MasterChef 2011: My thank you note
Tim Anderson wins MasterChef 2011
Speak to just about any of the 20 extremely talented MasterChef contestants, and regardless of how far they got, I think most would say that it was one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of their life. The thrill of receiving the white apron kept me buzzing for weeks – and that feeling of pure joy grew exponentially throughout the competition. Much of that was down to simply progressing, getting closer and closer to grasping that trophy. But even more so it was down to the incredible education we received from our mentors who lent their time and talents to the competition.
For me, the highlights of the competition (and there were many) all involve the lessons learned from some amazing professional chefs. Early on there was Alexis Gauthier, who taught us the importance of instinct and trusting your senses in cooking – because after all, eating is nothing if not sensory! In fact it is the only art form that engages all our senses. Yotam Ottolenghi was brilliant in conveying his respect for vegetables, and how to capture their diverse flavours and textures and translate them into beautiful dishes.
Then there was Michel Roux, Jr, who even as a guest judge managed to give some excellent constructive criticism that helped us all become more professional. It was also an honour and a privilege to have a masterclass in pastry from the senior Michel Roux, who taught us many complicated techniques with wisdom and passion. His excitement and love for pastry was tangible - you could almost taste it. Though separated by the Atlantic Ocean, Paco Roncero in Spain and Wylie Dufresne in New York occupied the same mental space; they were both so passionate about ingredient-led cooking, smart fusion and culinary deconstruction. They taught me some amazing techniques as well as the importance of scientific understanding in the kitchen.
At Coworth Park, John Campbell represented a sort of culmination of all that I’d learned and then some. His influences, ingredients, and methods are very diverse, and he uses techniques old and new to produce stunning food, the likes of which I hardly thought I could produce. But with his guidance, his emphasis on efficiency, multitasking, and organisation, he helped me create a gorgeous and very complicated course that wowed a table full of Michelin-starred chefs.
Finally, there was the omnipresent John Torode, who over the course of the competition evolved from an intimidating overseer to a benevolent father figure. It didn’t quite dawn on me how much I’d learned from him until the competition had ended, because his advice often came as little titbits. But those titbits added up to a very comprehensive guide to professional cooking and service, and we all benefited hugely from his honest criticism and enthusiastic encouragement.
So it is with great sincerity and gratitude that I thank these chefs for mentoring me and the other contestants throughout the competition. “Whoever wins, it’ll change their life,” as Mr. Torode always says. But with teachers like these, it’s not just the winner whose life has changed. I hope the other 19 contestants don’t mind me speaking on their behalf when I say thank you very, very much.
Tim Anderson won the the 2011 series of MasterChef.