'The pressure is intense': Hoxton vegan chef competes in Great British Menu
- Credit: BBC/ Optomen
A Hoxton chef is hoping to get through the regional heats of the Great British Menu this week, for a chance to cook a four-course banquet in the final.
Kirk Haworth, who co-founded the Hoxton vegan restaurant and events company Plates London, where he is chef, is one of four contestants in the show's north eastern heats, which are airing on BBC2 this week.
He is the first plant-based chef to compete on the programme.
In episodes from Wednesday to Friday night, one chef is eliminated to whittle down numbers until one person is left to represent the area.
The process will be repeated again for the other six regions in the coming weeks ahead of the grand finale.
Growing up, Kirk's passion for cooking was influenced by his father, Nigel Haworth, who was chef patron of Northcote Manor in Lancashire.
Kirk kick-started his career working with his dad as an apprentice, won North West Young Chef of the year at 17 and went on to perfect his craft at other leading Michelin starred restaurants.
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But after he was diagnosed with the debilitating Lyme disease five years ago, and bed bound for six months, he had to overhaul his lifestyle.
He discovered that removing meat, gluten, refined sugar and dairy from his diet reduced the intensity of his symptoms.
It led him to create an ethos for his own plant-based restaurant, Plates, in Kingsland Road – which remains closed since last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
He told the Gazette he is thrilled to be taking part in the BBC2 show.
"I've visualised being on this show since I was 15. It's been a huge dream of mine," he said.
"I didn't ever imagine I'd be the first vegan chef to go on there. It's surreal.
"The pressure is very real and when people watch it, you don't get that.
"The filming is intense all the time. You aren't just cooking. You're being constantly interviewed.
"You can be really busy and behind, and you get stopped in between cooking and asked questions, so it's full on.
"It's so different to just cooking in a restaurant, and you learn so much from your mistakes."
The next episode airs tonight (May 6) at 8pm.