Battle of the Chefs - Hare Flair - Hare Arms, Norfolk

By Jo Bruce

- Last updated on GMT

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It's an amazingly close battle as the chefs at the Hare Arms in Norfolk rise to the challenge of using a range of herbs and seasonings. Jo Bruce...

It's an amazingly close battle as the chefs at the Hare Arms in Norfolk rise to the challenge of using a range of herbs and seasonings. Jo Bruce reports

With a food offering ranging from bar snacks through to à la carte dishes, the chefs at the Hare Arms in Stow Bardolph, Norfolk, have to demonstrate a wide variety of culinary skills on a daily basis.

After a busy Monday lunchtime feeding a shooting party, the chefs - head chef Billy Brown and second chef Karen Bell - prepare to show off their own killer instincts in a battle of time, imagination and skill, in PubChef 's latest culinary clash.The chefs are cool, calm and collected as they prepare for the off.Billy says: "Everyone else has been talking about it, but we are pretty calm. We're both good at coming up with ideas and trying out new things; they normally work." Assistant chef Zac Mason says: "It's a very calm kitchen and this won't throw them."

After tossing a coin to see who will get which box of ingredients, Karen and Billy are off to the kitchens to commence the battle of Brown v Bell.

The challenge

Each chef receives a box of mystery ingredients and is challenged to create a starter and main dish in less than 45 minutes. The boxes contain different ingredients, but each includes two products from McCormick Foodservice's Schwartz for Chef range - one box contains chopped garlic and green pesto and the other dill and a coating product called Yankee Fried Breader.

And they're off

45 minutes to go: After a couple of minutes examining her ingredients, Karen hot foots it to the kitchen saying she doesn't have a clue what she is going to do.

As Billy takes a closer look at his ingredients, he says he is pleased with them as he enjoys working with fish. "I'm really happy with what I've got," he says. "They are good ingredients."

Licensee Trish McManus, who has been a tenant at the Greene King pub with husband David for 29 years, rolls up her sleeves to help the chefs with prep, but is told by PubChef editor Jo Bruce that this is against the rules.

40 minutes to go: After some quick thinking, Karen decides to stuff the chicken breasts with mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes and green pesto and serve it on a bed of ratatouille. She starts preparing her vegetables for the ratatouille.

A relaxed Billy starts chopping up his potatoes,which he plans to use in a dish of cod on a bed of dill mash.

30 minutes to go: As Karen prepares her chicken breasts, stuffing them with mozzarella, she drops into the conversation that she has come in on her day off to take part in the battle. "Not that I'm trying to get a sympathy vote from the judges," she jokes.

Billy is looking concerned as he debates what to do with the salmon. "I'm not feeling that confident at the moment," he says. "I think I'm going to coat the salmon in the Yankee Fried Breader and serve it on a salad of mixed peppers and onions." He gets busy slicing the peppers.

"I haven't used this before so it has thrown me a little bit." Billy decides to use the dill from his ingredients box in mash to go with the cod. He says he uses quite a bit of dill with fish such as smoked salmon and thinks using it in the mash will be a bit different.

20 minutes to go: With more than half their time elapsed, Karen grates potato and carrot to make a rosti on which to serve the chicken as Billy chops mushrooms to make a sauce for the cod and starts coating the salmon in the Yankee Fried Breader. He begins zesting a lemon to use in his mash. Billy cooks the cod by pan-frying and then places it in the oven.

10 minutes to go: Karen makes her starter dish of king prawn and warm spinach with garlic salad, while Billy cooks off his vegetables to be served as buttered vegetables with the cod. He starts sweating the onions and mushrooms in butter and wine. He then adds the cream to the sauce.

5 minutes to go: Billy cooks the salmon, which has been coated in the Yankee Fried Breader. He plates it up on top of a pepper and onion salad. Karen dishes up the chicken breast on top of a rosti and serves on the ratatouille.

2 minutes to go: The pressure is on. Billy cooks his ribboned vegetables of carrots and courgettes and also baby corn. Karen starts serving up her fig crème fraîche on the tiger prawn salad.

Time's up: Both chefs plate up on time and their dishes are whisked off to the judging panel who will deliberate, cogitate and digest the chef's creations. The chefs introduce their battle beauties to the panel.

Karen says: "I think my dishes have turned out OK. You just have to make it up as you go along. I was really pleased with how my rosti turned out."

Billy says: "I came up with the idea for the main course quite quickly but struggled with what to do with the salmon and the breader. I think we were both quite nervous but once you get going your creative juices get flowing."

The results

The judging panel comprised Hare Arms licensee Trish McManus, Chris Ambidge on behalf of Schwartz for Chef, and pub customers Liz Forgan, of Downham Market and Alan Loy of Stow Bardolph. Dishes were rated on presentation, taste and creative use of ingredients. Trish said:

"I'm impressed with the creative ideas both of them have come up with." She said she would consider putting all four of the dishes on the menu. "We'd charge around £8.75 for the chicken dish and £9.50 for the cod," she added.

Liz praised Billy's cod and dill mash dish. "The dill and peas work really well in the mash and the white wine and cream sauce goes really well," she added.

Unable to put their forks down and decide an overall winner and impressed by all four dishes, the judges ruled Karen top of the class with her starter of tiger prawn and spinach salad with Billy getting the title for best main course with his cod dish.

Billy says: "It was really good fun. We try to take everything with a pinch of salt and don't get stressed in the kitchen. It's good that we both won. We're a great team."

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