This year, Ben Vandenbrink takes on Masterchef: The Professionals, cooking and competing through a variety of heats, quarter finals and knockouts until the ultimate winner is crowned. Greg Wallace, Marcus Wareing and Monica Galetti 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 Professional Masterchef of the series.
Ben is a 31 year old freelance private chef based in Morecambe, Lancashire, specialising in private dining and relief chef work in the North West of England. His career has been varied and exciting over the past 17 years, he has been professionally cooking for 12 out of the 17. Being a private chef is very rewarding for Ben as he says that he meets lots of different characters and gets to experiment with natural, locally grown flavours/produce in multiple environments. A huge part of what chef does today is based around the ethos of constant self improvement and getting to know his customers preferences.
We spoke to Chef Ben to find out more about his experience on the BBC2 show…
What was the reason in taking part on Masterchef?
I wanted to enter something prestigious, something that had the ability to push me to that absolute limit. Competing on a national level regardless of status puts your skills out there for the world to see, and I wanted to do that.
Is there a way to handle the criticism from the judges?
You have to be able to take criticism in this game, it’s the only way you can truly improve. There’s a silver lining to most things you just have to be open minded about it.
Cheesy as it sounds you can’t crumble when you stay humble.
What is the atmosphere like in the kitchen cooking alongside other chefs?
The atmosphere is tense, the judges are not there to be your friend. Although they want you to perform well you are standing in a top end kitchen with 2 chefs who are at that point in time at the top of there game.
Constant inspection, intermittent Interaction and probing questions are to be expected.
They want to see what your made of and also how you hold yourself as a chef/professional.
What is your approach to the imagination & creation of your dishes?
I approach my plates in a very simple way, I pick 3 – 5 seasonal ingredients to a dish and bring the best out of them with classic methods, simple is best and less is more, a very seasonal way of cooking. I source as much local ingredients as possible with hunting/fishing/foraging trips not being un common – you can be personal with food when you know the provenance.
What is your cooking style and what can people expect from the food on your menu?
Food changes frequently on my menu’s. My style is clean, simple yet methodical (unless you give me broccoli)
You find a lot of foraged food in my cooking, game, wild herbs, cures and confits.
I am focussed on flavour retention and memory.
What was your greatest accomplishment during your time on Masterchef?
Just being there, getting that far and being able to be present in that exact moment made it for me, I was cooking alongside some amazing chefs, we would of become a very tightly nit team very quickly had that been something like Bocuse D’or.
Were there any down sides during your time on Masterchef?
My downside, I believe cost me my place in the next round, I second guessed myself and deviated from my original methods last minute which cost me my flavours. Those who know me well know that I go on gut instinct so to question it last minute was very out of character it just wasn’t my day and it was because I questioned myself, I knew it and so did the judges.
Would you take part again if the opportunity was to come around & would there be anything you would change?
I will be taking part again when the opportunity arises and time is right, the changes I make will be to create dishes that are more refined, cleaner, more pungent and I won’t be focussing on the experience, I will be there to compete fully.