Stephen on Great British Menu
Chef Alan Murchison was not the only member of the l’ortolan team to be involved in BBC2’s Great British Menu. Head Sommelier Stephen Nisbit was personally approached by the program’s producer to offer his expertise by selecting wine for the final.
Here, Stephen explains just how much of a challenge this was:
“It appeared early on that the hosts of the final event, RAF Halton, were not as able as the Royal Household (hosts of a previous series finale) to source wine for such an event. The Great British Menu production team had already started to gather info by going to the English Wine Fair, but in the end they decided that they needed someone to make sure that the wine was as good as the food served and that they went together.
I was approached to take on the task by the program’s producer after he had dinner on the l’ortolan Chef’s Table.
Choosing English wine suitable for a hundred military personnel and a menu which had not yet been decided, was a very challenging task.
With just three weeks notice, and with the help of the English Wine Producers Association I arranged samples of sparkling, white and red wine to arrive so that as soon as the final menu was chosen I could taste and choose the best wines to compliment the dishes. I then had about 4 days before the dinner to contact the wine producers and make sure the bottles would be there.
I contacted several smaller producers, and as soon as I knew the menu I did the tasting. However, it took some imagination to consider the food without actually tasting it! I drew on my experience and re-watched recordings of all the relevant episodes of Great British Menu on BBC i-player to understand more about the flavours of each dish.
I then organized the deliveries of wine to the venue, and was present on the day of the event itself in an advisory capacity. The final itself involved a lot of sitting about with brief spells of frantic activity to fit in with the producers' demands.
But for me, the most interesting part was seeing so many people - from kitchen, TV and military professions - pulling together to make sure the event went off well.”
For your chance to experience Stephen’s expertise for yourself why not book yourself onto the Chef’s Table, or take part in one of the specialist Wine Events that take place throughout the year.
For more information about the wine served at l’ortolan, or about our Take Wine Home service please email Stephen.