Thursday, July 26, 2012
An Exmouth restaurant which was entered into a TV competition to boost business, is the best eatery in the UK run by a couple.
Last Thursday, almost one million viewers were glued to their sets to watch Olivier Guyard and Sheila Guyard-Mulkerrin overcome the odds and some of Britain’s finest chefs.
They won the nail-biting finale of Channel 5’s Marco Pierre White’s Kitchen Wars and put Exmouth on the culinary map.
The airing of the finale came as something of a relief; the series was shot in April – but the couple were sworn to secrecy, and Olivier said: “People have been asking questions and you can’t give anything away. Some people have been really sneaky!”
The show was the culmination of a gruelling filming schedule where they shut-up shop for two weeks; first they qualified in the heats, then they battled their way through the semi-final.
In the final they were pitted against the owners of The Roost in Perthshire, the Gavin Gregg in Sevenoaks, and James and Sarah from The Ebury in London. They all had to serve 28 diners their best menu in just two hours.
Olivier, 42, said: “With James we didn’t know how good he was but we knew he had cooked for the Queen, was chef at The Ritz and was Gordon Ramsey’s sous chef; his whole CV is phenomenal and he really was the one to watch.
“His dishes looked really good, and you didn’t know what Marco was looking for.”
Marco found fault with all four couples - but his beef with Olivier was the presentation, and Olivier said: “What’s the point of serving pretty-looking food, spending five minutes on the plate and serving it cold to the customer?”
As it turned out, Marco thought the same thing and said that his lemon tart and his sauces were amongst the best he had tasted.
“I would rather spend all my energy on the flavour, than just trying to make it look pretty, to distract from a lack of skill,” said Olivier. “Most people don’t eat the garnish anyway!”
They revealed that the secret of their victory was not to ‘over complicate’ the menu and sticking to what they knew. “We didn’t do anything we haven’t done before and some chefs probably tried too hard. But I have done these recipes over and over,” said Oliver.
And that made the difference; Marco said James cooked inconsistently and the food occasionally came out warm, while Olivier’s food, said Marco, had the depth of flavour.
But it was not just the food that won it – without Sheila’s efficient service, they may not have had their hands raised.
Sheila said: “That was something they kept on coming back to, about me being in the Army, but to me that was a lifetime ago, and it was only for a few years.
“But you do have to have a strategy, and you have to have tactics.”
Sheila, a community nursery nurse, admitted she struggled in the semi-final and benefitted from some hard-nosed advice from Marco: “He told me to ‘bully’ the customers. I thought what do you mean?
“The women loved the way I approached it, but the men were a bit surprised. They weren’t sure how to react!”
She said that many of the diners didn’t fully appreciate it was a studio and not a restaurant.
“Some were surprised that after the cameras were turned off they just pushed everyone out. One diner said ‘but I haven’t finished my wine!’.
Marco said that the final was a two-horse race and Olivier said: “When Marco said ‘James, I nearly choked on a (fish) bone’ I knew we had got it.”
She added: “I was very proud of Olivier, I always had confidence in him and whole idea was to get people to understand the level he operates at and to raise the profile of the restaurant.”