Great British Menu (GBM) returns to BBC Two on 18th March 2020 for series 15. The show puts the nation’s most talented chefs to the test. Women in the Food Industry are interviewing the strong female line-up of chefs from across Britain competing to serve their dish at the final banquet. To kick start the series, their co-founder, Mecca Ibrahim, interviewed Sally Abé, Head Chef of The Harwood Arms, London's only Michelin starred pub. Originally from Mansfield, Nottingham, Sally is representing the Central region.
Sally started training at Sheffield Hallam University on a culinary arts degree. She said "It was a business management degree and the lectures were based more around the theory of running a hospitality business. But we got the opportunity to do a year in industry and I took on what was originally a 6 month kitchen and 6 month front of house placement at The Savoy. But I knew when I was in the kitchen, I loved it and it was what I wanted to do. So I just stayed and didn't go back to university".
When asked about The Harwood Arms offering yoga mobility classes and employee assistance schemes, she said:
"The mobility class is my personal trainer and we thought it would be good for our staff to have the opportunity to try it. Some of the staff can touch their toes now which they couldn't do before! It might sound silly, it's quite a good achievement if it's something you couldn't do.
With the Hospitality Action Employee Assistance Programme, I'm quite friendly with Amanda Street, who is doing lots of work around mental health in hospitality. She told me about the programme and I thought it was crazy that we didn't have it. It's been really helpful as they offer counselling, therapy, legal & financial advice and other areas like that which I obviously want to help with, but there's only so much you can do as a chef. So I can direct people that need help in those areas. We pay for it and it gives people an opportunity for support which they may not have had access to before."
Sally has already won a number of accolades, she has kept The Harwood Arms; Michelin star, The Harwood Arms is number one in the Top 50 Gastropubs and she was named Gastropub Chef of the Year when asked about the pressure of being judged on the show, she said:
"Obviously, the whole reason of going on the show is to win, but I'm not a sore loser. I know that I can cook the best food that I know how to cook. As long as you stay true to yourself, it doesn't really matter where you come. You get the opportunity to showcase yourself and your food.
I haven't set out to be a TV chef but I do like the idea of inspiring people to cook my food and share my values".
Not only does Sally have a number of awards under her belt, she's also keen to keep her kitchen balanced
"We've had more women than men in the kitchen for a long time. A balanced workplace makes a happy workplace. You need to have people from all walks of life - gender, sexuality, race and a mixture of that makes it a fair and cosmopolitan place to be. You don't get bogged down in a certain mindset and it makes it a better place to work. Also because I am a woman and do voice my opinion on empowering women, I think more women tend to gravitate to our kitchen because of that. It's about showing women that they're perfectly capable and shouldn't be put off professional kitchens because of their gender."
Sally will be appearing on Great British Menu from Wednesday 18th March 2020 representing the Central region. You can read the full interview with Sally Abe on Great British Menu on Women In the Food Industry's website.
"Confidence is everything when it comes to cooking. You need to look inwards before you can look outwards."