LARNE man Mark Saunderson bowed out of TV’s Masterchef: The Professionals on the second night of the BBC television competition, which aired last Tuesday.
Having wowed the judges with a speciality pastry in his first challenge on the show, the Caffe Spice chef failed to impress Michelin-starred top judge Michel Roux Jnr with a rack of lamb dish in the second round of tests.
But the 39-year-old took it well, having said from the start that he was the underdog in the competition, lacking the classical training and experience of his rivals.
Mark told Masterchef’s audience of millions that he was a joiner until three years ago and largely self-taught in the kitchen.
His food was good enough to impress Masterchef presenter Gregg Wallace when he was in Larne last year filming a Who Do You Think You Are? episode and dropped in at Caffe Spice for lunch.
Both Wallace and Mr Roux’s sous chef Monica Galetti were bowled over by Mark’s caramelised onion tart in the first episode of the new series and Wallace certainly enjoyed tasting the offering of lamb, even if Roux didn’t warm to the presentation of the dish.
Despite his early exit from the show, Mark came away all the more determined to improve his skills as a chef.
“It was a great experience and I was delighted to even get on the show at all,” he told the Times. “The dish I made on the second round of tests was something that has been on the menu at Caffe Spice. I was pleased with how it turned out, but unfortunately Michel was not fond of the sauce I made.
“The pressure during the challenges was really intense, as not only was I being watched by the judges, but a full camera crew and production team as well. But it was fantastic to be able to cook for these renowned chefs and I would go back on the show again tomorrow if I could.
“Being on Masterchef has given me the push I needed to go out, broaden my horizons and gain more experience so that I can continue to grow as a chef. After leaving the show, I worked under the head chef at the Merchant Hotel for a while, and I now working part time at Galgorm under Chris Bell, who took part in the Northern Ireland category of the Great British Menu.”