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Whatever happened to Masterchef's Chris Gates?

PUBLISHED: 07:09 22 June 2009 | UPDATED: 10:19 06 July 2010

He wowed viewers and judges alike as he reached the final of TV's popular Masterchef. But what's happened to Chris Gates since? STEVE PULLINGER found out.

He wowed viewers and judges alike as he reached the final of TV's popular Masterchef. But what's happened to Chris Gates since? STEVE PULLINGER found out.

In the final, painful analysis of judges Greg and John, his scallop mousse ravioli, pork with clams and chocolate tart came up tantalisingly short of taking him to the dizzy summit of MasterChef.

But far from fading back into humdrum daily life since he was watched by TV millions on the final of the popular BBC show in February, Chris Gates confessed that the heat (in the kitchen) has been on ever since.

As he watchfully fried scallops and pancetta outside Southwold Pier in a cookery display that made for an aromatic opening to the weekend-long Festival of the Sea, he also showed himself the perfect master of matey chat in the mould of his hero Jamie Oliver.

Drawing his audience into the technical niceties of preparing the accompanying warm salsa with chopped cherry tomatoes and green olives - “I am adding a little ground black pepper but no salt because the olives are salty enough already” - he joked that he had become so used to giving a running commentary he even did it while cooking at home on his own.

Within minutes the starter of scallops, sweet pancetta and “sunny salsa” was ready and expertly plated. “Order that at restaurants around here and you will pay at least £15,” he said, as spectators hastily broke ranks to sample the dish.

Chris, 25, who lives in Halesworth with his girlfriend Lucy Cole, revealed it had been a crazy few months since the MasterChef final when he was only beaten by a rival - IT engineer Mat Follas - with 17 years more experience.

He said: “I have been employed by ITV's This Morning programme on an 'as and when' basis and am hopeful that will continue with more filming in the summer to air during the next season.

“In the five or six times I have been on the show so far, I have done everything from cooking my MasterChef dishes to making hot-cross buns at Easter to preparing party food by the Thames for Mayday.”

Chris is also waiting to hear whether he has been selected as one of the chefs for a Renault-sponsored cookery programme to be shot around Provence, France, later this summer.

“Since MasterChef, it's surprising how often I get recognised. People stop me in Tesco and ask me how long they should leave their chicken in the oven,” he said.

Job offers have flooded in from top restaurants all over the country and Chris will make the final break from his pre-MasterChef life later this month when he quits his job as a customer service operator at Lowestoft's Jobcentre Plus.

He said: “Next month, I will be starting as a chef at The Anchor, in Walberswick. The food is very much my style - modern, British, with a passion for local ingredients and seasonality. They are also understanding about possible television work.”

Chris, who grew up in Lowestoft, attending Denes High School and Lowestoft College, said his mother was a good cook and she had planted the seeds of his passion.

He said: “I went travelling for a year after college around south-east Asia, Australia, New Zealand and America and that was when I really got into it. It was seeing it all at different levels - splashing out for a posh meal and then eating street food.”

Chris said at home he sometimes liked to take the backseat in the kitchen and leave a free rein to Lucy who was also an excellent cook. “She gets a bit tired of people asking if I do all the cooking,” he said.

Nevertheless, he admitted there were occasions when he could not stop the chef in him taking over.

“When I go round to my sister Alison's home, she sometimes gets tired of me interfering and ends up throwing a whisk at me or something, and telling me to get on with it,” he said.

For the future, Chris harbours a dream of eventually running his own restaurant, possibly with Lucy, who herself works at the Jobcentre.

For a selection of Chris's recipes, log on to simplysimplychristopher.blogspot.com

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