These includes a number of chefs from this year’s Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropubs list, including Paul Ainsworth, operator of the Mariners, Rock, Cornwall, and John Hooker, head chef at the Cornish Arms in Tavistock, Devon.
The series, which shows top British chefs compete for the chance to cook one course of a four-course banquet, returned to screens last month for its 17th season. This year’s theme celebrates the last 100 years of British broadcasting, and the finale will be held at Alexandra Palace in Haringey, London.
Of the show’s 2022 cohort, there are five current or former gastropub chefs competing. These include Mark Aisthorpe of the Bulls Head, Holymoorside, Derbyshire, and Charlotte Vincent, head chef of the Five Bells Inn, Clyst Hydon, Devon.
Vincent, who will appear on the show tonight (Tuesday 15 March), at 8pm, said: “What an absolute privilege to share a national stage with my peers, cook from the heart and battle it out to represent my home region; the south west. We filmed throughout last summer so it’s been a nail-biting wait to see myself on the big screen.”
Representing the trade
Series five, which aired in 2010, had the highest number of pub participants with eight pub chefs. These included Kerridge as well as Tim Bilton, who headed the Butchers Arms in Hepworth, Huddersfield for five years, and Aiden Byrne, head chef at the Church Green in Lymm, Cheshire.
Season two in 2007 was a sorry year for pubs, with no operators showing up for the trade. However, Mark Hix, who represented the south west of England, has since opened the Fox Inn in Corscombe, Dorset.
Only eight of the 44 gastropub chefs that have appeared on the show have been female, but women are strongly represented this year. Operator at Leeds-based pub the Owl, Liz Cottam and former head chef at the Harwood Arms, Fulham, west London, Sally Abé, join Vincent in pioneering the way for female chefs in the trade.
Cottam also owns Leeds-based restaurant Home and Boston Spa, west Yorkshire bake house Cora, and Abé now mans the Pem restaurant at Conrad St James’ Hotel, Westminster, central London.
This year’s judges include Tom Kerridge, celebrity chef and operator of Buckinghamshire pubs the Hand and Flowers, the Coach and the Butcher’s Tap in Marlow. Kerridge was a contestant on the programme in 2010 and 2011, winning the main course round both times. In 2012, he returned as a mentor.
Other notable contestants include partners Ryan and Liam Simpson-Trotman. Ryan has featured three times on the show, with Liam making two appearances in 2018 and 2019. The duo behind Orwells in Shiplake, Oxfordshire, are due to open the Plough in Shiplake come spring, transforming a disused village pub into a family and dog-friendly venue.