This year, Rebecca Haworth-Johnson 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.
“I have worked for the same company Optident LTD in Dentistry for 22 years. I left school at 17 as I wanted to form a career and school was no longer offering me anything to get excited over. I started in a junior sales role and as the business grew I progressed and found my natural talents leant more towards creative marketing and I have been doing this for the company for over 15 years now. I am head of Marketing and Education, we provide innovative clinical products and solutions to dentists and their teams and we work with world renowned Key Opinion Leaders to deliver post gradate education. I love my job, as much as I love cooking and so getting the balance of being able to do both has been fantastic. My job takes me all over the world, and on those trips, experience new friendships and new food – it’s perfect.
I started cooking at a young age, my mum always made it fun and we used to play Ready Steady Cook at home – Me against my sister, it really helped us to use our imagination and experiment with flavours, the results weren’t always edible but it was good training!”
We spoke to Chef Rebecca to find out more about her experience on the BBC1 show…
What was the reason in taking part in MasterChef ?
I have watched MasterChef since Lloyd Grossman hosted it in the 90’s – it’s been the only thing that I ‘must watch‘ and each year I say.. I’d love to do that. This year I thought; we have the farm we are renovating, the kitchen is finished (BELLS KITCHEN) I want to start my cooking club/school, I’m going to apply and just see what happens. Regardless of the outcome I’m just going for it.
Is there a way to handle the criticism from the judges?
To be honest the first three rounds I got glowing comments and I was blown over with their praise. I hadn’t prepared for how I would handle negative criticism, but until this point I seemed to be hitting all the right points. When I cooked my final dish I got a few mixed comments but nothing harsh, so I took it on the chin and was prepared to go hell for leather in the next round, but this wasn’t to be (sad face).
What is the atmosphere like in the kitchen cooking alongside other chefs?
You probably saw my face, once I am in the zone I’m totally focused. The adrenaline acts as fuel for me.. and because I gave myself so much to do, you just can’t let yourself get distracted or its game over, I genuinely felt at times like I was the only one cooking as you put your blinkers on and try to execute everything in the time given.
What is your approach to the imagination and creation of your dishes?
I like to eat with all senses, so visually it has to look like you really want to dive in, its got to hit all the tastes, texture and aroma sensations. So I tend to think of an idea and work out in my head if I can accomplish all of those things, If I feel that I can’t I dismiss it and think again. Often my best ideas come to me when I’m not trying to hard to think. I only ever create dishes I personally like to eat and its always served me well.
What is your cooking style and what can people expect from your food?
Im very much a savoury person, I don’t cook a lot of desserts as I don’t really eat them much. Id always go for a starter and main rather than pudding. I like my food to be colourful & packed with flavour. I also like to experiment with flavours from all over the world and try never to serve my guests the same dish twice.. this requires a good memory..
What was your greatest accomplishment during your time on MasterChef?
I think the praise I got from Jay Rayner when he tasted my Carbonara Egg ravioli, all 3 judges were really impressed with the pasta dish and the garlic and rosemary pizza bread,, I was so over the moon that day.
Has there been any downsides?
I was totally gutted when I didn’t get through the knock outs. I had such positive feedback and I felt my dish on the day wasn’t so bad that I was sent home, but you cannot change the decisions that are made and so I hit a real low (which is very unlike me) I found that difficult. As you can’t tell anyone about the show, you have to keep those feelings to yourself. Going back to work the next day and trying to be normal infront of colleagues was hard.
Would there be anything you would change so far and would you recommend to a friend?
I would definitely have changed my knockout dish – I hadn’t realised that ‘Rendang’ had kicked up a media frenzy the year before that put the judges in a negative light until someone mentioned it on the morning of the filming. Had I have known I definitely would have avoided that dish.
I would have loved to go to the professional kitchen and do the team challenges. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
I would definitely recommend anyone with passion for food to enter, its a life changing experience, even if you don’t go all the way. The friendships you make and comradery is worth every ounce of hard work, nerves, excitement and exhaustion.