Mastering MasterChef – Keep calm and stay focused

Mastering MasterChef – Keep calm and stay focused

Series 15 of MasterChef kicked off on Monday 11th February 2019 and immediately I was hooked into watching this compelling cookery competition. Having competed in the finals and been a guest judge for the last 10 years, BBC MasterChef never fails to get my attention, and series 15 is no exception.

Like much of Britain’s population I have watched the first two episodes and it has been brilliant.

BBC MasterChef is a huge deal for amateur cooks that want to progress. I, myself, have launched a successful career out of it, setting up my company Dakshas Gourmet Catering in 2007.

Out of the thousands who apply, 56 amateur cooks are finally selected to compete over four weeks of heats.

This year sees the return of the MasterChef Market, stocked full of great quality produce from across the world, including meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts, pulses, grains and dairy. The challenge is to invent and then cook one dish using anything from the market. It sounds simple but it is much more difficult simply because you can easily lose focus. There are just so many ingredients to choose from and it makes deciding on what you will cook, difficult.

From the very first task, the seven contestants are up against the clock and for some that can be a big challenge. Many cooks practice against the clock at home. That is one thing. In the glare of TV lights and the scrutiny of the cameras cooking becomes a whole different experience. That is why it is really important that contestants stay calm. Easier said than done.

The cooks have an hour and 10 minutes to dazzle the judges and prove they are good enough to stay in the competition. In this round, it’s important that they choose carefully because after tasting their dishes, John Torode and Gregg Wallace (the key judges) will decide which four are good enough to stay. The three other cooks are sent home.

After John and Gregg have decided who stays, the four remaining contestants now have one more challenge standing between them and the next stage. They must cook two courses that will excite not just John and Gregg, but also some very special guests. After the four have cooked, John and Gregg decide which three contestants deserve to go through to the next stage.

In the first episode, the contestants had to impress 2018’s MasterChef finalists Nawamin Pinpathomrat, David Crichton and 2018 MasterChef Champion Kenny Tutt, whereas in the second episode, the cooks had to win over 2015’s MasterChef finalists Tony Rodd, Emma Spitzer and champion Simon Wood.

I can admit to feeling more than a little sorry for a number of contestants that didn’t make it through. Did they make any really big mistakes? Not really. A couple had too many ingredients that didn’t combine, a couple of cooks hadn’t tasted their food and one person had undercooked her chicken. However, they will have all learnt from the experience.

Keeping calm and staying focused is one of the major lessons that I learned in my own MasterChef experience. It really is a tough competition. From the very start, contestants can be distracted by the wealth of opportunity provided by the market which is overflowing with food. You may go in with an idea of what you are planning to cook but when you see the mass of options, it’s very tempting to be seduced away from your game plan. Then contestants have to run the gauntlet of the lights, cameras, crew, presenters and guest VIP judges. On top of all of that there is the task of beating the clock in an unfamiliar kitchen. You really have to bring you ‘A Game’ to this show. I am eagerly looking forward to watching more episodes of this very special programme.

Daksha Mistry has appeared as a regular guest judge on BBC MasterChef for over 10 years, and runs successful catering company Dakshas Gourmet Catering which provides global cuisines to high net worth individuals and events. She is also a speaker at events run by Hospitality & Catering News.