Maggie’s ‘starter for 10’ in Britain’s Best Dish

BALLYMENA fans of the popular high-pressure TV cookery competition, ‘Britain’s Best Dish’ were served up a local treat last week when Maggie Flynn was among the chefs in the Scotland & Northern Ireland regional heat.

Although now living in Finvoy, near Ballymoney, Maggie is a former resident of Ballymena and works in County Hall on the outskirts of the town where she is accounts officer for the North Eastern Education and Library Board Board.

She applied for the show just before Christmas but says, at the time, she didn’t think she would be selected to take part.

Televised on ITV weekdays at 5pm, the programme sees Britain’s most talented amateur cooks battle it out for a £10,000 prize and the chance to see their dish on the menu at London’s Savoy Hotel.

New host, Mary Nightingale, is always on hand to guide the competitors through a series of terrifying cookery challenges, while the show’s trio of judges - wine expert Jilly Goolden, Michelin starred Chef John Burton Race and renowned chef & restaurateur Ed Baines - decide whose dishes are good enough to stay in the competition.

When viewers tuned in at the start of last week, they saw self-confessed cooking fanatic Maggie win through to the regional final on Friday, with her sensational starter of ‘Pan-fried John Dory - served with crushed herby potatoes, tomato and basil sauce and samphire’.

Unfortunately neither Maggie nor the other two NI finalists won through to the next stage of the national competition as their three opposing Scottish competitors went on to score a hat-trick with their starter, main and dessert.

However, the 50-year-old mother-of-two told The Ballymena Times she thoroughly enjoyed the experience and is delighted with all that she achieved on the show - not least having her dish confirmed by the judges as the best starter from Northern Ireland.

A seasoned amateur chef who loves nothing better than cooking up a storm in the kitchen for her children, Rory (19) and Christy (17), or hosting dinner parties for friends and family, Maggie said she was totally at ease on set in the London studio where the programme was actually recorded back in March.

“I love to cook and am completely self-taught. I’ve always been told my cooking isn’t bad and when I invite people round for dinner they never refuse,” smiled Maggie.

“But for people like John Burton Race and Ed Baines to turn round and tell me I’ve cooked my fish perfectly is a great endorsement.

“And it’s particularly special that my starter was voted through to the regional final because that means my dish was the best starter from Northern Ireland,” she said.

Maggie, whose other interests include singing and amateur dramatics, also revealed that she enjoyed the opportunity to rub shoulders with any number of television celebrities during filming including Dr Hillary Jones, Christine Bleakley, ‘The Loose Women’ and, the ‘Queen of Clean’, Kim Woodburn, to name but a few.

“We were in the studio while Daybreak was going on and it was great sitting in the canteen and star spotting over a cup of coffee. The whole experience was pretty special,” she said.