Each day, we’re taking a look at the winners of BBC Masterchef, with a look at their inspirations, winning dishes and what they’ve been up to since winning the show. We’re starting off with the winner of the show in 2008, James Nathan.
A great picture of James Nathan with Chips by Salt Productions
James Nathan swaps the courtroom for the kitchen as he’s crowned 2008’s Masterchef winner
He always wanted to be a chef. So it came as no surprise when James Nathan traded in his bands and tabs for an apron and rolling pin.
Pursuing the dream of becoming a chef
Nathan admits to training as a barrister to please his parents – not himself and only began to feel true to his passions after moving to Spain to pursue his dream of becoming a chef.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing as he was refused a license to transform the building in Spain he’d selected for a restaurant location. He had no choice but to return to England and when he applied to Masterchef, he was working as a mechanic and admits he was at ‘rock bottom.’
His luck soon turned around though and after six weeks of heats, a week of semi-finals, seven gripping days of finals and some stiff competition from fellow contestants Emily Ludolf and Jonny Stevenson, he won the prestigious title of Masterchef Winner in 2008.
2008’s series pushed the contestants to their limits and saw Nathan sweating under pressure in the jungle of Belize, cooking in Michelin-starred restaurants and being on the receiving end of some harsh criticism from the world’s top chefs.
In his own words:
I wasn’t entire comfortable in the Michelin star restaurants, they are serious and there are some big egos. I think if I were a young man I would recommend anyone working there but I just couldn’t keep up, it was unbelievably competitive and intimidating.
Nathan’s winning menu
Nathan’s winning menu consisted of a starter of Mozzarella Ravioli, a main course of Picked Red Cabbage and Venison infused with Lapsang Souchong Tea and a dessert of Chocolate and Orange Pudding.
When asked whether Mastchef really is as nerve-racking as it looks, he answered:
Yes! It is all pure adrenaline. But it is also enormously enjoyable and rewarding. I have continued to keep up TV work and have cooked live on GMTV, The Alan Titchmarsh Show, BBC Breakfast and Market Kitchen.
Try the menu yourself
Recipes are available online if you fancy trying your hand at trying James Nathan’s starter of Smoked mozzarella ravioli with cherry tomato sauce and basil cream with a main of Tea-infused venison with roast potatoes, pickled red cabbage and rich port sauce and for dessert a Chocolate and orange sponge pudding
Life after winning the show
Since the show, Nathan shunned offers of TV work to get stuck into the slog of being in a top kitchen. He states: ‘I wanted to get in at the dirty end and learn how to cook properly.’
After a stint at Michael Caines’ Michelin-starred The Bath Priory, he now works as a chef at Rick Stein’s The Seafood Restaurant in Cornwall.
Nathan admits working at the The Bath Priory was ‘extremely demanding’ but stood him in good stead to take on the any challenge in the world’s best kitchens.
Speaking of the curly haired cook, Rick Stein comments: ‘When James arrived as a winner of Masterchef, we thought he was going to be too cool for school, but not a bit of it – he’s a valued part of the brigade and works very hard.’
He lives in Penrose, near Padstow in Cornwall where he enjoys the scenery and local surf.
Long-term goals include opening his own restaurants and getting a cookbook published that documents his journey from amateur to professional. He says whatever he does, ‘I will definitely be immersed in cookery.’ Let’s just hope he gives the Spanish property market a wide berth!