A CHEF from Looe is set to appear on the BBC Two hit cooking show the ‘Great British Menu’.

The popular show returns for its 19th run, bringing some of the UK's most celebrated chefs to compete in regional heats to secure a place at the illustrious Great British Menu banquet. For 2024 chefs from eight different regions of the UK have designed a four-course menu (plus snacks and pre-desserts) based around the theme of celebrating the Olympics and Paralympics with dishes for a banquet hosted by the British Ambassador in France and Team GB to wish our athletes good luck in Paris. 

Ben Palmer will be starring in the show’s South West regional heats and has been desperate to share the good news about his appearance — but has had to keep it all under wraps, until now.

Ben Palmer
Benjamin lives in Looe with his business partner and wife, Francesca, and his three children Molly, Bobby and Loa ( )

The highly talented chef already boasts two successful restaurants in Looe, one with a Michelin accolade. He has been dreaming of appearing on the show for nearly 20 years, since the show’s inception in 2006.

Ben, who used to rush home from a shift in the kitchen to catch the programme in its earliest days, remembers vividly how much of an impact it had on him and spurred him on to strive for excellence. 

Ben explained: “It was the first show of its kind that really showcased in house chef talent on a nationwide platform – it was so exciting to see those who were working so hard in kitchens behind the scenes, who might ordinarily be a little overlooked, being elevated to celebrity status based on their talents alone. Just a very inspiring and exhilarating concept that amplified my natural desire to excel in the space. It added fuel to my fire and to be on the show is proof that if you work hard enough at something you can make great things happen.” 

Ben spent time working with the brief to curate his dishes, developing creative prop ideas, and having video calls with the team. He didn’t find out who the other chef’s taking part in the heat would be until the morning of the first day on set, and was delighted to see some familiar faces.  

He continued: “Going up against Ellie Wentworth, Andi Tuck and Mike Naidoo was a bit nerve wrecking as obviously Ellie has appeared on the show twice before and Andi did really well too – but they were all absolutely amazing to work alongside and we all got on really well. The energy in the kitchen was fantastic and there were no arguments or dramas at all, which was pretty impressive considering the pressure we were all under!” 

Ben Palmer, Ellie Wentworth, Andi Tuck and Mike Naidoo
Ben will be up against Ellie Wentworth, Andi Tuck and Mike Naidoo ( )

Whilst Ben was blown away to be invited on the show and to be taking part, he recalls that all he wanted to do was get through the first day so he could cook his whole menu and showcase his talents. 

Ben added: “I thought if I can just make it through the first day and get to the point where I can cook a whole menu I will be happy – I can tick it off my bucket list.”

Ben returned to his hometown of Looe to open The Sardine Factory restaurant in July 2018. The team were delighted to receive the prestigious accolade of a Michelin Bib Gourmand in 2019 and have retained it every year since. 

The Sardine Factory has 80 covers overlooking the stunning harbour with a menu reflecting the ethos of Looe and a passion for local seasonal produce, with an abundance of sustainable fish dishes. 

In 2023 Ben went on to open Yamas, a modern Greek restaurant in the same Cornish town, offering an array of traditional cuisine which Ben developed through a close personal relationship with the country.

Cornwall’s Andi Tuck will also be joining the Great British Menu kitchen this week as part of the south west heat contestants. 

Andi is the head chef at the Michelin Guide-listed Harbour House set right on the waterfront in Flushing. He says he will be ‘letting rip’ with his creative fire and smoking methods, and Cornish local ingredient sourcing. 

Andi added: “I absolutely loved my last appearance on Great British Menu in 2023 and it’s a huge honour to be back to represent Cornwall. I can’t think of a more intense, or competitive environment, in which to cook for such illustrious judges, but as a result, this pushes us all to be at the very top of our games. I’ll be ‘letting rip’ with my personal, creative fire and smoking methods, and Cornish local ingredient sourcing, for each of my entry dishes. It’s such a pleasure to cook and work alongside the most exciting chefs in the south west in the upcoming set of episodes.”

Watch Ben and Andi on Great British Menu on Tuesday, March 12 at 8pm on BBC Two.