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Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Meet Your Match at TGI Fridays, Featuring 5 Questions with Head Chef Terry McDowell

Serving up big, bold flavours to the UK since 1986, Fridays knows how to create food with the wow factor; the new menu features smoky, tender meats and gooey, sweet treats, bringing together classic Fridays favourites with delicious new dishes.
There’s something on the new TGI Fridays Meet Your Match menu to tickle everyone’s taste buds and myself and Nicola were invited along to try out some of the new kids on the block. Whether hot, crispy and cheesy Double Layered Nachos get your mouth watering, or sweet and sticky barbequed pork belly smothered in Jack Daniel’s® glaze is more your taste, guests will be sure to find their perfect plate on the new menu.
Fans of the unique Fridays kickin’ Jack Daniel’s® sauce won’t be disappointed – the much-loved range is expanding, with the introduction of the Jack Daniel’s® Pork Belly and Jack Daniel’s® Bucket of Bones – a juicy, laid-back dish. Other new additions for guests to get their hands on include a range of five hot dogs, layered with flavours inspired by New York’s best loved street eats. If you’re not hot for ‘dogs, the succulent new Warrior Burger will not disappoint, if you dare to take it on.

We often pop into TGI Friday's for cocktails but it has been many years since we had eaten there so when the invite came along, we were both keen to see what we had been missing. The menu at Fridays has always had a huge focus on traditional American classics with burgers, steak and ribs topping the bill, but the menu hasn't had any new additions in 8 years. Now you could say 'if it ain't broke, but keen not to allow complacency to creep in, Fridays were of the belief that it was time to shake things up a bit.
Creative Head Chef Terry McDowell was tasked to come up with some items that were worthy of the Fridays name and on the night, myself and some of Glasgow's other food bloggers were given the opportunity to try out some of the eight new items that Terry and his team have created.
We had already had a sneaky look at the TGI Friday's website before our arrival and had worked out from the 'Meet Your Match' pages, that the new items were going to be Fridays version of Man v Food, which is pretty much what panned out on the night.
We were each allowed to try one appetiser (which is being used in its loosest term) and one main meal each. I'll say at this point that neither myself or Nicola are huge eaters and as our first dishes arrived, we knew that we had both indeed 'Met Our Match'.
Nicola had ordered the BBQ Pork Belly which was smothered in Jack Daniel's glaze, toasted sesame seeds and chilli flakes and served on a bed of fresh apple slaw. Three thick slices of perfectly cooked pork belly were fantastic, the stick JD glaze was balanced with the crisp, fresh coleslaw and had they served it with some chips on the side, Nicola would have been more than happy to call it dinner.
I had the Bucket of Bones, a crockpot full of delicious pork ribs and chicken wings smothered in the rich Jack Daniel's glaze. Wow! I can honestly say that I've not tasted ribs like this in years..... Actually, ever! I couldn't stop eating, the meat just fell from the bone which meant that I had to get my spoon into the amazing sauce in the bottom of the bowl to rescue the tender pork. This dish is meant to be shared but I made a good attempt at finishing the lot but common sense got the better of me and I stopped about two thirds of the way in, taking the rest of my ribs home in a doggy bag.
By this stage we could both have easily thanked our guests for their hospitality and made our way home but we still had our mains to come. Nicola had ordered the Jack Daniel's Chili Dog, a huge pork 'dog topped with hot and smoky JD beef Chili, diced onions, cheese, jalapeños and American mustard, all of which was nestled on top of a pile of crispy fries. This hotdog was full of flavour and had it not been for the fact that Nicola had devoured her pork belly earlier, she could easily have finished her main. However, in the end she had to admit that she had bitten off more than she could chew.
I don't know what I was thinking when I ordered the Warrior Burger, after all, I had read the description! Where was I going to put two 7oz burgers piled high with mozzarella fingers, cheese, bacon, more cheese, caramelised onions and TGI Fridays Mayo? Not to mention the homemade onion rings, which were delicious, and a basket of fries. It didn't take too long to realise that I was failing to tame the Warrior Burger and I had to admit defeat much earlier than I would have liked.
As the meat sweats started to kick in, we chatted with one of the PR agents for Fridays and passed on our own feedback that everything that we had served to us was well presented, and tasted great. However I did have some concerns that the portion sizes could see an unwanted increase in food waste although we did agree that it would be unlikely that most diners would tackle the amount of food that we were invited to order on the evening so maybe it won't be such a big problem on an average day.
In all fairness, I think that when myself and Nicola go back to TGI Fridays next time, we would probably choose a couple of appetisers to share over a cocktail or two, rather than try to tackle the larger main meal menu items.

Terry McDowell, TGI Fridays’ Head Chef said: "Fridays is all about having fun, and we think these new additions to the Fridays food family will most certainly deliver on this, with their big personalities and American-inspired flavours to match. We can’t wait to unveil them to the nation, and for guests to come on in and meet their match at Fridays"
I was lucky to catch up with Terry on the night and he was able to spare a little time to answer 5 Questions.
Here's Terry's story;
How did you get started?
After leaving school, I was doing an engineering apprenticeship and I hated it. I happened to bump into an old friend who was doing his City and Guilds 706 1&2 and he told me that he loved it. I decided I'd give it a go, and have been working in kitchens ever since.
What’s your best piece of business advice you could give to aspiring chefs?
Always give everything you have; food is about creativity, passion and delivering consistently every time you are in the kitchen.
Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years’ time?
I'd like to be the director of food in a business I believe in, like TGI Fridays. It's really important to me that any role I’ll be doing allows me to be creative, be hands on and make a difference to the guests and team, as well as being a thoroughly enjoyable place to work.
If you could have one of your own recipes entered into the "Food Hall of Fame", what would it be and why?
The dish I'd like to see in the Food Hall of Fame would be Pan Fried turbot with a gin and pink grapefruit sauce. I really like cooking with fish and the flavours and simplicity of this dish make can be replicated at home or up-scaled into an amazing restaurant dish. That or the new Warrior burger created for the new TGI Fridays Meet Your Match menu.
You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?
I'd invite David Lee Roth - the original singer in Van Halen. He's the person who personifies what I like about food. He's an entertainer, he gives it all he has - he's passionate, innovative and keeps re-inventing himself. I'd love to listen to him tell the story of his life and how he's managed to stay at the top of his game for so long. As he's a lover of Jack Daniels whiskey, I'd do a JD based BBQ menu, including some of the items we have on the menu at TGI Fridays.
Suitable stuffed, we said our goodbyes and made our way home with our perception of TGI Fridays firmly changed. I'm not entirely sure why we never considered Fridays as one of our go to lunch or dinner options but after our visit last week, we will definitely be back again soon.
We would like to thank the staff and management at TGI Fridays Buchanan Street for the invitation and for their hospitality on the night. I would also like to say that although we were guests of Fridays, the above review is an honest account of our own experience on the night.
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 Written by Gerry Haughian Written by Gerry Haughian

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