Tooting Thomas wins title of MasterChef 2020 – with battered fish recipe

Tooting banking and international finance professional, Thomas Frake, 32, has become the
MasterChef 2020 Champion, becoming the sixteenth amateur cook to claim the prestigious title.
Battling against fierce competition from 59 other amateur cooks, through eight weeks of
culinary challenges and an exhilarating final cook-off, Thomas was awarded the MasterChef
2020 trophy by judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace.
Thomas said: “Honestly, it’s a dream come true. It’s been immense and the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. I can’t see me not working in food for the rest of my life because it just makes me happy seeing other people happy with it.

“This has absolutely put a fire under me for sharing my passion for food with other people. I’ve enjoyed it so much. The whole process has been completely life-changing. I’ve been through the entire MasterChef journey and wouldn’t have changed anything from the experience for the world.”

Thomas’ winning menu started with a monkfish scampi made with monkfish tails in a beer batter, flavoured with smoked paprika and cayenne pepper, served with pickled fennel, pickled gherkins and tartar sauce flavoured with tarragon.

His main course was ox cheek braised porter beer and bone marrow and, with crispy tobacco onions,
shredded Brussel sprouts with bacon, carrots cooked in carrot juice topped and onion seeds,
and a horseradish mash, all served in the ox cheek braising juices.

Thomas finished his menu with a dessert of Salted Caramel Custard Tart, topped with grated nutmeg, and served with popcorn ice cream and toffee popcorn.
Thomas started cooking from the age of seven, although that passion didn’t run in the family. He said: “My mum cooked to feed five men, so it was plenty of big one-pot wonders and roasts! But she and my nan used to bake with me and my three younger brothers making cupcakes and jam tarts. I was quite fussy growing up, but once I moved out permanently at 21, I properly started cooking.

“I loved the classics like pie and mash, and fish and chips growing up, but my real appreciation for food started after travels to Greece and Spain, experiencing the Mediterranean diet for the first time. I can remember the first time trying freshly grilled fish and tzatziki right by the sea, and then I realised what food was all about.
“I love to understand why and how ingredients are cultivated where they are, the people that
farm them, how food then influences the culture, the origin of recipes. That’s why I love the
classics – amplified and done well. Understanding process and ratios is very important for me.
It’s as much about the chemistry as it is about the passion and art.

“During the competition, I started to feel more at home in the MasterChef kitchen than I did in mine. I think it comes from the validation you get from John, Gregg, the crew and other contestants. Being judged by John and Gregg is a hugely positive experience. It’s incredible when they tell you why your dish is good and that they understand what you were trying to achieve.

“I am keen to gain more experience in professional kitchens – hopefully after these tough and unprecedented times for the industry. MasterChef gave me invaluable insight into working in exceptional locations and restaurants and it’s really spurred me on to learn as much as I can from the best chefs out there.
“Further down the line, I would one day love to own a gastropub. Maybe a classic East End boozer or a picturesque country pub. But for now, I want to really build on my experience and develop into a chef.”

MasterChef judge, John Torode, said: “Thomas is a real talent and his food has always been about putting a smile on your face. I admire Thomas’ work ethic, he’s a grafter. He’s able to take a classic and deliver it with real style and finesse. That’s the gift of a great cook. He knows exactly the direction he wants to go in and, for me, his food today tasted fantastic.

“It’s not fine dining, it’s not fancy plates, but this dish to me, is an example of someone who understands how to get the best out of every single ingredient, with real style. I love it. It almost brought a tear to my eye. I think your food is great and your ethos is heartwarming. I don’t think you should ever deviate from it. It’s food that people love to eat.”
MasterChef judge, Gregg Wallace, added: “Thomas has a definitive style. He takes the ordinary and make it extraordinary. He wants to take all the foods that he grew up with and make them better. He has delighted me all the way through the competition and today I think his three courses were just exceptional. They had his heart and
his soul in every single forkful.

“I mean this as a compliment, that is proper old-fashioned hearty grub.”
Thomas faced off tough competition in the final week, and – along with the incredibly talented digital security manager from Greenwich, David Rickett, 31, technology consultant Sandy Tang, 24, and Battersea interior designer Claire Fyfe, 35, who left on Thursday night’s show as part of the final four – was pushed to show the judges just how much technique, creativity and determination was needed to triumph at the highest level in the gruelling final rounds.
In an intense final week, MasterChef viewers have seen Thomas take a gastronomic trip of a lifetime to the unique culinary melting pot of Mauritius: learning the local cuisine to create lunch for Mauritian fishermen, mentored by chef Moroogun Coopen, president of the Mauritius Chefs Association; cooking for diners of famed gourmet hotel, Labourdonnais, under the tutelage of executive chef, Peeroo Nizam, who is known for redefining and elevating
modern Mauritian food; and finally, creating an exceptional dinner for his mentors, chefs Coopen and Nizam, as well as some of the leading figures in Mauritius’ food and cultural community. In the penultimate programme, the final four entered the Willy Wonka world of the world’s greatest pastry chef, Albert Adria, formerly El Bulli’s creative director. The cooks strove to gain unique insight into Albert’s culinary mind from him and his team at Cakes and Bubbles, in London’s Café Royal, in order to each meticulously recreate two of Albert’s
creations for a Chef’s Table of world-class pastry experts.

 


 

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