Antrim chef Mark Abbott wows Great British Menu judge with humble spuds
A Northern Ireland chef who created the perfect dish using a simple crate of potatoes has emerged as the toast of this year's Great British Menu.
First-time competitor Mark Abbott from Co Antrim is the only chef in the competition so far to get two 10/10 scores in a row and looks set to continue his dominance.
Judge and former banquet winner Michael O'Hare awarded Mark two maximum scores for his starter and fish courses.
The English chef, known for his elaborate creations and silver aprons, looked sceptical at the start of Monday evening's instalment when Mark produced a crate of the most basic ingredients seen in the competition, and announced he was cooking seven varieties of potatoes.
Mark explained that he kept coming across humble people who had done fantastic things during his research for the competition to cook a course at a banquet at the Palace of Westminster for people who have been honoured by the Queen.
"That got me thinking, what is the most humble ingredient - the potato," he said.
Michael had reservations that it might be hard to create an exciting dish from a potato, but was soon eating his words when Mark plated up 'Ordinary to Extraordinary'.
It included pomme souffle, champ croquette, buttermilk mash, bacon cone filled with purple potato salad, potato puffs and skins. Michael described it as "flawless".
Mark grew up on a farm and considered farming as a career before a work placement at a restaurant ignited his love for food. He went on to work for Michael Deane in Belfast, Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles and is now head chef at Daniel Clifford's Michelin-starred Midsummer House in Cambridge.
The other chefs competing in the Northern Ireland heats are Chris McGowan of Wine and Brine and Eddie Attwell, currently chef at St Kyrans in Co Cavan.
The winner will go on to compete with the seven other regional winners in the national finals for a chance to cook at the Great Britons Banquet at the Houses of Parliament.
The Great British Menu is shown on BBC 2 every evening at 7.30pm. The Northern Ireland heats will finish on Friday with the finals starting next week.