Master Chef Goes Large for the second time in a year,
there was only one thing on my mind by the time I
reached the final four . . . to win!
spending a whole summer cooking every dish under the
sun, experimenting, tweaking here and there as well
as sending my family up the wall with my food obsession,
I settled on the dish that was going to take me to
the final three. Practiced a hundred times, each time
an improvement on the other, my roast sirloin dish
followed by pear and ginger steamed puddings was the
choice of champions. Or was it just another Sunday
Deciding to try and win the show with good old British
food was always going to be a difficult one when one
of the judges is an Australian. No matter how much
Gregg Wallace loves British food, John Torode was
always going to be the major decisive factor. After
all, he is the professional chef.
had gone really well for me. They loved my leek puddings.
They loved my ginger cakes. They loved my style and
take on tweaking with British classics. There were
no issues at all until the last couple of days when
they started to comment on my dishes being rather
'unrefined'. This had me worried. Refinement was not
my strength. I was on the show to try and improve
that side of me; surely they would not eliminate me
on that basis?
On the day of the decisive Critics Meal, a day where
we had to produce a two course meal for two professional
food critics as well as a competition winner, something
in my bones was telling me that things were not right.
the Friday, I finished a particular task and then
had to get the train back up to Yorkshire as the next
day I was best man for my friend at a lavish wedding
ceremony . . . so a late night of travelling, then
trying to dust myself off to look smart for the big
day. After a day of speeches, tears and little alcohol
drinking, I then had to drive all of the way back
down to London at 4:00am on Sunday morning to get
back for the critics meal. Talk about doing things
the hard way!
Arriving exhausted, with only two hours of broken
sleep, but putting a brave face on, for the first
time in three weeks of filming I really started to
feel the nerves. When they wheeled us into the studio,
things got worse.
of all, one of the major ingredients I was using,
kale, was not there. As a replacement I was given
an old cabbage that had certainly seen its best days.
Then the oven was not pre-heated. Then the ice cream
maker would not work. And where were the bay leaves
and fresh thyme? Then I noticed that as I was the
last competitor to cook, and as we were cooking in
fifteen minute intervals in order to roll the meals
out, there was little space left for me to work in.
Postage stamp more like.
At this stage, I resembled a rabbit caught in the
headlights. Gone was the happy smiling and confident
Geordie of earlier rounds. In its place was a shaking,
sweating wreck that proceeded to overcook the beef
then slice it into doorstops. Then burn the chicory.
Then fail to reduce the sauce to the desired consistency.
Then spend fifteen minutes trying and failing with
my shaking hands to tie string around my pudding moulds,
which were steamed to sloppy delight.
in all, the dishes that I had deliberated on for months
and had every confidence were going to turn out amazing,
turned out to be dishes that I would not serve to
my worst enemy. I even uttered that out aloud. At
one stage, I looked up and the whole TV crew and my
fellow competitors were looking at me in silence with
varying looks of sympathy, horror and surprise.
I could do was embarrassingly work on in the knowledge
that I was churning out some horrendous food. I knew
what the critics would say before watching the television.
And Kate Spicer confirmed it to the on-looking nation
. . . it was just "another Sunday dinner".
chose this as my kitchen nightmare as it was filmed
and watched by over 5 million people. Make a mistake
in your own kitchen, or even a professional one, and
there are ways to pretend it did not happen. The camera
never lies. And anybody that watched me dripping sweat
from my purple brow into my food on Master Chef Goes
Large can vouch for that. The competition did change
my life but not without its consequences. Mine was
this kitchen nightmare that will never go away. Enjoy