This year, Mike Eaglefield 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.
Mike was born & bred in Birmingham. He is completely obsessed with anything to do with food, from consuming TV show after TV show, reading any and every cookery book he can get his hands on, and attending all sorts of food festivals and events. As a day job Mike is an Insurance Executive, and his career to date has always been centered around sales and its something he loves – talking and interacting with people. Mike and his wife started a home-dining company called Canary and kitchen, operating in and around the Birmingham area where they provide unique home dining experiences that delivers big flavours from a humble ingredient.
We spoke to Chef Mike to find out more about his experience on the BBC1 show…
What was the reason in taking part in MasterChef?
I just felt the time was right. Over the years I’ve slowly found my style and now love experimenting with all types of foods and flavours around the world. The previous series of Masterchef was so enjoyable and I really loved watching the comradely between contestants, hosts and guest chefs. It suddenly felt like something I could do, and somehow it felt less scary that it previously did. I was definitely at a point in my life where I wanted to test and stretch myself, and see how well I could do at something I have a real passion for. My wife is also such a huge supporter of mine and encouraged me to just go for it (you always need those cheerleaders in your life).
Is there a way to handle the criticism from the judges?
I’m probably not the best at taking criticism, like a lot of people. It does hurt and it is difficult to hear, but at the time I just felt that I needed to absorb and take on-board everything they were saying. they actually didn’t critique my dish too much; they complimented me on my pasta making and cooking, on the presentation and overall flavours. I’m really proud of the dish I produced and could definitely see where the tweaks could have been made, so I felt the comments were pretty fairs.
What is the atmosphere like in the kitchen cooking alongside other chefs?
This was one of my favourite aspects to the show. The show is so daunting, and a little terrifying, that you immediately form such strong bonds your group of fellow cooks, that I truly feel I made friends for life. The atmosphere is tense in that kitchen, but you absolutely are rooting for each other so its less about the competition and more about doing yourself proud. My group from the heats round have all met up recently to reminisce and continue to support each other on our culinary journeys.
What is your approach to the imagination and creation of your dishes?
Being a proud Brummie is a massive influence on my cooking and my thought process behind the food. Having been born and raised in Birmingham I have always loved spices and fragrant food. Having a lot of Asian and Indian friends, I was always keen to learn the basics from them – I even used to ask for recipes no matter where I was or the time of day, even getting new curry recipes written on the back of a beer mat in the local pub. I love Birmingham and diversity of the city, and I think that’s reflected in the food that I love to cook.
I also really enjoy the aesthetics of a dish. I really work hard to make the dish look right; look appetising yet elegant. So my imagination and creativity tends to start with bold spices & flavours and then quickly moves into how I want the final plate to look.
What is your cooking style and what can people expect from your food?
Ever since I can remember my mum has taught me that food should be a spectacle, a show piece and an event. Having your family around the table and digging into a show-stopping centre piece was so important when I was growing up. I’d say this is where my cooking style and preference for serving my food is rooted. I love to wow people, and provide a feast for the eyes as much as the tummy.
What was your greatest accomplishment during your time on MasterChef?
To be honest, just getting there and seeing it through. Food has not only helped me achieve some amazing new goals like MasterChef, but more importantly it also helped me with a long-term condition, generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). So putting myself forward and going through a quite stressful process I see as a Hugh accomplishment as I could quite easily allow my GAD to take control. Never in my wildest dreams, at age 22 suffering severe panic attacks would I have imagined I would be on TV doing something I absolutely adore.
Has there been downsides?
The process of MasterChef is quite lengthy, so the constant waiting and uncertainty can have a negative impact on your mental health. I also found looking at social media, particularly twitter, not great. Twitter also definitely highlighted to me that whilst I got some nasty comments, I certainly got nowhere near as many as a lot of my fellow contestants and I do think that because I am a white man with no visible disability. That really shocked me, looking at how discrimination viewers can become on social media platform.
Would there be anything you would change and would you recommend to a friend?
Id recommend to anyone who wants to pursue a dream or goal, to just go for it! You have to try these things and see where life takes you. Looking back at my time on MasterChef I don’t think I would change anything. I think I did myself proud and demonstrated a good understanding of flavours and technique. I also made some amazing friends and memories.