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Chris aims to claim TV chef title

PUBLISHED: 09:27 13 February 2009 | UPDATED: 22:27 05 July 2010

KITCHEN CHALLENGER: Chris Gates is through to the last six of the BBC2 cookery show MasterChef.

KITCHEN CHALLENGER: Chris Gates is through to the last six of the BBC2 cookery show MasterChef.

AN aspiring Lowestoft chef has reached the latter stages of the UK's most prestigious cookery competition.

Chris Gates is through to the last six on BBC2's MasterChef, having already wowed the nation with his modern British culinary delights.

AN aspiring Lowestoft chef has reached the latter stages of the UK's most prestigious cookery competition.

Chris Gates is through to the last six on BBC2's MasterChef, having already wowed the nation with his modern British culinary delights.

Now, the 25-year-old, who by day works for Jobcentre Plus, is hoping he will have the winning recipe to clinch this year's coveted title.

Chris will be seen on our television screens again on Monday in the semi-final, where he will be asked to create a perfect chicken dish.

Should he impress judges, Australian chef John Torode and ingredients expert Gregg Wallace, he could be one of the four cooks completing gruelling challenges to eventually reveal the three finalists.

Chris, who is a customer service advisor at the government agency in Clapham Road, admitted he was a die-hard fan of the programme, having first watched it when it was presented by Loyd Grossman around 15 years ago.

He said: “When I lived at home, my mum was a really good cook and I would help her out, but it wasn't until a few years ago that I took a big interest in food. People bought me cookbooks for Christmas and I became a bit obsessed with it.

“I decided to apply in December 2007 for filming in 2008. I was one of those people who used to watch it and say 'if I was there I would have done this' so I thought I'd put my money where my mouth is and I filled out the lengthy application while I was on my lunch break at work.”

Shortly afterwards Chris was contacted by one of the researchers from the show for a phone interview, before they rang again on a Tuesday evening last February to invite him to a screen test in London the next day.

“As part of the audition I had to make and take something with me. I had a bit of a panic and went on a shopping trip to Tesco. I spent all the night before making pastry and made a dark chocolate and amaretto tart, which I took in this Tupperware box on the underground with me,” Chris said.

Two months later, Chris, who studied engineering at Lowestoft College, received the all important call from the production team saying he had made it onto the programme.

“I couldn't believe it, I wondered what I had let myself in for and fear set in,” Chris laughed. “The first time I met John and Gregg and was told what was going to happen it was like having your driving test and GCSE exams all rolled into one.”

Viewers have already seen Chris prove he can stand the heat against five other amateur cooks, a professional kitchen and cooking a two-course meal in an hour, which won him a place in the quarter final.

And three weeks ago, he was named one of six semi finalists after impressing John and Gregg with his ingredients knowledge, his passion for cookery and a three-course meal of his own making, which included liver and pancetta, with crispy sage and horseradish mash, along with a chocolate fondant.

Chris said: “I've always liked cooking Italian food, but on MasterChef it was more modern British. I buy my food locally, I haven't got a massive budget, so I sometimes buy cheaper cuts of meats and jazz them up by putting some more exciting ingredients with them.

“A lot of people try too hard and run out of time and make the flavours too complicated. My food is quite simple, but with cooking simple food, it has to be spot on.

“The people I was cooking against in the quarter final were really, really good and I was genuinely shocked to get through. It was exhausting physically and mentally, but I was absolutely chuffed to bits.

“The whole experience was amazing. I did the screen test this time last year and I finished filming in September. I wasn't on it solidly, but it was a massive part of last year, MasterChef was always on my mind.”

The Journal has agreed with the producers of the show not to reveal Chris' fate, but is encouraging everyone in Lowestoft to support him.

To find out Chris' fortunes in the MasterChef kitchen, see next week's Journal.

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