Caprice Holdings chef director Mark Hix took part in this year's BBC Great British Menu competition and earlier this month went to Paris to prepare two courses for the banquet hosted by the British ambassador to France. He talks to Kerstin Kühn
When did you find out you were going to be part of the programme?
They asked me to be on the show last year. I wasn't sure at first because I don't really do much TV but when I got the brief and it was all about using seasonal British produce I thought: "What have I got to lose?"
Did you expect to go all the way to Paris?
I didn't really expect anything - it was a competition and I just wanted to give it my best. I suspect that by keeping my menu really simple and not overcomplicating my dishes I managed to give the judges what they wanted.
What was it like competing against the other chefs in front of the cameras?
It's a little nerve-racking and they do try to force you into a competitive corner but I just tried to be myself and act as naturally as I could. We're all mates and all know each other, so for me it wasn't so much cooking against the others as part of a competition, as it was cooking with them as part of a team.
Judges praised your main course of rabbit and crayfish stargazy pie and dessert of Perry jelly with summer fruits and elderflower ice cream for being truly British. Where did you find the inspiration for the dishes?
The brief was pretty straightforward and I thought about it logically. I wanted to create something authentic with seasonal British ingredients, keep it simple but give it a bit of a twist as well. Both rabbit and crayfish are traditional ingredients that have gone out of favour and despite their abundance are hardly ever used. Similarly, Perry, which I used in the jelly, is an almost forgotten drink that works well with a light and seasonal dessert like this.
How was your food received?
There was a good mix of British and French guests and I think they really liked my dishes - Pierre Gagnaire and Raymond Blanc commented on how unusual they thought my stargazy pie was. It turned out to be a great evening.
Any funny anecdotes?
Richard Corrigan changed his dish about every five minutes and the fish course he made at the banquet was quite different to the one he cooked during the competition. Sat Bains made a poached duck egg with air dried ham and pea sorbet as the starter so Richard decided to ditch the duck egg mayonnaise he was using with his salmon and landed up using the seashore vegetables from my unsuccessful fish course instead. So I actually had two and a half courses at the banquet.
Would you do it again?
I'm not sure. I think maybe I should give other people a chance to show what they can do.