Casamia chef crowned South West champion in The Great British Menu
Mark Taylor talks to Bristol chef Peter Sanchez-Iglesias, who has been crowned South West champion in BBC2's The Great British Menu.
AFTER appearing on a primetime TV cookery show five times last week, it's business as usual for Peter Sanchez-Iglesias, now back working hard at the Bristol restaurant owned by his family.
On Friday, the former City of Bristol College student was crowned the South West Champion on BBC2's Great British Menu.
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At 27, he's the youngest chef ever to reach the finals on Great British Menu and the first chef from Bristol to enter the competition.
Peter, who with brother Jonray runs the Michelin-starred Casamia restaurant in Westbury-on-Trym, wowed the judges with dishes such as a Sunday roast "inspired by my nan" and apple pie and he is now through to the national finals and the chance of cooking a dish at a banquet at London's Royal Albert Hall.
It's not the first time Peter has appeared on our screens. Two years ago, Casamia won the title of Gordon Ramsay's Best Restaurant in the Channel Four series, although he admits that it took some persuading to enter another TV competition.
"We were a little sceptical about doing another show after winning Ramsay's Best Restaurant because it involves a lot of time and energy, especially when you are running a restaurant.
"We actually went to see our friend Glynn Purnell, who is a past winner of Great British Menu, and he just asked us if we needed the business and if we did then we should just do it.
"Jonray and I originally pitched the idea to the producers that we would do it as a duo, but they didn't go for that and Jonray was just about to become a dad for the first time so he told me to go for it on my own."
Peter's five appearances were filmed last October over the course of an intensive three days in London.
"It was really tough and it involved long days. Basically, I was waking up at 4.30am and a car would arrive at 5.30am to take me to the kitchens.
"I wouldn't get back until just before midnight with my head spinning and then it would be the same the next day."
Peter was part of a South West team comprising fellow chefs Emily Watkins from Oxfordshire and Chris Eden from Cornwall. Each chef had to cook a starter, fish dish, main course and dessert before a final round in front of judges Matthew Fort, Oliver Peyton and Prue Leith.
"It was huge pressure and we were all very nervous because neither of us had experience of a show like Great British Menu so we had no insight into what happened.
"Being the youngest chef to go through to the finals is quite an honour but the best thing was the fact I was the first Bristol chef to go through and it was great to represent the South West, where there are so many great chefs.
"I wasn't intimidated but I did feel like the young boy in the competition because a lot of the guys in the regional finals had been on the show two or three times and chefs like Tom Aikens and Tom Kerridge are the among the most respected in the business – they are the big boys, the heavyweights.
"I have certainly learnt a lot from the experience. Competitions like this teach you that you still have a lot to learn and it tests every single bit of cooking you've been learning for the past ten years.
"No college or restaurant experience could test you more than cooking under that sort of pressure, especially cooking for judges like Matthew Fort and Prue Leith, who know so much about food."
Peter is remaining tight-lipped as to whether or not he gets to cook at the banquet later in the series. In the meantime, he is back cooking with his brother at Casamia and working on the new spring menu due to be launched on March 21.
Since appearing on Great British Menu, the phone has been red hot with people booking tables at the 45-seat restaurant, which has held a coveted Michelin star for the past four years.
"We're getting customers coming from all over the country because of it. Last week, we had a couple who came from Ireland just because they had seen us on the Ramsay show and then on Great British Menu.
"I asked them if they were down to see family and they said that they had come purely to eat at Casamia, which is incredible but I guess that's the power of TV."
Great British Menu is broadcast weekdays on BBC2, 7.30pm.