In March/April of 2016 after a night out with my friends and a few too many Peroni's inside me, I returned back home with a kebab the size of my head. I sat down to eat, turned on the TV and MasterChef was on repeat. I ate my kebab and watched MasterChef for the first time ever, and as I watched the show I thought I could do that, and as the show went on I was debating with myself whether I should apply or not...
'What if I get on and I make a mess of it and show myself up on national TV?, but what if I do well?'
The show ended and so had my kebab so I went to bed in a spinning room with MasterChef in my head.
The next day I got up and thought 'What the hell, nothing ventured nothing gained' I'm applying...and after I applied, I was excited but also realistic that I would need to be extremely lucky even to get picked from the thousands that apply for the show each year.
Anyway, I applied and put it in the back of my mind.
MasterChef had completely disappeared from my mind and in fact, I'd forgotten that I'd applied. It wasn't until around May when I got a phone from MC which reminded me and so started my adventure. I'm unable to share the application/audition process or the lead up to the filming, but before I knew it, I was on a train heading for London to start filming.
In my hotel, the night before, while lying in bed; I was full of anticipation, nervousness and excitement and I think I woke up every hour during the night. I was up early and tried to eat some breakfast but was too nervous to eat. It was time to head for the studio, again I cant talk about what goes on whilst in the MC studio, but soon I was stood in front of my kitchen with 7 other people with John and Gregg facing us. After a little chat from them both, and our challenge explained the timer was set and off we went 1 hour and 20 minutes to come up with a dish from the set-up market. I walked around looking at the massive array of produce available wondering what the hell I should cook, then I spotted a box full of amazing different types of mushrooms and truffles, and that was it; I knew what to make. I gathered all my ingredients and set to work on making a wild mushroom ravioli with a crispy sage butter sauce and truffle shavings.
The 1 hour and 20 minutes went so fast and only felt like 20 minutes but by the end of it I was really pleased with what I had on my plate. I just hoped that John and Gregg would like it, otherwise that was me going home straight away.
When it was my turn to present my dish, I was so nervous I couldn't stop shaking and thought I was going to drop my plate. Gregg said to me 'You are very nervous aren't you' -'YES' - 'I can tell you have just told me that you have made a mushroom stuffed mushroom instead of a mushroom stuffed ravioli' That made me laugh and relaxed me a little, but when they where trying my dish it felt like I stood watching them eat for hours, just waiting for some sort of reaction, a clue, anything, but they both just stood there stone-faced looking at me then Gregg started to talk followed by John....
'I like that a great deal, your pasta is really fine & light & thin, strength of mushroom, truffle, cheese, slippery butter sauce, Well Done!'
- Gregg Wallace
'Technically really good, flavour perfect' - John Torode
Hooray, I did it! I pulled it out of the bag, I was so elated I couldn't believe it, as soon as I was out of the studio I rang my wife. I'd passed the first round and was lucky enough not to have been sent home. So I was really happy with myself and couldn't wait for the next challenge; because I knew exactly what I was cooking, and I had perfected the 2 dishes at home many times over without any problems.
It was time for round 2, and I had 1 hour and 15 minutes to cook 4 portions of my 2 chosen dishes and serve them not only to John and Gregg, but to also Billy, Jack and Jane; the 2016 MasterChef finalists, so no pressure at all. My 2 dishes were, herb-crusted baked cod with pea puree, mash potatoes and dill, followed by a lemon baked tart with raspberry coulis, popping candy and a mascarpone cream.
When John asked me what I was cooking and I told him, he said 'Is it not a gamble at this stage of the competition to actually bake a tart, then bake the filling, then hope it's cool enough to be able to cut into portion size?' My reply was ' It is but you have to push yourself haven't you!'. But John was 100% right. In hindsight I'd given myself too much to do, plus I should have done a starter instead of a dessert. I don't really like making dessert, but I knew that Gregg had a soft spot for lemon tarts so I took the chance. Anyway it was too late now, I'd made my bed and I had to lie in it. I cracked on with making my dishes but as the time went by I knew it was not going to plan, and slowly the wheels were falling off. I was not happy with the way my dishes were turning out, and I was getting mad at myself, which was having an effect and knocking me off my game. It was a race to the finishing line and I got my first plates out on time, then I had to get my dessert plated up. When trying to take the tart out of the tin, I almost dropped it on the floor, it was one bad thing after another. In my haste I caramelised my tart before cutting into portion sizes. When I did come to cut it, this made it harder to do so. Because the tart didn't have enough time to cool, I was not able to portion it like I wanted to. To make thing worse, I had a coulis explosion that almost coved me and John in raspberry sauce, luckily that was not shown on the TV!
That was it! My 2 dishes had been served and there was nothing else I could do. I came out of the studio collapsed on a sofa then went outside and rang my wife. I told her that it didn't go well and that I was not happy with any of my dishes. I had a bad feeling that it was home time for me. As I sat and waited for the outcome, I just kept going over everything in my mind and I was so mad at myself.
Finally, the time had come, the verdicts were in, and I found myself stood in front of the judges once again. They start calling out the names of quarter-finalists and mine was left out, that was it game over. I gave my final MC interview, took one final look around, wished the remaining contestants good luck and waved goodbye and headed to the train station with my tail between my legs.
Once back home, I kept reflecting over and over in my head, I was devastated and knew I could have done better. I knew I could have gone further in the competition and beat myself up about it for weeks. I wish I could go back in time and change things and play the game better, but never mind I had a go and did my best.
I will never regret going on the show and it was an epic experience. I absolutely loved every moment of it regardless of the outcome. The whole MasterChef crew are amazing and make you feel at home. John and Gregg were so nice to be around and it was great meeting them both. I would recommend it to anyone if you like cooking and a good challenge give it a go you have nothing to lose and you never know you could be the next MasterChef Winner.
I THINK PRESSURE'S HEALTHY,
AND VERY FEW CAN HANDLE IT.
---- GORDON RAMSAY ----