North Hampshire chef James Durrant to appear in Great British Menu final tonight

Basingstoke Gazette: James Durrant, third from left, with his fellow competitors James Durrant, third from left, with his fellow competitors

A PUB chef will be watched by millions tonight as he discovers whether his food will be served at a banquet to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

James Durrant, who owns The Plough Inn, in Longparish, with his wife Louise, has been competing against eight other top chefs from different regions in the final of BBC2’s, Great British Menu.

Representing the North West, where he is originally from, James has been battling it out for the chance to cook a banquet at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral tomorrow, with guests including some of those who fought on D-Day.

Monday night’s show saw the finalists prepare their starters, with James dishing up S.P.A.M Spice, Pork, Allium, Molusc, presented to the judging panel in a ration box, with a poem attached to the inside lid.

The father-of-three said: “To get through to the banquet would be a big honour. To be able to celebrate with the surviving veterans, and also to commemorate the other guys who lost their lives and fought for their countries, it’s going to be a really special thing, and it’s something I’ll be really proud of if I can do it.”

James said he was “over-the-moon” when it was revealed he had made it on to the top three shortlist, with scores of nine from veteran George Batts, nine from Oliver Peyton, eight from Prue Leith, 10 from Matthew Fort and an average of seven from the other chefs.

On Tuesday night, James was less successful with his fish course, titled Fish is a Fighting Food, which was a platter of seafood and shellfish.

Despite his peers putting his course in their top three, James missed out on a place on the shortlist, ranking fifth overall.

But, as The Gazette went to press, he still had two more chances with the main course and dessert, before the winning chefs are revealed tonight.

He told The Gazette that he was most proud of his main course, saying: “To be able to win the main event with the main course would be amazing.”

Titled Blitz Spirit, the dish was the highest scoring of the week in the regional rounds, and James said: “It’s about the spirit of the blitz and the community spirit we had as a nation. We got through the hard times and survived.

“The way we worked together helped us to win the war. The idea behind Blitz Spirit was to do something that was a sharing dish and reflective of the community feel and have people sharing it and enjoying it together.”

Filming took place in December, and James has been sworn to secrecy over the result, but said that whatever the outcome, appearing on the show has been great publicity for The Plough Inn, where customers have been watching the show each day and enjoying the dishes James created.

He said: “It’s certainly made a big impact on business being on television. It’s fantastic exposure.”

He added: “It’s a really tough competition, from start to finish.”

The final menu will be chosen by the judges tonight from the three dishes on each shortlist.

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