Originally from Belfast, Tommy Heaney started working in his uncle’s restaurant at the age of fourteen. He has cooked under a number of Michelin starred chefs including, David Everitt- Matthias and Ollie Dabbous. Vale Life readers may know Tommy from his appearance on BBC2’s Great British Menu.
Tommy is our cover star this issue and deservedly so. His appearance on Great British Menu reinforced his reputation and reminded us how lucky we are to have him here in the Vale. Tommy lives in Pen-y-Fai just outside Bridgend. We caught up with Tommy over a coffee at the Great House Hotel, home to his new restaurant.
Tell us about your involvement in Great British Menu. How did this come about?
I’ve always watched the Great British Menu, it always looks really fun but tough at the same time. I suppose when I was originally approached for it, I was obviously a bit apprehensive about doing it but I thought, if you want to try and push yourself, you’ve got to put yourself up against the best and challenge yourself.
Did you enjoy the experience?
It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my career, you’re definitely pushed out of your comfort zone! Overall the experience was really good and meeting the other chefs was something else. You’re not just cooking for the judges but the other chefs you’re competing against as well. I’ve definitely taken a lot from it; it was great to get feedback from people who you respect like that, whether it’s positive or negative, it’s all things you can take on the chin and then go on from.
What were the highlights for you?
Without a doubt the people I met – really great people. It’s an experience I’ll never forget. It was a real privilege working alongside some amazing chefs in the Irish heat- Eddie Attwell and Joery Castel are both top blokes. Then in the finals – Selin Kiazim, Tom Brown, Ellis Barrie, Tommy Banks, Michael Bremner, Phil Carmichael and Pip Lacey. I have the utmost respect for them all.
Do you think the experience has made you a better chef?
100%. Just being around these people is inspiring and we all had very different styles so you learn a lot as well. You just can’t buy this kind of experience.
What was your favourite dish?
The main was special to me because it reminded me of being a kid on the beach growing up. I was also really pleased with my dessert (the second time around) and when I got a score of 10 for it I was thrilled and then to find out that it was the first 10 that Michael Smith had ever given was something else!
How do you feel you performed?
I didn’t really expect to get through to the finals. I just wanted to do my best and not make a tit of myself! All I wanted to do was come out of it knowing that I’d done my best. I suppose getting through to the finals made me believe in myself a little more.
Would you do it again?
After the show, I was thinking to myself that it is draining. Then I had time to reflect on it and yes I would definitely do it again. I learnt a lot and I’d be more con dent I think. I would probably enjoy it a little more knowing a bit more what to expect.
Has being on the programme changed your life?
Definitely. I have a restaurant with my name over the door now. I’d always planned on opening my own restaurant, so I’d say that the Great British Menu has helped to move the process along more quickly.
Restaurant Tommy Heaney at The Great House Hotel
Bridgend CF32 0HP
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