Masterchef Ireland 2011

So my Masterchef ‘journey’ is over! The ‘journey’ word had to be used at least once I think in deference to all the reality show tales. At the time, I was pretty relieved to be honest. I’m absolutely gutted now having realised how close I actually was! I found the process of competition and filming more stressful than anything I’d experienced before and it’s been surreal watching myself on such an iconic show.  Well, it’s iconic to me anyway, having watched almost every series since 1990 including 2 seasons of the Australian version and 1 season of the New Zealand.  Don’t get me wrong, I was lucky to be selected and wouldn’t swap the experience for anything.  Now, having watched 6 episodes, I’m annoyed at myself that I peaked in episode 1 and never quite captured the quality of the first dish I put up. That’s the difference between cooking a dish you’ve carefully designed and practiced, and competing in a game show.

When I applied, I had no idea what format the show would take. On the one hand you have the UK version –stoically true to the spirit of the cooking, plays down the reality TV aspect and the standard is exceptionally high. On the other hand you have the juggernaut that is Australian Masterchef – an 80+ episode a season corporately sponsored goliath that stands tall over the Australian TV schedules. It’s much more of a game stroke reality show. It has to be, to attract the more casual non specialist viewers and huge audiences. I’ve watched it in the knowledge it had tests and challenges designed more for TV drama than to always tease out pure cooking ability.

Masterchef Ireland kind of sits somewhere between the two formats and in fact, is a lot edgier. I doubt any Masterchef ever has come with a ‘mature audience only’ warning! I do apologise for swearing...I had no idea they would actually show it. I think the production team are to be commended for putting their own stamp on it and not just slavishly following one or other of the previous formats.

I didn’t come across too well in Episode 5. I genuinely was having a bad day but I think the rest of the blue team know that my attitude during the task was fine that day and that I really helped all 4 of them out at different times throughout the day.

Before we did the taste test, many of us agreed it was a terrible way to get eliminated. 2 minutes to taste and write down the 20 ingredients of a dish that was not a classic recipe was a difficult task. When I saw Dylan’s highly complex dish, I was thrown completely. Firstly, with the amount of actual hand writing I do day to day, it would take me 2 minutes just to do the writing part, never mind anything else. So I panicked. I concentrated on stuff I didn’t know rather than write down what I did. I pushed the scallop out of the way and missed it. I saw a very thin piece of raw fish with a little flash of red skin and I wrote Red Snapper.  It was Red Mullet. That was the difference between success and failure.  However, there are no hard feelings. There were the same rules for everyone and I did the worst. End of story. I just would have loved to taken some of the experience and knowledge from the last few tests and cooked something wonderful and if I’d got eliminated that way, it would have felt a little fairer to me. I had some great ideas and was just so pissed off I didn’t get to show them.  Pierce and Christine did a great job on that taste test!

As for the rest of the show...blood, sweat, tears and all. All in all for those 6 episodes I was filming for 12 full days. On top of that, I had many other days where all I did was design menus and test dishes. From April 27th to June 20th, Masterchef took over my life. By the time I cracked up Episode 1, I’d had a whole month of competition and by that stage my nerves were frazzled completely. I think when you sign up for Masterchef you do so because you love food and cooking, not because you’re a show off, or want to be a celebrity. I suppose you need to have a little show off in you but it’s certainly not the main thing.  You don’t really think about the consequences of the TV show part, just the fact that Dylan and Nick will taste your food and you want them to love it. I don’t know how many dreams I had where they loved my food. I also had a good few where they hated it! I am an emotional kind of guy and I do crack up at sad movies or when people do well on TV etc. I’ve had plenty of ‘Man up for God’s sake, it’s only a TV show’ but I’ve had so many more people who were really nice about it. Thanks to them for that support, even if they were sometimes kind of embarrassed for me. I’m ok with it at this stage.  My favourite comment was  from Alison Spittle on the John Murray went like...’Yeah, Richard, this massive Ginger guy, if you put him in an empty swimming pool , put on a Champ DVD, he’d fill it in 5 minutes’...some funny stuff. Then there were the drinking games on Twitter, a shot every time Richard cries...if you didn’t laugh, you would cry...(sorry). Someone on Facebook said I was a really bad actor and a phoney.  That’s just it, I AM a really bad actor so what you saw was really me, warts, sighs, tears and all.

Getting through in Episode One was my goal when I applied so that’s why I was just so relieved. All I wanted was to have my food validated by some top guys. I also wanted to get a taste of cooking in a pro kitchen and cook for paying punters so was really happy to have done that too. Anything else was a bonus and I’m pretty proud getting to the halfway point. I actually think the best dish I cooked wasn’t on TV, it was in the Top 200 round in the Burlington Hotel where I did a game terrine with wild rabbit, pheasant and mallard, a fig sauce, beetroot, apple, fig jelly, a beetroot foam and a homemade Brioche roll. That, if I say so myself, was a bloody good bit of cooking and took me over 6 hours.

Since the show finished, my cooking has come on a good bit and I’ve taken some of the lessons learned, techniques, concepts and the combined group sharing that happened between a great bunch of people who just talked food non-stop in between shooting. And we had loads of time hanging around waiting, doing nothing. I nearly learnt more from my fellow contestants than I did from any of the pros! I think I’ve made some friends for life; we were in the Masterchef trenches (actually a catering tent) together.

I’m happy to answer any questions if I can or take comments (except for the really rude ones).

Nest step...a dining club. I’ll announce details as soon as the first one is set up. There will be some good food and a good night out I hope. I’m just putting the work in now to make sure it’s a success.

I won’t be entering next year but I’d recommend anyone to do it. It’s an incredible experience and having watched season 1, you’ll have a great advantage over us lot. You’ll have a good idea of the types of tests you’ll be set and it sometimes won’t have much to do with cooking!

Good luck to the rest of the 8 guys...anyone of them has the ability to win it. But only one can! J


  1. Hi Richard. I couldn't believe when i saw you on the telly the other night. I'm still gigging and up to my eyes in children and work so i don't see much tv before 11pm. Delighted to see you do so well and for all your critics i must say i worked with you in a different context many years ago and you haven't changed a bit. You were always passionate and emotional about everything and always prided yourself on producing work that could only be described as excellent. Well done on masterchef. I'll come to your dining club for sure and leave the flock at home so we can enjoy the evening!! And as for the fish, mullets are for the 80's. Just ask Bono and Dave Weckl. Congratulations and i wish you every success. K.

  2. Kieron, thanks so much for that! I've been following your's so amazing. What you've done, achieved, the lovely children, the gigs, the Ironmans...incredible. Seriously, you are an inspiration.

  3. As a follower of yours for some time now, I have always admired your pictures of dishes on twitter, and the level you were cooking at. I thought you did brilliantly on the show, and such a shame to go out on just one word - snapper instead of mullet. Keep doing what you do.

  4. Sad to see you leave the show! You were definitely entertaining to watch =D

    Following you on this now