25 March 2014
MASTERCHEF celebrates its 10th birthday on Wednesday night and to mark the occasion judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace have welcomed back champions from previous series to see what they’re up to now…
MasterChef has welcomed 850 eager amateur cooks through its kitchen doors in the past nine years.
And the judges, celebrity chef John Torode and former greengrocer Gregg Wallace, have been lucky enough to sample more than 10,000 plates of food.
The much-loved BBC1 show returns to our television screens tonight with a feast of culinary delights in celebration of its 10th birthday since the new format was launched.
Hundreds of home cooks auditioned, keen to take part in such a landmark series, but they have been whittled down to 60.
This series promises to push the contestants further than ever before.
Challenges include cooking for the cast and crew of EastEnders, creating a feast for the country’s most renowned historians and devising a sumptuous meal out of rubbish scraps.
Those who know how hot it really gets in the kitchen are the former MasterChef winners and finalists.
Gregg and John have remained tight-lipped ...
... on their favourite champion, saying: “That’s impossible, all our winners stand out. We couldn’t name just one!”
They have all reunited to reveal what they’re up to now, and how having a buttery biscuit base, expert chopping skills and creating original flavours helped change their lives…
Shown in top picture:
Left to right (standing): Thomasina Miers (2005 Champion), Jonny Stevenson (2008 Finalist), Hannah Miles (2007 Finalist), Mat Follas (2009 Champion), Andy Oliver (2009 Finalist), Tim Anderson (2011 Champion), Sara Danesin Medio (2011 Finalist), Tom Whittaker (2011 Finalist), Jackie Kearney (2011 Semi Finalist), Andrew Kojima (2012 Finalist), Shelina Permalloo (2012 Champion) and Dale Williams (2013 Finalist).
Left to right (sitting): Peter Bayless (2006 Champion), James Nathan (2008 Champion), Dean Edwards (floor, 2006 Finalist), Daksha Mistry (2006 Finalist), Chris Gates (2009 Finalist), Dhruv Baker (2010 Champion), John Torode (standing, Judge), Gregg Wallace (standing, Judge), Alex Rushmer (2010 Finalist), Tim Kinnaird (2010 Finalist), Natalie Coleman (2013 Champion), Tom Reynolds (2012 Finalist), Larkin Cen (2013 Finalist).
Series One Champion, 2005
After storming to victory in series one, Thomasina went on to open Mexican food chain Wahaca, star in her own Channel 4 show, write food columns for The Times and Country Life, and produce five cookbooks.
“MasterChef put me on an incredible journey of discovery,” the 37 year old says. “John and Gregg, and winning, made me think completely differently about myself. They gave me hope when I was floundering.”
Thomasina, who lives in London with her husband and two children, plans to open a new restaurant in July and is launching a London festival, Chilli Chilli Bang Bang, in May to coincide with a new recipe book, Chilli Notes.
Her tip for winning? “Be inspired. If you are inspired by the food you eat and read about, then the food that you cook will be imbued with that inspiration and will excite others.”
Series Two Champion, 2006
Peter bagged a short-term chef job with Michel Roux Jr at Michelin-starred Le Gavroche after winning series two.
He then worked in a country house hotel kitchen as he felt he needed to get “experience of working in a pro environment".
The 67 year old, from East Sussex, says the show made him do a career U-turn.
“After 40 years in advertising, I’ve now been a chef for the last nine years,” he says. “The programme always promises to change people’s lives and of course that’s exactly what it did.”
Peter, who has written and published a book, has continued his passion for cooking and plans to be in the kitchen “as long as my feet will carry me”.
“These days I operate as an independent chef, I do private functions, dinner parties, chef’s table evenings, one to one teaching, and teaching at various cooking schools, and I’ve spent a few winters out in France working as a private chef to a large family and their guests.”
Series Three Champion, 2007
Winning MasterChef gave 41 year old Steven the confidence to pursue a career in food.
"Winning made me trust my intuition, my creative instinct, and that actually I can cook and I can cook damn well!" he says.
Steven, who lives in London, now has his own consultancy business called Tastebillion and works as a flavour and creative consultant for global brands and food companies.
He says cooking is his "ultimate passion" and his future plans include opening a restaurant in the South of France.
Series Four Champion, 2008
Former lawyer James says his MasterChef victory opened many doors for him - not all of them positive.
“Hand on heart, there’s been some quite dark moments, it’s not a well-paid job, it’s very long hours, very gruelling – but being a criminal barrister you never made anyone happy,” the 40 year old says.
"For me cooking is making people happy.”
James, who is married with one child, has now opened a restaurant in his native Cornwall.
“We’ve got a great restaurant on a site with lots of self-catering Cornish holiday lets, ...
... and we’re about to open a much larger restaurant, and hopefully become a recognised culinary destination in Cornwall. It’s an exciting time.”
In the future James says he hopes to develop a “sushi, oyster and champagne bar”.
Series Five Champion, 2009
Mat admits bagging the coveted MasterChef champion title was “unexpected” as he was “up against two very good finalists".
A highlight for the 47 year old was cooking at Noma in Denmark, which has been voted the best restaurant in the world.
“It made me realise that my hobby, which was foraging and eating foraged plants and things, was something that actually could be done at a really high level, and taught me an awful lot about it.”
Mat, who lives in Dorset with his wife and three children, went on to open a restaurant in his home town but it closed six months ago.
“It was very successful, we got a couple of AA rosettes and had mentions in the Good Food guide and the Michelin guide. With the economy as it still is in Dorset, keeping a fine dining restaurant going is a real challenge.”
Mat is now opening a small restaurant for weekends only, Mat Follas at The Casterbridge, and he helps out in a café attached to a local prison.
Series Six Champion, 2010
Mexico-born Dhruv, 37, says winning MasterChef was a life-changing experience.
“The long story short is that I get to cook for a living, which has always been my dream.”
Dhruv, who now lives in London, has started a catering company, finished his first book Spice: Layers of Flavour, writes food articles for magazines and does some brand consultantcy.
“It’s really all the aspects of food that I love and I’ve always wanted to be involved with, and I get to do it as a job, which is amazing!”
His tips for success include staying calm, devising a plan and cooking things you’re confident with.
“Cook the food your friends and family praise you for, not the food you think John and Gregg want you to cook.”
Series Seven Champion, 2011
Tim hasn’t forgotten his MasterChef experience - and wishes he could go back and do it all again.
“I’d love to go back and show John and Gregg what I could do now – I’m so much better, so much better than I was!”
When the show finished 29-year-old Tim, from London, continued cooking and now does it for a living.
“I’ve been doing a lot of pop ups, and different events, some private dining, some recipe development for different companies, and most recently I’ve been finishing my first cook book, which is called Nanban: Japanese Soul Food, and that’s coming out this year.”
Tim says he’d tell the lastest crop of contestants to “have fun, and stay true to what makes you smile and gets you excited".
Series Eight Champion, 2012
Shelina’s Mauritian puddings were praised by dessert fanatic Gregg, and she used her Caribbean background as inspiration for her first cook book, which launched last July.
“Since winning MasterChef I spent about a year writing, testing and launching my first cook book Sunshine on a Plate, which focuses on modern Mauritian food and includes a lot of traditional recipes that my mum taught me. It was quite nostalgic.”
The 31 year old, who lives in London, now plans to open a restaurant serving Mauritian food.
“That will make me really happy! I also plan to continue writing cookery books, travel and learn more about food and cooking techiniques.”
Series Nine Champion, 2013
Natalie has been lucky enough to work with some of the nation’s best chefs, including Tom Kerridge, Michel Roux Jr and Marcus Wareing, since winning the show.
But as well as working in high-end kitchens, the 30 year old is keen to get kids in her home town of Hackney cooking.
“I run cookery lessons for children in half terms in East London and I’ve also been doing projects with Borough Market and Jamie’s 15, teaching the chefs there. I’ve also just finished my own cookbook, which is due out in October. It’s been busy!”
Natalie says practice makes perfect and she “cooked every meal at least three times before putting them in front of John and Gregg".
She says the key to winning is “cooking food that reflects you as a person, don’t try to be something you’re not!”