The Final Week – comprising three programmes on consecutive nights from Tuesday to Thursday this week – has put the chefs through tasks of ever-increasing complexity, including a trip to three-Michelin-starred Maeemo restaurant in Oslo Norway.
There, the chefs were judged by chef Esben Holmboe Bang, and asked to take part in a gruelling evening service. The finalists have been whittled down to just three out of 47 entrants, and are:
- Matt Healy, a regional development chef for Rational from Yorkshire
- Gary McLean, a senior chef lecturer from Glasgow
- Elly Wentworth, a junior sous chef at the five-star Wiltshire hotel Lucknam Park, working under Hywel Jones at the Michelin-starred Park restaurant.
At just 24, Wentworth is the youngest finalist of the three, by nine years.
The chefs were previously joined by Arnaud Kaziewicz, head of food development and former chef at Le Champignon Sauvage, who left the competition last night after judges Marcus Wareing, Monica Galetti and Gregg Wallace felt the other three to be more deserving of the ultimate final.
Healy, who went to catering college in Leeds aged 16, cites Simon Shaw of El Gato Negro in Manchester as his biggest influence, while McLean said his teacher at college, Willie McCurrach, as well as chefs Willie Pike and Steven Doherty, have been his biggest inspirations.
Wentworth said her cooking influences began with Chris Tanner, of Tanners in Plymouth, followed by Richard Davies at The Manor House in Castle Combe, and current head chef Hywel Jones.
The final will be aired tonight on BBC Two at 8pm, and will include the ultimate cook-off in the MasterChef kitchen: three hours to cook a starter, main and dessert for the trio of judges.
From L to R: Judges Marcus Wareing, Gregg Wallace, and Monica Galetti, with the MasterChef trophy
Everything from presentation to taste, talent and creativity, will be taken into account, and, according to the BBC’s own website: “The smallest error could cost the title, but to succeed means life could be changed forever”.
Previous tasks have included working a service in some of the UK's top kitchens, cooking for some of the country's toughest food critics, and preparing a fine-dining-style meal for VIP guests.
The winner will receive the coveted MasterChef logo trophy, and, if previous years' winners are anything to go by, can expect much professional interest, advancement, and publicity.
Last year’s winner – announced a day earlier than this year, on Christmas Eve – was Mark Stinchcombe, co-head chef at Eckington Manor in Pershore, Worcestershire, who attributed his win to the support of his wife Sue, who is the other co-head chef at Eckington.
Soon after winning, Stinchcombe stated that Sue had been instrumental in helping him refine his MasterChef dishes, while also keeping the business afloat during the show’s punishing filming schedule. He also said that the publicity from the show had been helpful for the business as a whole, and had pushed bookings up substantially.
An interview with the ultimate 2016 winner will be published on BigHospitality.co.uk tomorrow morning. Watch this space…