While chatting with the lovely lady who owns Cibare food magazine we came up with the idea of me writing an article about Life After Masterchef. It’s almost 10 months since I graced TV screens with bad jokes, too much hair gel and the odd incredible dish.. Here is my story of life after Masterchef.
You should click the link below to visti Cibare the online food magazine – it is thought provoking, hunger inducing and features me – what more could you want?! Don’t answer that.
I’ve noted the article below in case you want a quick read but to be fair, it’s much cooler reading it in Cibare food magazine.
Life After Masterchef – Chasing Dreams
There are times in your life when you wonder how you got where you are, how you ended up doing what you do.
For me, it was arriving back from the family holiday and sitting in the garden on a sunny afternoon in June 2013. Suffering from a bad case of the holiday blues I was mentally preparing myself for the onslaught of emails, phone calls, bored meetings (intentionally spelt) and started wondering how the bloody hell I ended up doing what I do.
I don’t remember any conversation in school where as my fellow leaders-of-tomorrow stated they wanted to be astronauts, ballerinas, a banker (always one), me ever saying I wanted to be a recruitment consultant. How did that happen?
I guess it happens like it does to most of us, you meander through life, get a job while you are waiting for NASA to call and eventually wake up one day doing whatever it is life threw at you.
For many years, my entire life actually, cooking has been my passion, my escape, my own personal catharsis. It was with this in mind as I sat in the garden on that sunny June afternoon that I spotted the application for Masterchef and without giving it much thought but writing from the heart I completed the application and then forgot all about it, until…
About two months later when in the throes of another day running a recruitment business; managing clients, candidates, sales teams, preparing for bored meetings, a call came in;
“Is that Theo?”
“Oh great, its Masterchef can we talk?”.
OMG! OMG! OMG!
With a childlike manner of looking like I needed to pee (slightly bent, holding my crutch and donning a ridiculous grin across my face) I found a room. A brief moment of composure, deep breath, stand tall, I squealed; ‘Yes it’s me! It’s me!’ – I never did composure very well.
I had a 20 minute conversation that I didn’t know then, but would ultimately change my life.
Just to appear on the show you go through a dozen stages where Masterchef whittle down the thousands of applicants (rumours are somewhere between 8000 to 10,000) to a final selection of 60 that make the show.
Eventually after a few months the final call came through and Masterchef allowed me to grace the TV screens of millions of unexpecting viewers. I loved it. And it was at that point that I knew it would change my life – I finally knew what I wanted to do when I grew up. I wanted to cook.
If you’ve seen the show you’ll know how I did, if you haven’t seen the show – I was A-MAZE-ING! OK, I made it to the semi-finals and down to the final 10 contestants. I didn’t win (yes, I am a sore loser) but it gave me confidence and a hunger for success. Yes, that’s right, not winning really gave me something to prove, I was now the underdog having to make my own success in the world of food – and I kinda like that, it sounds cool (utter bollocks of course I’d much rather have won).
So I made the decision that I wanted to eventually hang up my suit and start donning an apron, but first I needed to know I could make a living from it.
That sentence sort of makes it sound easy… well it wasn’t. It was exhausting.
I have two kids, a wife, a mortgage and don’t have a money tree in the garden. So, while working fulltime in the day, in the evenings I would cook, photograph and blog. I decided to organise my own popup restaurant; no idea how it would work but spent weekends pleading with local venues, eventually found a place, stuck a date in the diary, designed a menu and then it all went quiet. The calm before the storm, the moment you realise that now you’ve got to see if anyone will actually come.
There is a point when planning only goes so far, when you stand on the edge of the precipice and just have to close your eyes and jump off. I jumped. Head first.
That first jump was at exactly 8.27 on a Wednesday night when I decided to post a message online to see if anyone would come, I had 40 seats to fill. In my head I knew it would be 38 friends and possibly one or two that pressed the wrong button and ended up with a ticket.
Tickets sold out in 20 minutes, by 8.47 I had a full house. I couldn’t believe it, utter shock is the only description. Then shock gave way to pride, then pride gave way to panic – “FORTY GUESTS!!” It was nerve wracking, I’d never served more than 10 and never to paying guests, what the hell had I done?
But like anything I worked my butt off in prepping for the night, getting the dishes just perfect and it turned out to be a great success, with a waiting list that was suddenly growing daily; I knew the time had come.
It was time to make a move, to decide what I was going to do fulltime – chase the dream and risk unemployment, financial worries, etc. or stay put.
I handed in my notice the next day.
I’m now fulltime in the world of gastronomy and love it. I mean, let’s be clear; every vocation has its ups and downs. When I’m prepping an eight course taster menu for 40 people at 2 in the morning the idea of sitting at a desk sipping coffee and talking to someone about their career seems quite appealing. But I’m a realist and when my popup restaurant nights happen I love it. The roar of guests enjoying themselves, the ‘oohs and ahhs’ as my food is served, rave reviews, some ego feeding (yes, I know…) there is nothing like it.
I started running the popup restaurants once a month selling out quicker and quicker each time. Each night it got a little better, tweaking the service, hiring staff, organising suppliers, I was learning a trade, becoming a popup restaurateur. Off the back of my popup’s I started getting requests for private dining from people that couldn’t get a table at my popup. I loved it.
Almost a year on from appearing on Masterchef, and my vocation as a popup restaurateur is going good, it’s still hard work but I’ve been lucky enough to do a little more TV, some radio and spend most of my time designing new dishes, championing modern Greek food and experimenting with flavours – basically; indulging in my passion. And I make no mistake – without Masterchef giving me the confidence or the profile – none of that would probably have been possible; in every success there is a bit luck, then a ton of hard work.
OK, I earn less money now than I did a year ago, it is physically harder and I still have bills to pay. But money was never the reason, I would have stayed in recruitment if it was (I still moonlight in my suit now and again – but don’t tell my apron; she’s gets very possessive).
As for the future? Who knows… What I do know is it’s still only the beginning; I’m still learning my craft and have a long way to go to be the best I can, but my philosophy is simple; do something you love, do it with passion, never compromise and success will come.
Or that’s what I keep telling my bank manager anyway.