• Back on the Box

    When we filmed MasterChef, our first serious challenge was when we cooked as if in a restaurant kitchen, with John as the head chef, for previous champions and finalists. I remember being overwhelmed at the thought of cooking for such an illustrious audience and could hardly believe that almost exactly a year later I was joining that awe-inspiring crowd invited to the lunch hosted by Gregg in the studio dining room.

    Being back on set working with the production team was just as much fun as it always was, but this time without the accompanying fear which made the whole experience very much less stressful. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed being in front of the camera and waiting around during the inevitable delays with those fellow lunch guests was always going to be more of a thrill than a chore.

    Quite apart from being star struck by the exraordinary roll-call of ex-champions (all of whom were utterly delightful) it was great as always to catch up with Tim, Tom,Sara, Jacqui and James. It's incredible to think that all of us have had our lives completely transformed because of MasterChef; everyone in that room (apart from Gregg!) had started out their "MasterChef lives" as hopeful amateurs, one of thousands, hardly daring to believe they deserved to be there. And now many of them are household names and all of us, without exception, have established or are forging new careers as food professionals.

    When we faced this challenge I was one of the four cooking a pudding and everything went wrong right from the start. I was making my orange and pomegranate cake with pomegranate ice cream and John and Gregg wasted no time in questioning my choice of serving cake and ice cream. Not a good start. Then my ice cream failed so badly I had to start making it all over again, I burnt the syrup for the cake twice and was concentrating so hard on not burning the 3rd attempt that I left my cake in the oven for two long and it was definitely a bit singed round the edges.

    When my syrup was finally ready, I put it into a squeezy bottles so that I could have a practise squirt. Unfortunately, because the syrup was still rather hot the pressure must have built up in the bottle and when I turned it over a great arch of syrup flew out of the nozzle and landed all over Tim’s pristine glass bowls which were on the bench next to me, waiting to be filled with his rice pudding. Luckily, Tim was getting on far better than me and calmly wiped them down while I tried to rescue the mess I was making of it all.

    After all that I was just grateful to have got my dishes out at all and was not terribly optimistic about how they would be received so I was staggered to be told by the original MasterChef champion, Tommy Myers, that it had been the dish of the day and had amazed them all. I don’t think they were half as amazed as me.

    Sitting in that dining room on the other side of the sliding door it was all too easy to forget the blood, sweat and tears that were going on in the kitchen. I felt very privileged to be sitting next to Gregg who is always incredibly entertaining and the only thing I had to worry about was what to order from the enticing sounding menu and whether or not I would be able to come up with suitably pithy and insightful comments about the dishes. Watching the episode on television last week I was slightly horrified to see the incredibly stressful time that many of the contestants had been through and felt really quite guilty for having enjoyed myself so much.

    But I know that for those of the contestants who had a successful day on that challenge, the sense of achievement will have felt even more incredible because of the level of stress they had been through. I had never known fear like that which I experienced during the competition but I had also never had such a boost to my self confidence and sense of self worth.

    I loved being back on television. Being surrounded by such MasterChef royalty I was expecting to be left on the cutting room floor so was rather thrilled to see myself several times during the episode. It made me even more determined to get my own programme one of these days. Well, it's good to dream!

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I'll be blogging regularly to keep everyone up to date with how things are going with the cookery demos and including lots of tempting recipes. Let me know what you think!

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