Region: Aberdeen (Born West Lothian, Scotland)
Age: 32 (31 at time of filming)
Profession: Head chef
Brian McLeish, head chef at Moonfish Café in Aberdeen, began his career as an apprentice at his uncle’s hotel.
“My interest in food grew from there as I progressed and moved to bigger and better kitchens,” he said.
“I have no formal training or qualifications regarding cooking, I've just developed over the years in all the different places I've worked. Each new job was picked to challenge and improve me as a chef.
“All the chefs I have worked with over the years have influenced me. Most notably Paul Hart of the Scotsman in Edinburgh, and Paul Flynn of the Tannery in Ireland.”
McLeish is a fan of ‘good honest food’ and his cooking is all about big natural flavours and enjoyment. He entered MasterChef: The Professionals to challenge himself and says the competition has helped him focus on what he wants from cooking.
“I don't have a head chef to push me anymore so this was a way for me to better myself and pit myself against some great chefs,” he explained.
“I feel completely honoured to have made it to the finals in the competition. I was up against extremely talented chefs from the start so I feel very lucky and proud to get this far. I also think I earned it, a lot of hard work and practice got me here.”
Like most of the finalists, McLeish dreams of one day opening his own business. “My biggest ambition is to have my name over the door of my own restaurant. It's one thing cooking for a living, but it's great to be recognised for my own style and be in control of my own future.”
Region: Newcastle-upon-Tyne (grew up in Stockton)
Profession: Head Chef
Northern chef Danny Parker says he fell into cooking ‘by accident’ after working as a kitchen porter and realising how much freedom chefs have to express themselves.
“I was trained firstly at Darlington Technology College and then on the job at The Talbot, a small gastro pub in Bishopton, then later at Wynyard Hall under the guidance of the exec chef Alan Okane,” he said.
Parker is currently head chef at Kenny Atkinson’s House of Tides restaurant on Newcastle’s Quayside, and has ambitions to earn the restaurant a Michelin star before moving on to open his own business.
He entered the show to raise awareness about the great food on offer in the north of England, and although it hasn’t all been smooth sailing so far he has proven himself to be a more than capable chef.
”I decided to enter the competition as a platform to try and show that there isn't just good food in the south! I also wanted friends and family to see why I have made sacrifices for my career, I think it's nice to give something back to them,” he said.
“I am seriously overwhelmed to get to the final, the competition is physically and mentally strenuous.”
Profession: Head chef
Darren Comish was inspired to start cooking by his granddad, who was a chef in the merchant navy. He worked at the Michelin-starred Devonshire Arms before taking over as head chef at the Oak Bank hotel in the Lake District, where his cooking has won praise from critics including Jay Rayner.
“I have been hugely influenced as a chef by Andy Nicholson who started me on my journey,” he said.
“My two favourite chefs at the moment, apart form the above, have to be Tom Aikens and Marcus Wareing; I respect them greatly and love their style of food. It was fantastic to be able to work so closely with Marcus during the competition.”
Comish, who has ambitions to one day open his own modern British restaurant in Cumbria, was convinced to enter MasterChef: The Professionals by his stepdaughter, Leah.
“I watch the series every year from my sofa, but I’m one of those armchair viewers who think they can do better, so I had to show Leah I could do it myself,” he explained.
”I feel extremely proud to get to the final, it is a massive achievement - the other finalists are all amazing chefs, it’s fierce competition!”
Region: St Andrews, Scotland (lives in Arbroath)
Profession: Sous chef
Scottish-based sous chef Jamie Scott was born into a life of cooking and has never looked back.
“My parents purchased their own pub when I was 14 years old and I built my way up from peeling potatoes to running the kitchen,” he said.
“My mum is a brilliant chef. She has worked in kitchens for over 30 years, and was the first female to become a sous chef in Britain.”
Passionate about all aspects of the kitchen, Scott specialises in meat butchery and sauce making. He is currently working as part of the Rocca team in St Andrews, and was entered into Masterchef: The Professionals by Adrian and Susan Pieraccini.
“The owners of the restaurant I work in entered me into the competition without me knowing. They showed great belief in me,” he said.
“I am completely overwhelmed to have made it this far in the competition; to be through to the final week is very exciting.”
Scott dreams of one day opening his own restaurant in London or Edinburgh. “The style will be modern British with personal influences, including my love of Thai food, and dishes inspired by my childhood cooking with my gran and classic French cookery with my mum,” he explained.
“I would love to cook on TV and produce a book too, that would be amazing.”
Region: London (grew up in Hampshire)
Age: 26 (25 at time of filming)
Profession: Sous chef
London-based sous chef Sven-Hanson Britt has been interested in food since he was a child.
“My first interest came when I suffered the pressures of choosing somewhere for work experience in Year 9,” he said.
“I ended up in a neighbourhood restaurant in Bishops Waltham run by a great man name Pete and his wife Rachel. They had a lot of time for me and showed me the ropes.”
He trained as a chef at Bournemouth and Poole College as one of their specialised chef apprentices, run by the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts.
“I was lucky enough to be sent to The Ritz as part of my apprenticeship. It is where I learnt how to cook,” he explained.
Britt is passionate about ingredients and seasonality, and believes that food should be determined by nature and have a positive impact on the environment.
“Cooking excites me when there is an opportunity to work with ingredients that mean something - when a dish is much more that just a sum of its parts,” he said.
“Whether that means livestock that has been carefully reared, is a rare breed or nurtured to be more delicious; or vegetables that are grown and cooked in the same place, picked moments before being on the plate.”
He believes that MasterChef: The Professionals is the perfect competition to test yourself as a chef.
“Getting to the final is a fantastic feeling. The experiences that I have had along the way will stay with me for a long time. Each challenge has been nerve racking but taught me something new about myself and gave me belief,” he said.
MasterChef: The Professionals – The Final Week, starts Wednesday 17th December, continues Thursday 18th and concludes Tuesday 23rd December, 8pm on BBC Two.