The MasterChef judges on this year’s final three

Gregg Wallace and John Torode give their verdicts on the cooks vying for culinary glory...

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Things are heating up this week as enter the MasterChef finals, with five chefs still in with a chance of victory. Radio Times asked the MasterChef judges what they make of the finalists, and found out what the contenders think about their own skills…

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Simon

38, Management Executive, Oldham 

Gregg Wallace: “Simon started as one of the more nervous cooks in the MasterChef kitchen, but he’s really grown in stature and confidence. He really knows how to create food that not only looks beautiful, but also tastes amazing. The first dish he made us, a chicken and chorizo tortellini, was incredible, especially for a first round, and the Elizabeth David-inspired rabbit dish he did at the start of Knockout Week was stunning. He’s also shown us a lot of skill. He has had his mishaps – in his quarter-final he made a beetroot and chocolate ice cream that didn’t quite work. But he’s got the skills and I’m really excited by what he may come up with.”

Simon Wood: “I’ve been cooking since I could reach the top of the oven, possibly before I had a chair to hand or a willing grandma! Cooking is something you never stop learning, no matter how long you have been doing it. “I dream of cooking great food by a lake, probably somewhere in Italy, somewhere with seating outside near the water, serving fresh fish and classic dishes, with great wine and ambience.” 

Tony

34, Recruitment Consultant, London

Gregg Wallace: “I love Tony. His food matches his creative dress sense. He’s got real style and a bunch of good skills. There’s always a lot to admire in his food, even looking back to his first Calling Card dish – the chicken roulade stuffed with mozzarella and wrapped in Parma ham was brilliantly cooked and my favourite dish of the lot in that heat. He likes to challenge himself and gives himself a lot of work to do in the time. “Tony’s also cooked me some of the best desserts in this competition and they are full of techy wizardry. That caramel frappuccino he did when he cooked to my brief of wanting some- thing ‘thick, sticky and brown’ was exactly what I had in mind.

“Tony always has a plan and a drawing of how he wants his dish to look so his presentation is great, but he can fall down with the Invention Tests. He’s stumbled there a bit but once back to cooking his practised dishes Tony has the potential to really impress.”

Tony Rodd: “I really enjoy cooking food in the open. Whenever I’m on holiday I always man the barbecue, but in true MasterChef style, I go a little overboard with fresh fish, meat and beautiful salads. I’d love to take my 1952 pickup truck on a road trip and load the back with cool- boxes of food, crates of wine and a big grill. That’s my idea of heaven…

“One day I’d love to have my own jazz bar with a small restaurant. Nothing big but something to keep me busy in my retirement. In the short term, though, I think I’d like to set up a private catering business for dinner parties and maybe do the odd pop-up restaurant. I’m not looking to quit my job, but if I can incorporate food into my everyday life, I’d be very happy.”  

Emma

40, Travel Executive, London

John Torrode:  “The smells in the studio when Emma cooks are amazing! Right from the start, she has shown us that she really understands the Middle Eastern flavours she loves to cook with. From the pistachio lamb we saw in the Calling Card round, which was balanced, well-flavoured, romantic even, to the sea bass and chermoula she made for the guest judges in the heats and the duck with a black za’atar crust she did as her Showstopper, Emma puts her heart and soul into the dishes. She has sometimes struggled with presentation, but she’s definitely someone who cooks from the heart, and I love that.”

Emma Spitzer: “I’ve been cooking for about 25 years – I started young! But cooking doesn’t run in the family. I was the only one growing up with any interest so my mum used to indulge me and let me cook for her friends.

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“To combine my love of travel with my passion for cooking would be fantastic. I would love to teach kids how to cook and get them started young. It gives me such satisfaction seeing my own kids taking an interest in food. My dream is to have a deli or restaurant but the kids need to be old enough to help me run it!”