Masterchef semi-finalist Greg Emmerson made some spectacular dishes on the popular TV show, but he tells us how it has changed his attitude to cooking at home.
We watched you on there religiously (#teamgreg) and something we noticed was that the finalists seemed to be very calm this year, there weren’t any massive disasters – was it as competent in there as it seemed or were your hearts going like hammers?
I think that underneath we were all at various stages of nerves, but in the kitchen I think it was a combination of John and Greg making us feel pretty comfortable and, as we moved through the competition, the first round was probably the worst, in terms of it being such a different environment. Once you’ve survived that, most people were comfortable in their surroundings and you get used to the cameras, you switch off.
How did you get your ideas?
In my lifetime – being an older guy (laughs) – I spent quite a few years in Spain and discovered Ferran Adrià. I didn’t go to El Bulli but I was fascinated by what he was doing with food, in terms of what he did with preconceived ideas and how a classic dish should be and also Spanish food. And it made me look at food in a different way – not all the time in terms of my cooking – just having a bit more fun; I saw high-end restaurants as pretty formal and out of reach. He made it accessible and, for me, it was like a Punk revolution by making food not just an eating experience, but a bit more fun and a bit of theatre. It made me think about food differently.
When I went on the show, I did things differently in terms of presentation and what people considered to be standard expectations of risotto, for example, and played around at home.
That squid risotto was amazing and the egg as well…
The egg idea was partly based on a classic by Alain Passard, the French chef. I got that brief when we were on holiday in Santorini just before I came on the show. When I saw the brief, I immediately said that you cannot make an English breakfast look sexy and thought that the only way to do it was to do what Alain Passard did, even doing English breakfast, and thought I’d put everything in the egg.
Has it changed the way you cook for friends and family?
To be honest, I haven’t done as much cooking as I thought, because it’s just gone bananas! One thing it has done is it has given me the confidence that I can look at cuisines and I can pick it up pretty quickly. It has given me confidence to be able to cook outside what I considered to be my comfort zone.
I hear you’re also into music, aren’t you?
Yes, I’m a real soul boy. With music and food there’s quite a crossover with quite a lot of people.
And in your house, is it full of kitchen gadgets competing with vinyl for space?
No, no, my wife is an interior designer and I can’t have any sort of clutter inside the house. (Laughs.) But it looks beautiful, it looks great. What I did was that I bought a thermomix and it allowed me to get rid of a lot of kitchen gadgets – it does about 20 different jobs. It’s almost like having your own sous chef at home.
Where do you shop for your ingredients?
Lots of independent artisan shops, locally and online. If I have to go to a supermarket, I do, but I like to support independent shops. There’s a great one, a butchers, around where I live, called the Hook and Cleaver and you can buy all the things that someone like me looks forward to and lots of different breeds of beef and pork. Everywhere I go I find a food market and a fish market and I pick holidays by a food destination.
Who would be your ideal dinner party guest, living or dead?
My mum and dad. My mum sadly passed away a couple of years ago and was my inspiration behind Masterchef and my dad died when I was 12, so that would be perfect.
We *heart* Greg. If you’d like to experience his incredible cooking, he is doing a number of pop-ups in the coming weeks. Follow him on the social media listed on his site here for more details.