The TV show MasterChef has just finished on our screens and has been broadcasting for over 30 years.

Here is what this year’s winner, Tom Frake, and 2019 winner, Irini Tzortzoglou, had to say about their time on the show…

Tom, did you enjoy MasterChef?

I enjoyed it so much. The show has put a fire in me for sharing my passion for food with other people and the whole process has been completely life changing. The experience is a journey that makes you not only a better cook, but also a better person. Throughout the competition not only did I learn constantly and improve my ability in the kitchen, but I grew in self-confidence and fell entirely in love with cooking. The whole competition was amazing and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

What age did you start cooking?

I started cooking from the age of seven just as a hobby and I loved watching the show throughout this time. Every time I watched it I would think to myself, I reckon I could give that a go and have a chance of lifting the trophy. My Mum cooked for five men in our house, so it was plenty of big pots and roast dinners! But she and my Nan used to bake with me and my three younger brothers making cupcakes and jam tarts. I was quite a fussy eater and I didn’t really enjoy food until I was a lot older.

What was your favourite dish to cook on the show and what was your favourite week?

Finals week was the best week as I had come so far and grown as a cook. My chocolate porter fondant was a huge risk. Many a MasterChef journey has ended on a fondant, but I am happy to report they said I nailed the dish and ultimately secured my place in the final.

What did you cook as the final meal?

So, for the final task we were asked to prepare a three-course meal for MasterChef judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace. My menu started with a monkfish scampi made with monkfish tails in a beer batter, flavoured with smoked paprika and cayenne pepper, served with pickled fennel, pickled gherkins and tartar sauce flavoured with tarragon.

My main course was ox cheek-braised porter beer and bone marrow with crispy tobacco onions, shredded brussel sprouts with bacon, carrots cooked in carrot juice, topped with onion seeds and a horseradish mash, all served in the ox cheek braising juices. And I finished the menu with a dessert of salted caramel custard tart, topped with grated nutmeg and served with popcorn ice cream and toffee popcorn.

What do you love to cook at home?

I love classics like pie and mash, and fish and chips growing up, but my real appreciation for food started after travelling to Greece and Spain. I can remember the first time I tried freshly grilled fish and tzatziki by the sea, and then I realised what food was all about. Travelling to Greece and Spain really did open my eyes to eating out and how food really should taste. Throughout my 20s I developed my skills and repertoire as a home cook, driven by my travel and replicating restaurant dishes at home.

If someone was about to start cooking who has never cooked before, where would you tell them to start?

My brother asked this question just after MasterChef had aired. I said start cooking with pasta and try and perfect that and some pasta sauces: ragu, pesto, bechemel and carbonara are great to start with.

Who is your favourite chef/cooking inspiration?

I loved watching Keith Floyd. His style is honest, humble and it draws inspiration from the culture around him. He also loved sharing the wine between him and the pot. Most recently, chefs like Tom Kerridge, Calum Franklin, Rick Stein and Nathan Outlaw influence my style.

What is your favourite meal to order in a restaurant?

When eating out I will always order cold or pressed meat starters. I also love potted meats like duck and pork rillettes or game en croute.

What would you like for the future?

I would one day love to own a gastropub or two that serve modern and inventive British classic food, as well as hot sausage rolls at the bar with a drink. Maybe a classic East End boozer or a picturesque country pub would be lovely. But for now, I want to really build on my experience and develop into a chef.

Irini, why did you enter MasterChef in 2019?

Well, over the years I felt I was not meant to be working in banking and having discovered my passion for food, it signified I knew that this was my calling.

What did you cook on your final winners meal?

My winning menu was inspired by my childhood and Greek heritage. It started with red mullet with a squid risotto, confit tomatoes, a rosemary and garlic sauce, with bottarga (grey mullet roe) and an aged balsamic foam.

My main course was griddled rosemary lamb chops with trahanas puree (cracked wheat cooked in soured milk), peas, confit herb tomatoes, pearl onions, crumbled feta and a lamb and tomato jus. I finished the meal with a fig and hazelnut baklava with roasted honeyed fig topped with chantilly cream and candied fig, a fig leaf ice-cream and syrup, on a hazelnut crumble.

What did you learn from MasterChef?

I feel a totally different person from when I started the journey. I feel I have grown massively. What MasterChef has given me is deep-seated confidence. It was a long road but I enjoyed every second.

What do you hope for your future in cooking?

I grew up in Crete, Greece. I would love to film a programme all around Greece which combines cookery, travel, diet, health, environmental and historical topics. I’m no young gun wanting to open my own restaurant, I’m more interested in cooking with my children and grandchildren. It thrills me to watch the younger generation enjoy cooking.

And finally, here’s a recipe suggestion given to us by MasterChef winner Tom Frake for everyone to try at home…

Rib Eye Steak with Watercress and Lemon Salsa Verde

1 Good quality Rib Eye Steak

25g Butter

Salt & Pepper

1 Bunch of Watercress (any large stalks removed)

1 Bunch of Parsley

1 Bunch of Mint

1 Lemon (juice and zest separate)

1 Anchovy

1 tsp Capers

1 tsp Dijon Mustard

1 tsp Red Wine Vinegar

2 Cloves Garlic

200ml Olive Oil

  • Let the steak come to room temperature.
  • Heat a frying pan until smoking hot.
  • Blend all of the salsa verde ingredients, except the oil and lemon juice, in a blender.
  • Then slowly add oil to your desired consistency. I prefer a loose salsa verde that you can drizzle over the steak. Add lemon juice to taste.
  • Season the steak with salt and pepper.
  • Add a good glug of olive oil to the pan and lay the steak into the pan away from you to sear it well.
  • Do not touch it for 60 seconds.
  • Flip, season and sear the other side for another 60 seconds.
  • Depending on thickness, alternate cooking sides for another 30-60 seconds each, depending on how you like your steak. Rib eye is best served medium-rare to medium, so that the fat can render properly.
  • In the last 60 seconds of cooking, add a splash of olive oil and the butter to the pan and baste well.
  • Remove from the pan, season, cover in the melted butter and juices, and leave to rest for a minimum of three minutes under foil.
  • Serve with fresh watercress dressed with oil and lemon and drizzled with salsa verde.

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