How are you feeling about being eliminated?
"It's a two-edged sword, actually. I'm quite disappointed that I didn't go further in the competition and face some of the fantastic challenges that the other contestants have got left to face. But I'm also a bit relieved because it was quite hard work - being away from your family is quite draining."
Do you think it was the right time for you to go? Do you think you were the right person to leave?
"I think on a personal note it was the right time to go because I had an opportunity, which was to go to catering school, and I'd been delaying going to catering school because you can't be at catering school while doing MasterChef. Had I stayed in the competition any longer I would have lost that opportunity. So on a personal note it was the right time to go. It all worked out really well actually."
Why do you think you were the one to be eliminated?
"I think in the end it came down to personal taste in terms of seasoning. The way I seasoned my food perhaps wasn't quite in line with what John wanted and I think that's what tipped the balance. During the filming process three dishes were singled out - mine, Kennedy's and Polly's - because none of us had enough of a certain flavour on our dish. Then if we looked at those dishes, Kennedy's was a little undercooked and Polly's had some bones left in it. Mine was perfectly cooked so it must have come down to other elements of the dish which also weren't seasoned according to the whims, perhaps, of the judges."
Did you enjoy the Highland Games challenge?
"It was fantastic. The nine-hour train journey was pretty draining! But the actual challenge was really great. It was a great honour to be able to cook for those guys. It was quite stressful being in a totally new kitchen in the field with quite large scale catering equipment - I don't think anybody there had cooked for that number of people before. So we certainly weren't expecting that kind of challenge that early in the competition - it was a huge surprise. But it was a fabulous challenge, great fun."
What was it like when Kennedy chopped his finger?
"I think that was the turning point in our team's fortune because we were a man down. He was probably out of the picture for at least an hour because he was seen to by the First Aiders, and then when he came back he had his finger all bandaged up so he couldn't do a huge amount. Out of the dishes we had to prepare, myself and Alice were doing a fish pie which was fine and very well received, Polly was doing a magnificent crumble which went down a storm, whereas Kennedy and Tim were doing venison, neeps and tatties. We thought that would be okay because we've got a Scotsman who should know what neeps and tatties are like. But you take Kennedy out of the picture and you've got an American who doesn't actually know what neeps and tatties are to start off with!"
Were you disappointed about not being able to cook with Tom Kitchin?
"I think not being able to cook at Skibo Castle was more disappointing in a way than having to go back to London and cook to stay in the competition. Tom's a Michelin-starred chef and not very many people - certainly at my level - get to cook with that calibre of chef. It would have been a fantastic opportunity. That's one of the reasons why I entered MasterChef in the first place - to be able to cook in a professional environment with top chefs. Unfortunately because of the stage I was eliminated at I never got that opportunity so that was quite disappointing. And to be eliminated as well was the icing on the cake!"
If you had to pick someone, who do you think should have been eliminated instead of you?
"It's a tough one because it centred on what happened in Scotland and also what happened in the elimination challenge. If it was just based on Scotland I would probably put my bets on Tim or possibly Kennedy. It wasn't necessarily Kennedy's fault that he cut the top off his finger! But he contributed to the team failing, so Tim for not preparing enough veg and Kennedy for being incapacitated. But then in the cook-off Tim did quite well so I guess that takes him out of the picture. Kennedy again didn't do a particularly good job in that challenge so I guess if I had to pick someone I would have picked him. But I've got the utmost respect for the judges' decision. It wasn't mine, I didn't get to taste anyone's dishes."
Who do you think will win?
"I think the smart money would be on either Tom or Jackie. I have a feeling that Tom is an amazingly inventive cook and some of the dishes he's come up with show great technical skill, technical ability and a really strong, confident approach in his cooking. I think he can only get better in this competition and it will be lovely to see how he develops. And I think Jackie simply because she's got so much energy - if she could channel that into cooking then she'll probably be unstoppable. I think if she can stop throwing things on the floor and stop flapping around and stop talking for a bit that might actually get her all the way to the final! And I think it would be interesting if a vegetarian did win MasterChef - it really opens the door for anyone with any sort of culinary ambition or personal taste."
What do you make of the controversy surrounding the changes to MasterChef?
"It's amazing how much public opinion has been divided on this topic. Loads of people seem to rave about MasterChef Australia. I don't know whether it's that the producers didn't go the whole hog and went for a halfway house and that's what upset people, or whether people really think a programme should just keep its same slightly tired format. I think after so many years something had to change and given the success of MasterChef Australia it was, I guess, inevitable that it would go along a similar route. What would have been nice would have been if the contestants had been told when applying that it was all going to be different! It was a total shock. But as a contestant it was fantastic - we got to know the other contestants and share cooking ideas, dreams and aspirations. And I hope the viewers get to know the contestants a bit more - that was the problem with the old format. You might see someone one week and then not see them again for another six. I think overall the auditions perhaps shocked quite a lot of people but I think it's now back to classic MasterChef and that's what people love and they do it really well."
You said before entering that you wanted to open a gastropub - is that still your plan?
"Absolutely, yeah. I think what MasterChef taught me was that although I've got some good skills I can still learn an awful lot, and that's why I carried on with this catering course. I'm definitely looking to open up a gastropub - hopefully in August. I've made an offer on a property and had that accepted so it's all going well. MasterChef has been a fantastic launching board for me - it's really given me loads of confidence and really stimulated me to go forward and make cooking my career."
MasterChef continues on Wednesday at 9pm on BBC One.
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