Dundrum chef stars in Great British Menu final

Dundrum chef stars in Great British Menu final

20 May 2020

CHEF Alex Greene narrowly missed out on being crowned Champion of Champions at the Great British Menu banquet to honour 150 years of children’s literature.

The Dundrum man admitted he was “gutted” at not securing the final accolade for the best dish at the event – despite becoming the second chef to have got two dishes through to the final and the only Northern Ireland finalist ever to have done it.

He lost out to double Michelin-starred chef Niall Keating whose fish dish was voted the best by the 90 diners, who included Alex’s mother, Glynis, his employer, Michael Deane, and Michael’s wife, former UTV presenter Kate Smith.

However, he was being feted by local fans and well-wishers after the show came to an end on BBC2 on Friday night.

The highly competitive 30 year-old wowed judges and guests with his starter and desert dishes - a potato and cheese sauce based dish inspired by CS Lewis’ book, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and a coconut and chocolate ganache dessert with edible rice pages and covers presented as a book inspired by Oliver Jeffers’ book, The Incredible Book Eating Boy.

The event was held in early February, so Alex, who started his career off in the Buck’s Head restaurant in his home village, has had some time to reflect on his success.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the response I’ve had from people on social media; it’s been just mental,” he said.

“It’s another achievement for me and it’s something I wanted to do for a long time. To get one dish is big, to get two dishes to the banquet is major as it’s only happened twice before and never for someone from Northern Ireland.

“Although I think everyone was shocked that I didn’t get Champion of Champions. A producer came afterwards to ask me how I felt about it and even Niall didn’t think he would get it.

“I was gutted to be honest. It couldn’t have been any closer and I did feel it after all the hard work I put into it. While I enjoyed the whole experience, I do regret not getting Champion of Champions. To me, not to get the whole thing, particularly after coming so far, was tough and hard to stomach. It’s hard when I know the amount of effort I put in and then to get so close. But I know that I couldn’t had done anymore.”

Alex revealed that he worked seven days a week on perfecting his menu dishes for four months while maintaining his demanding job as chef at the Michelin-starred EIPIC restaurant in Belfast, the fine dining experience of the Michael Deane group, where he has worked for the last three years.

“We started filming last November and I was working in the kitchen at Deanes every day, and even on Sundays when I’m normally off. The guys at work and Michael were absolutely amazing with their support as well as the local guys who produced the props for me,” said Alex.

Viewers saw that all the chefs were up against it at the banquet as they had to do all their own food preparation with the work being doubled for Alex

“It was a hard couple of days and it wasn’t all fun and games. We had to do all our own prep, there was a delay in starting as guests arrived late due to Storm Ciara and there was a lot of things that went wrong, like the power going off, that wasn’t shown,” said Alex.

“I joked with the other two guys you can just put the effort into one dish and can make sure its absolutely perfect but I’ve got two to do

“The profile of the programme and the scale of the guests and how well known they were made it feel more pressurised.”

Ten years ago, Alex moved on to Deanes in Belfast after the Bucks Head, where he was working when they first received the Michelin star under Derek Creagh. He later moved to work with Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s, followed by Petrus in London, then had a spell in New Zealand before moving closer to home to the Cliff House Hotel in Waterford.

There are great expectations on what Alex will do next in his career but he doesn’t feel that a change will happen so soon considering the impact of the coronavirus lockdown has had on restaurants.

“A lot of people have said to me that I should open my own restaurant, but the industry is in dire straits at the moment so it’s hard to know what will happen,” said Alex. “Of course, I have ideas of what I would like to do, but Michael gives me a platform for what I want to do which I appreciate. I’m a big fan of Northern Irish produce and I would like to work in promoting that in the future.”

“It’s been a great success and the route changes every week, but the last stop always takes me closer to my way home to Dundrum.”