MasterChef 2012: Insider Interview

Posted at March 1, 2012 by 0 Comment

MasterChef is unlike any situation I’ve ever known…

 

The current series of MasterChef is barrelling ever closer to the final, with just a few weeks left until this year’s winner is crowned and we just cannot get enough. With the excitement hotting up, we caught up with 2012 contestant and Total Food Geek Ross to ask a few questions about his experience on the series and what’s next for him.

The MasterChef kitchen and challenges present a pretty pressured cooking environment; how did you cope when cooking under pressure?

“MasterChef is unlike any situation I’ve ever known; as you go further through the application process you go deeper and deeper into the MasterChef “bubble” and consequently before you even stand in front of John & Gregg you’re already on edge – and then the pressure really begins as you look the other contestants in the eye and see that they want this as much as you – and may be better cooks than you… So, how did I cope? I think quite well, my wife would probably disagree and point out that almost every spare minute of every day was spent obsessing about previous performance and the next task.”

How did you decide what to make? Is there anything you would change looking back?

sometimes I get really into modernist techniques, other times I geek out over stunning cuts of meat or shellfish

“I’m quite a changeable cook, sometimes I get really into modernist techniques, other times I geek out over stunning cuts of meat or shellfish and other times again I get excited by reading about regional cuisine and I draw inspiration from all of these things. I think it’s fair to say that classic flavour combinations are at the core of a lot of my dishes and then I like to evolve them into something that can surprise, excite and sometimes challenge the people I cook for (I’m guilty of sneaking in an awful lot of offal from time to time). So, how did I decide what to cook? I keep a “cook book” of my own ideas and experiments and simply developed things from there.

And would I change anything? Well, I’d like a second go at the dish that saw me leave, perhaps I should have served a pud and played up to Gregg’s sweet tooth as the other dish I was considering was a pineapple & lemon thyme baked cream with a mandarin and cumin sorbet, griddled pineapple and a salted caramel brittle (I went with the lamb & pumpkin because I thought it showed more technique, oops..)”

What’s the next dish you would have made, and what was your grand finale dish?

you can really only think a challenge or two ahead

 

“For the next challenge (which turned out to be cooking for the previous winners) we were asked to propose a starter, main and dessert for up to 12 people (we were only going to cook one course), my dishes were going to be:

- Scallop (I know, a MasterChef cliché) with a carrot & cumin veloute, chorizo, apple and salmon caviar
- Beef, basically a reconstructed “steak dinner” with textures and techniques of potato, onion and mushroom all interwoven in several garnishes
- The pineapple & lemon thyme baked cream I mentioned earlier

“I hadn’t decided on a dish for the final – you can really only think a challenge or two ahead – but as we filmed in late 2011 (game season) there was plenty of partridge and pheasant in my thoughts.”

 

Who do you think will win MasterChef 2012?

I really don’t know, several of the guys are now good friends and so I’d really like to see them win but who will? I can’t call it – all the guys are really passionate and skilled in their own ways.

 

What’s next for you, any big food plans for 2012?

“Ah, the million dollar question.. Obviously I’d love to open my own restaurant – there’s even a premises I’m currently considering – but I need to work out the finances and business plan, I’ve two young kids and so I need to make sure they’re not going to end up homeless because daddy is juggling pans. While I’m working this all out, you can expect to see lots of me on Twitter, a relaunch of my blog (which fell to the wayside while I was involved with MasterChef) and probably the odd appearance at supperclubs and pop-ups as well as bugging my chef mates for as much time and experience in their kitchens as I can manage.”

Any tips for budding chefs?

“Travel, eat, ask and learn. Never stop developing your skills and your frames of reference, but also put the effort into mastering the skills you acquire – there’s no point knowing how to make a Dashi if you always make a poor one.”

Finally, for any MasterChef fans coming to Edinburgh, what are your recommendations for the best spots for ingredients in the city?

“Edinburgh is blessed with such great produce and shops, personally I’m mostly found in East Lothian and in places like the Gosford Bothy by Aberlady (my awesome butchers) and Clarks the Fishmongers in Musselburgh but we there’s also Valvona & Crolla, Eddie’s fish market, Crombie’s the butchers, Mellis’, Pat’s Chinese Supermarket, Knowes Farm by Dunbar – I could go on for ages but just writing this list is making me hungry.

“And if you’re looking for somewhere good to eat, Martin Wishart is at the top of his game (I have no idea why he doesn’t have a second Michelin star) and Mark Greenaway is producing some of the most innovative, thought provoking and tasty food I’ve seen in a long time, at the other end of the scale, Pho Vietnam House is great food from a wonderful cuisine and very affordable and my current favorite restaurant in Edinburgh is Rice Terraces – Scotland’s only Filipino restaurant, great flavours, a wonderful team and excellent value once again.”

Massive thanks to Ross for taking the time to answer our questions; you can read Ross’s latest recipe for Pork belly Pho here.

MasterChef continues, Thursday 1st March, 9pm on BBC One and the new cookbook, MasterChef Everyday, is out now (£20 dk.com)

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About Emily

I like to experiment with ingredients and make something new and exciting with things otherwise old and familiar. Food is a big part of my day to day life and in the family so it's always very social - nothing better than good food and good company to make time fly. I'm something of a competitive cook and like to perfect my own versions of recipes through trial, error and practice so weekends are usually filled with one food-based project or another, and making a lot of mess... I geek out over: Old Cookbooks, Unusual Ingredients, Bread Making Twitter: @trudy_peaches

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