This year, Delia-Maria Asser takes on MasterChef cooking and competing through a variety of heats, quarter finals and knockouts until the ultimate winner is crowned. Gregg Wallace and John Torode judge the dishes being served – with all the action, tantrums, successes and burning disasters caught on camera. The winner goes away with a trophy and the prestige of being The MasterChef of the series.
Delia is a 28 year old police officer, born and bred in Basildon, Essex but now living in Kent with her partner, Christopher who is also a police officer. She was born to an English father and Spanish mother and therefore grew up travelling to Spain every year to visit family. Brought up speaking fluent Spanish and this led me to love studying other languages. Delia studied French and German at secondary school and went on to attend Durham University where she specialised in Arabic, Spanish, Catalan and French. To then deciding she wanted to learn Arabic after visiting Palestine as a teenager and undertaking refugee work in Bethlehem. As a teenager and even now, “I just wanted to bring a bit of happiness to the world – Smiling is the best!!! Everyone should do it more often.”
Delia lived in Morocco for a year studying Arabic and absolutely loved it – “the food was incredible and so cheap!” From a young age, she loved cooking and learnt from my mother, watching her make all sorts of wonderful food and reflected this by making her sister gourmet packed lunches for school – “she loved them!”
We spoke to Chef Delia to find out more about her experience on the BBC1 show…
What was the reason in taking part in MasterChef?
I watched MasterChef for the best part of my teenage and adult years and always ALWAYS said I would apply one day!! I applied a couple of years ago and got a call back about it but was unable to do it because of work commitments. Last year, whilst I was at work on a night shift, I found myself thinking about food (this is a normal occurrence as it occupies my mind most of the time!) and decided that it was the right time to go for it. My life revolves around food – I think about it from when I wake up to when I go to bed. My mother taught me how to cook from a very young age and I am definitely a feeder!! Chris does get frustrated sometimes because I love to put cream and butter in almost everything. ( I guess I’m lucky that he’s a personal trainer and that since being with him I started training at the gym – this has definitely helped hold off some of the cream and butter weight!) I love the way food can bring people so much happiness! I wanted to do MasterChef because I thought the time was right to push myself and set myself a new challenge. I love pressure and I thrive off of trying to reach new goals. That’s what life is all about – that, smiling and just being nice to anyone who comes your way.
Is there a way to handle the criticism from the judges?
The only advice that I can offer is to not take things too personally – but then again what do I know, I am the Queen of crying! I definitely found the initial criticism very overwhelming (which I think might have been obvious considering my tears!!) It is impossible to not criticise yourself as soon as you put your plate up in front of John and Gregg. You immediately start thinking about what you could have done better but YOU NEED TO BELIEVE IN YOURSELF! John and Gregg’s criticism is always constructive and you need to remind yourself that you can use it to learn from and improve.
What is the atmosphere like in the kitchen cooking alongside other chefs?
The only way to describe it is full of adrenaline. It is THE most exhilarating experience ever!! Without a doubt. You are surrounded by wonderful people who fast become friends and who all have the same passion and love for food as you. It is a wonderful experience to see everybody’s finished plates and to know that all those people love food as much as you and that you can all learn from one another.
What is your approach to the imagination and creation of your dishes?
I love taking one ingredient and writing it down, then writing down a list of ideas around it so that a dish can form itself inside my head. Ideas come to me at any time of the day! Sometimes I will be at work and I will think of something that I definitely need to write down there and then for want of not forgetting it. Once you get an idea for a dish that you know will work, it just clicks. The feeling is great and when you cook and cook and cook your dish until you’re happy with it, you get an incredible feeling of accomplishment.
What is your cooking style and what can people expect from your food?
I love creating dishes that blend my Spanish heritage with my English side. I think of classic dishes and try to blend my cultures to form a harmony of flavours, textures and techniques but with a bit of a twist. The lemon posset I cooked in the round for the judges (Ping Coombes, Alex George and Tomasina Meyers) was actually based on a Spanish Crema Catalana. I wanted to incorporate the original textures of smooth, creamy custard with a hint of citrus and a hard sugar element with other flavourful embellishments.
What is your greatest accomplishment during your time on MasterChef so far?
My greatest accomplishment so far has definitely got to be cooking for the judges!! It was so incredibly nerve-wracking and I doubted myself almost the whole way. When I watched the episode on TV I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears – especially when John and Gregg said my dessert was ‘Boom’ – life MADE right there!!!
Has there been any downsides?
My hasselback carrot. That round was what nightmares are made of!! I went between thinking it was terrible and then to thinking it wasn’t too bad. Twitter was quite kind to me but I completely agree with whoever called it a CD rack!
Would there be anything you would change so far and would you recommend to a friend?
I wish I could have made my carrot dish perfect but then that is just hindsight being a wonderful thing! Mistakes are meant to be learnt from so I have learnt from that one. I would 100% recommend doing to MasterChef to anybody that is considering applying!! If you love food than you have already got what it takes.