Lancashire chef Nigel Haworth
Few have done more than Northcote Manor's Michelin-starred chef Nigel Haworth, one of the Great British Menu stars, to promote the region's food
If you think life on television is all sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, then five minutes with Nigel Haworth will set you straight. Millions saw the Michelin-starred chef cook his special version of Lancashire hotpot as the main course at a sumptuous welcome home banquet for troops who served in Afghanistan. It was the emotional culmination of the BBC's Great British Menu, a competition between top chefs battling out to reach the final and then cook one of the courses. Stars in their Pies, if you like. Lancashire cuisine Accrington-born Nigel triumphed and it put him - and Lancashire cuisine - back in the limelight. It also provided several chefs with a following among female viewers captivated by the sight of a well risen souffl�. Some of the younger chefs were sent certain items of apparel by admirers. 'The lads joked I was the one appealing to the more mature lady,' laughs Nigel. 'I got sent knitted tea-cosies! That's how rock 'n' roll it was.' It's a typically self-deprecating story from Nigel. While there's no doubt he's an articulate boss who demands the highest standards, it's difficult to image him chasing anyone around the kitchen with a meat cleaver. Gruelling experience Unlike the Gordons and Marcos, Nigel is happy to let his cooking do most of the talking. He appreciates that his increasing TV exposure has had a positive impact on his growing business, which spans the swish Northcote Manor to the Ribble Valley Inns dining pubs. But GBM was still quite a gruelling experience. Apart from 25 days of filming, he also had to devise and develop the dishes. His wife Kath, who swapped a career in finance to study for a degree in interior design and construction, says: 'He was getting up at 5am to get into the kitchen when it was quiet so he could practice his dishes.' Nigel adds: 'I know people thought I was going mad, but when I took part in the programme last year I didn't cook well. I was very frustrated about that and I was determined to make sure I got to cook at the banquet. 'But it was a sacrifice in terms of being away from the business and from family life. I'm lucky to have a partner of the calibre of Craig Bancroft or it wouldn't have been possible. Very self-critical 'I still haven't watched the recordings of last year's competition. I'm very self-critical and I know I'll be sitting there thinking 'Why on earth did I do that!' We have this year's on DVD so I'll watch parts of it...eventually.' The prospect of watching how he managed to make 35 large hotpots and then cook them in just two temperamental ovens would be enough to bring him out in a sweat. Unlike Nigel, Kath was at home near Ribchester watching the BBC series unfold over the weeks. At times, the waspish panel of judges, Prue Leith, Matthew Fort and Oliver Peyton were blunt to the point of rudeness. 'I was incredibly proud of Nigel but some of the criticism was cruel, especially from Oliver.' The Irishman's rant against Nigel's cheese ice-cream still makes the chef chuckle. Kath's reaction was a little different.