me through my career, being alone most nights and weekends which I know has been tough.

What had been the highlight of being involved in the programme and what had been the toughest: The highlight of the whole thing for me was the Chef’s Table. I’ve had so many influences on my food style; the chefs I’ve trained under, the books I read and the places I’ve eaten, but mainly the really great chefs like Adam Simmonds, Simon Rogan, Michael Wignall, and the legends like – Marcus, Michael Caines, Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsey. To have the chance to cook for and serve my food to so many of my heroes in one room was daunting at the time, but they really liked my Malt Ice Cream, Chocolate Cremeux, Banana and Milk, Pretzel and Peanuts dessert and I got some great comments that I will always remember. For me the toughest round was the Critics in the quarterfinal, and pastry Invention Test, well all of the Invention tests, working without recipes is extremely hard, especially with pastry as it’s such a science. Oh and the no meat challenge, my wife Dee is a vegetarian so you’d think I would have found it easy, but with such a short amount of time to think that was difficult.

So what’s next: I just want to be able to have the opportunity to express my food and develop as a chef. It’s not all about accolades at the moment, it’s about achieving excellence and making customers happy and wanting to return, then hopefully accolades will follow.” Colettes and the management at the Grove have been brilliant and are supporting me in a special pop-up event where I will be serving many of the dishes that featured on the BBC programme, including my Chef’s Table dessert. I have also got the chance to work with a local restaurant to do a similar event next month12642928_1015462711847397_5489215611934046577_n

I would have liked to add the restaurant at Danesfield House, loved it when Adam Simmonds was there, but I’ve not been back for a while now and I would like to mention what I think was one of the most inspiring restaurant around London was The Latymer, Pennyhill Park with Michael Wignall. I plan to go back soon now that Matt Worswick has been appointed the new head chef.

My wife and I have a local place that we would say is a favourite tables for us and that’s the Artichoke Restaurant in Amersham. It’s not far from where we live and is a regular treat for us. The food is terrific, service brilliant and I love the chef Laurie Gear’s cooking style.

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Chef’s Table visits the Italian Embassy

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Passport in hand, we entered the Italian Embassy in Grosvenor Square London. Moments later, after being shown the main dining room, the wine cellar (the WW2 Air Raid shelter) and the kitchen, we find ourselves, espresso in hand, sitting with Chef Danilo Cortellini.

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If Danilo looks familiar you may recognise him from the recent BBC MasterChef programme where he made it through to finals week, but more of that later.


Danilo grew up in a small region of central Italy near the village of Civitella del Tronto, a town and comune in the Province of Teramo, within the Abruzzo region of central Italy. It is located in the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park. He paints an idyllic picture of living between the mountains and the coast where his family’s property had a few Chestnut Trees. He attended a local school and during the holidays worked in coastal restaurants and hotels. Cooking was a large part of family life and Danilo has fond memories of the fruit and vegetables grown on the family’s land being used in all the dishes prepared. After finishing an intensive course at a regional catering college he travelled to Verona to work in a restaurant then called The Three Crowns owned by the famous pasta maker Giovanni Rana  situated on one of the main squares in Verona.


The glass front to the restaurant kitchen became a tourist attraction with international visitors standing by the windows to watch the young Danilo making pasta.

Looking to increase his knowledge, Danilo moved to Imola and joined the kitchen at the 2 Star San Domenico restaurant.  It’s impressive wine cellar gave him the chance to learn more about local Italian wines and some of the best from around the world.

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After just a few months he was given the opportunity to be Chef de Partie of this two Michelin star kitchen where he remained for the next two years. He feels that during his time at San Domenico he was treated as part on the “family” in the kitchen and this has stayed with him.

Danilo says he found it hard to move on from San Domenico however he wanted to expand his knowledge further so moved to another 2 Star restaurant  Perbellini, this time, wishing to hone his pastry skills making everything from Panettone to very refined pastries for the dining room.

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In 2010, Danilo along with his girlfriend, made the move to London both joining the team at a small Italian restaurant near Green Park, London (part of the Dolada group) where he took the role of Sous Chef. After one year having taken some of the “hard knocks” London can deliver, he was determined to get to grips with the London restaurant industry and to find out “what i need to do” to succeed. He moved to the Allan Ducasse restaurant at The Dorchester

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Whilst only a brief engagement at the Dorchester, this experience reinvigorated him and he acknowledges that the hard work and discipline of working along side the Head Chef of this renowned french kitchen helped this Italian chef. At the end of 2011 he joined the team at Zafferano and it was whilst here he was approached to take on the Chefs position at the Italian Embassy in London.

In March 2012 he was offered the position of Head Chef at the Italian Embassy in London, a role which he still holds and gives him great pride and satisfaction, with the opportunity to cook for some of the most influential people in London and Europe. At the Embassy, he looks after the Ambassador and his family together with all of the banqueting and private dinners for visiting dignitaries, heads of state and royal families from across Europe.  Danilo explained that anyone visiting the Embassy is a guest not only of the Embassy, but of Italy and he prides himself on treating each one as a guest, and not a customer.

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This is my second Ambassador I have worked for he told us. When he arrived we discussed  a lot of detail of what would be required and first and foremost it would be to meet the needs of the Embassy. However,  the Ambassador supported the idea for me to set up my own company to not only service the Embassy but also corporate events and private dining. At the end of 2014 he opened  Danilo Cortellini Catering Service

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So, Chef, tell us about how MasterChef came about. I wanted to challenge myself so sent in an application, not expecting to be contacted. But they called and it was an amazing experience, a lot of pressure but very rewarding. I learnt a lot about myself and how and what I wanted to cook.

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Now chef, as we always do, we would like to ask you about the restaurants that are your ‘favourite tables’

Sushi Say (recently changed ownership and now called Sushi Masa) is one of my favourite places. We lived nearby and the husband and wife who ran the restaurant, and have done for years, became like friends. Everything feels authentic and the sushi is delicious. I really hope the new owners who have taken over when the original owners retired can maintain the high quality.

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I also, as often as I can, return to Italy to visit San Domenico.  I still love the food there. But recently I also visited the restaurant of a chef I have known for many years. It’s in the coastal town I used to visit and work in before coming to the UK. Ristorante Bistro 900 is in Giulianova run by chef Enzo Di Pasquale. This place reminds me of cooking at home with my family, using the best and freshest ingredients found locally.


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Can I also mention Pierre Koffmann, his pigs trotter dish is just amazing…thought you should know



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BBC MasterChef Winner Jamie Scott – revisited

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It’s been several months since favourite tables spoke to the then newly crowned BBC MasterChef 2014 winner Jamie Scott. That title will soon be passed to the winner of the new series currently being broadcast.

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Our conversation back in the spring focused on his then position as Head Chef at a St. Andrews restaurant right by the world famous golf course:

2015 seems to have been a very busy year…

So Jamie what’s this we hear about “The Newport”

I am so excited to be able to tell you guys about my own restaurant which is well under way with kitchen refits and design work coming together nicely. My wife Kelly will be alongside me as we build our vision and we use the word vision because  “vision” is going to be a feature of the restaurant. Its laid out on two floors and both have large glass walls giving fantastic views across the River Tay to the Dundee coastline.

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Both floors will also have large outside areas with glass walls surrounding. So the atmosphere in the warmer evenings and weekend will be very relaxed as people dine or enjoy drinks and watch the river flow by.

I’m currently spending a lot of time working on the menu..my menu, that sounds good. All the work should be finished just before Christmas and we can start putting the finishing touches to both the restaurant look and feel and the menu, so that we will be opening before the end of January.

As well as all the time and effort he is putting in at The Newport, Jamie also told us he is running a series of pop-up dining experiences, all sold out in minutes, in Montrose, Dundee and Edinburgh which are also part of the menu development process. When we asked about what the menu could look like, he preferred to wait and surprise people.

I will inevitably look back on my experience to date, like my time at “Rocca, where I was Head Chef. Overlooking the 18th green at St. Andrews golf course we often had golfers in the restaurant after  they had finished a great round of golf. I’m sure they don’t try for a hole in one every game but if it happens, if it all comes together in that one special moment, well that’s how I felt. MasterChef was like getting a hole in one and my perfect round coming together.”


Are you a golfer? “I grew up near Glasgow and had the opportunity to play golf at many of the courses locally. Golf also featured in my early ventures into cooking. My family business was involved in providing catering to a few of the golf courses. This meant I was spending a lot of time in and around golf and golf courses.”

Are you any good?” I used to be… I had some trials for the county and could have possibly played for Scotland,” was the modest response.

When the family moved to Arbroath to take over the running of a pub, Jamie’s passion for the kitchen took hold, helping his mother everyday or evening whilst attending catering college. The reputation of the family pub quickly grew as he introduced his skills and styles of cooking on to the menu. A chance meeting with the owner of a local restaurant saw him joining The Byzantium restaurant shortly after leaving catering college.

In 2011, just six years after first helping in the family catering business, Jamie joined Rocca working under the then Head Chef Scott Davies, as junior Sous Chef. 2013 saw a lot of changes at Rocca and in Jamie’s culinary career. When the BBC came to the area looking for Chefs to take part in the upcoming MasterChef the Professionals, both Head Chef Scott and Jamie were asked to apply. Jamie’s application forms missed the entry deadline for 2013 by just one day!

Later that year a new Head Chef, David Aspin joined the kitchen at Rocca and Jamie became Senior Sous Chef. A year later and Jamie was offered the Head Chef position. Then in 2014, already a busy year for him, got a whole lot busier when the Masterchef team recontacted him to ask if he would like to be included in the 2014 series.

Jamie got his career “Hole in One” and was crowned 2014 Masterchef the Professionals winner.

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His love of asian flavours and cooking styles came across during the Masterchef programmes, so when we asked him “where do you like to eat out” his first selection was no surprise.

My wife and I both love a little place in Glasgow called The Hanoi Bike Shop.  Everything feels authentically Vietnamese and the food is perfectly presented and packed full of flavour. My favourite dish is a slow cooked pork belly in a red curry Vietnamese style.

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If i’m allowed a second Favourite Tables suggestion then that would be Cail Bruich again in Glasgow.  I love that they change the menus here according to the seasons. There is a market and à la carte menu, and they have two tasting menu of five or seven courses.

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Favourite Tables predicts a very busy year ahead for Head Chef Jamie Scott and in particular around July when the Open Golf Championship rolls in to town. Will he get a chance to play a round of golf that fortnight who knows.

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