Northern Ireland top chef Danny Millar has cooked his way to success and scooped the regional crown in the Great British Menu challenge.
After a week of creating mouth-watering dishes the head chef at Balloo House in Killinchy, Co Down got the judges’ vote — beating Clare Smyth, head chef at the three Michelin-starred Gordon Ramsay restaurant in London.
The two accomplished chefs were competing to cook a luxury banquet for Armed Forces returning home from Afghanistan.
They are amongst a group of acclaimed regional chefs appearing in the BBC’s Great British Menu programme.
The chefs produced different courses every day for four days using the best ingredients from Northern Ireland and were judged last night by a panel of food critics — Prue Leith, Matthew Fort and Oliver Peyton.
After tasting all four courses from each of the chefs the judges said it was a “serious challenge” to pick a winner. Both received praise and criticism for each of their four courses.
Danny’s starter of chicken and vegetable broth with buttered soda farls and chicken livers was described as “perfect”.
But Clare’s dish of crubeens with crispy pigs' ears, egg and caper mayonnaise was according to one of the judges, “not worth the calories”.
However, her intricate Irish Coffee dessert was described as “the dish of the day”.
The judges also praised her luxurious fish dish of Lobster and potato salad with caviar, creme fraiche and chilled leek and watercress sauce as being “beautifully presented”.
And Danny’s main dish of beef shin, stout and oyster pie with champ, cabbage and bacon and ‘angels on horseback' also proved a hit with the critics.
While the judges said his rhubarb and custard dessert was not as “celebratory” as Claire’s they said they “felt the love” from the rustic pudding.
Before announcing their decision the critics said both menus were “very different”.
Clare, from Bushmills, Co Antrim, joined Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London in 2002 aged 24, and became head chef in March 2007. And Danny, who is a former head chef at Paul Rankin’s Cayenne in Belfast, won the Hospitality Award at the Northern Ireland Tourism Awards 2007.
The final decision was split but Danny — who won the regional final last year — achieved two of the three judges’ votes.
Speaking after winning the regional title Danny said he was “determined” to get one of his dishes on the banquet table.