MasterChef: the Final Three – Andrew Kojima

The finalist reveals how he deals with nerves, while judges John and Gregg offer words of wisdom

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Andrew, 33, is a research analyst and lives in London with his wife and 16-month-old son. He’s half-Japanese. 

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First food memory  

I’ve always loved cooking and food. My mum’s a teacher so she got long summer holidays to take us away to France every year. We’d go picking fruit and go to markets and learnt to love French food. We were a big family; my mum was always keen to get an extra pair of hands in the kitchen. 

Best moment

Oh, that’s easy – when they brought Michel Roux Jr into the studio. He’s an absolute hero of mine; to cook for him was a massive highlight. I still have to pinch myself to tell myself that it actually happened. And I cooked nicely as well! 

Worst moment  

Probably missing out on cooking for chef Jason Atherton. I applied to MasterChef not just to improve my cooking but also to make dreams come true and meet some of these chefs that I’ve idolised for the last 15 years, so to miss that was really disappointing. 

How about nerves?

You go into that studio and you know an elimination is in order. You almost feel relieved when you’re off-site – there’s a huge task ahead of you but at least there’s no elimination at the end of the day. Then you get to the studio, and there’s a real sense that the longer you’re in, the bigger the day. Had to get in there, breathe deeply and try and stay calm.

Preparation?

Practising at home helps. My wife would pretend to be John and Gregg and taste things. She’d hold her head in her hands like Gregg! She really tested me. 

Ambitions

My wife’s a doctor and we’ve got another baby coming along. It would be tough for me to go into cheffing the normal way. I think what I’d like to do is keep cooking in other ways and maybe do some food writing. 

The judges say…

John Torode: He has the unabashed arrogance of someone who could be a very good cook. He’s very game and when he does something, he believes in it absolutely and totally. Regardless of whether it’s right or wrong, he will work towards making it right. He’s willing to stick his neck out. 

But…  

Gregg Wallace: He has an insane need to put ingredients together that are unsuitable. I don’t know why people do it. Why do they think they can reinvent the wheel? 

A word of advice

Gregg Wallace: You can still show skill, love and passion without sticking a Flake up the bum of a chicken. Keep it calm and stick with classic tried and tested combinations

This was originally published in the issue of Radio Times magazine that went on sale 6 March 2012. Read Tom Rennolds’s interview here and Shelina Permalloo’s here.

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MasterChef: the Final Three airs tonight at 9pm, BBC1.