The 34-year-old Australian freelance chef is the fourth winner of the competition for professional chefs. After four intense heat weeks, a tough semi-final and an incredible final week, his Masterchef: The Professionals title was awarded by judges: legendary double Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux Jr and food writer and ingredients expert, Gregg Wallace.
“Winning Masterchef: The Professionals is absolutely amazing for me,” Mair told BigHospitality. “It’s going to change my life in a really big way.
“I’ve had a lot of opportunities already, some wonderful, some weird! But I’m going to take a bit of time out and go back to see my family in Australia. I will then filter through the offers and decide what direction to head in.”
“I am definitely going to stay in the kitchen though.”
One direction for Mair, who currently works for a London catering firm, could be to open a restaurant of his own, as previous winners of Masterchef have done.
“When I’m back I want to do a few stages at some top restaurants. And through that I will decide what situation I want to be in,” he added.
Ash Mair’s ideal restaurant
“If I were to open a restaurant of my own, I think I’d like to be on the coast, because I love to use seafood in my cookery. And for the atmosphere as well – I think a relaxed feel is better for a restaurant, not too ‘posh’.
“I would go for a mid-price point. I like things to be accessible. There’s too much great food that’s not accessible these days. I want to just cook quite simple food and I want to concentrate on getting that spot on. A lot of chefs spend too much time trying to be smart and forget about what people really want to eat.
Throughout Masterchef: The Professionals 2011, Mair often relied on his secret weapon – a passion for Basque cuisine. He lives with Begoña, his Basque girlfriend of 10 years.
“My godfather is Basque cuisine,” he added. “I’ve been to Mugaritz (which placed 5th in last year’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants), and that’s amazing. I would love a stage in some of those top Spanish restaurants and I've got a lot of respect for the likes of Juan and Elena Arzak and Ferran Adria.”
Ash Mair’s advice for aspiring chefs
- My biggest advice is to learn the classic dishes first, before you start crazy combinations
- You must keep a very open mind and not set yourself into one style
- A lot of this modern food can be a bit weird. You’ve got to think about what the customer really wants to eat, because at the end of the day, you are feeding people