In the closest MasterChef: The Professionals final ever, Keri Moss and Anton Piotrowski were last night crowned the first ever joint winners in the history of the BBC cooking competition. The pair have told BigHospitality of their desire to now move on to even greater things and perhaps even run a restaurant together.
After four intense heat weeks, 41-year-old Moss and 30-year-old Piotrowski battled head-to-head in the semi-final before fending off competition from fellow finalist Oli Boon to become the fifth and sixth MasterChef: The Professionals winners. And both chefs agree the competition has provided a springboard to the next step in their careers.
"It’s a huge platform for me," Moss told BigHospitality this morning. "I never thought I’d achieve this sort of thing and actually get to the point of opening a restaurant or restaurants of my own. MasterChef: The Professionals has given me a very big boost to be able to achieve what I wanted."
Having watched last night's final with Moss before eating together at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, fellow winner Piotrowski added: "Of course these competitions give you a great platform. I’ve had some great help and advice throughout this competition from Michel Roux to the likes of Tom Kerridge and guys at The Fat Duck. At the end of the day it’s now about just pushing on and doing something better."
Moss, who lives in South East London, says she now wants to 'move on' from her current job as freelance caterer and open a restaurant of her own, with hopes to 'partner up with someone who’s got the same passion for food' as her.
"I've had a couple of offers that I'm considering," she said. "It's just a case of trying to work out what’s the right one for me.
"The location of my restaurant would definitely be in London and the style of food would definitely be modern British, just so that we could use all the great things that we have here instead of having to source food from overseas."
Piotrowski, who currently runs The Treby Arms in South Devon with his wife Clare, agrees that winning MasterChef: The Professionals has opened up a number of new opportunities, having already seen a huge surge in bookings at his pub.
"Our bookings are going mad," he said. "We had over 130 emails in the space of 10 minutes last night. We’re going to have to employ someone solely responsible for taking bookings at The Treby Arms if it doesn't calm down!
"I would love to branch out now. I will never do anything more than what we do at the Treby Arms with other venues though. For me, I've always wanted to open something that was British tapas, serving the likes of black pudding, scotched eggs and nice chips with truffle mayonnaise, and a really nice range of ales - something a bit like Maze, but a bit smaller in plates.
"I wouldn't mind too much where the restaurant was, if it was in London it would be good. But it might be better to keep it closer to home."
Could the joint MasterChef: The Professionals winners collaborate to run a restaurant together? Moss didn't rule it out, adding: "Anton and I work so well together, working on a restaurant project with him would be absolutely amazing - so you never know."
Speaking of their personal highlights from the four-week series, both Moss and Piotrowski said that the standout moment came in the semi-final stage; designing and preparing a Michelin-standard course each for over 30 world-renowned Michelin-starred chefs.
The winners also agreed that working with Tom Kerridge at The Hand and Flowers provided great inspiration, with Piotrowski claiming it is the best restaurant in the UK at the moment.
MasterChef: The Professionals 2012 final
The final MasterChef: The Professionals task was to prepare a three-course meal for judges Michel Roux Jr and Gregg Wallace.
Moss’s winning menu consisted of a starter of mackerel tartare served with crispy poached quails eggs, marinated cucumber cubes, prosciutto crisps, horseradish sour cream and a green apple vinaigrette; a main of Chinese five-spiced duck breast, confit duck leg cubes and duck sausage with roasted pak choi, spiced baby beets, spring onions and a duck jus; and a dessert of green olive and pistachio cake with a white chocolate parfait, marshmallows, fresh raspberries and a raspberry coulis.
Judging the dish, Roux Jr said: “Keri, the three plates you’ve put in front of us today are testimony to an unbelievable journey, you have now elevated your cuisine to something very very special; you should be very proud of yourself.”
'Stumped for words'
Meanwhile, Piotrowski's winning menu comprised a starter of elderflower marinated pollack, served with a brown shrimp and elderflower beurre noisette, squid ink and malt vinegar crumble, white asparagus and mascarpone; a main of cocoa-marinated loin of venison, accompanied by a nettle ballotine stuffed with venison trim, pan-seared ox heart with spinach, wild mushrooms and gherkins, roasted beetroot, a celeriac puree and a dark chocolate jus.
And for his dessert (which consisted of 17 elements), a dark chocolate cylinder filled with caramel, a banana parfait coated in banana chips with shards of honeycomb tuile, and a banana bread disc, banana and yuzu juice puree and finished with roast banana, caramel dots and popping candy.
On this occasion, Roux Jr simply said: “I’m stumped for words."
Moss and Piotrowski join the ranks of four past winners of MasterChef: The Professionals: Derek Johnstone, Steve Groves Claire Lara and Ash Mair. As part of their winning prize, the pair will go on to perform stages at their own chosen restaurants. Moss said: "I would love to spend more time at The Hand and Flowers and go to El Celler De Can Roca," while Pitrioski has Madisson Square Park, The Fat Duck and Dinner on his restaurant hit-list.
Keri Moss and Anton Piotrowski’s top tips for aspiring chefs:
- “If you’ve got that passion and drive, don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not good enough, and just work hard,” said Moss.
- “But believing in yourself is probably the most important thing, because if you don’t believe in yourself you’re not going to move on and move up in your career.”
- Piotrowski added: “First, get yourself into a really good kitchen and put your head down, and don’t run before you can walk.
- "It’s not a two-year thing to become a head chef at 21 - that should never happen in this industry. So you really have to work for it."