History will be made tonight on BBC’s Celebrity MasterChef, as TV presenter Amar Latif enters the famous kitchen as the first ever blind contestant on the show.
However this very powerful moment may never have happened, because Amar initially turned down the offer.
Speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com, the TV star – who has a genetic condition called “retinas pigmentosa” which caused him to lose 95 per cent of his sight at 18 – revealed he said no when asked for another season.
“Last year they had said to my agent, ‘Would Amar like to go on MasterChef?’I was with my friend at the time and my friend was like, ‘That’s not for you!’ and I agreed, because I couldn’t even cook. So, I said to my agent, ‘Tell them I’m blind and I can’t cook!” he explained.
“But then they went away and in January, they asked if I’d be up for it, and I said, ‘Tell them that I’m still blind and I still can’t cook.”
Amar did eventually agree to appear on the show and tonight he’ll make his debut, so what exactly made him change his mind?
Speaking of his decision to take part in the cooking series, he revealed: “They [MasterChef] offered to support me so I met up with them and told them I couldn’t cook, but I never give up.”
He continued: “I never see obstacles. I was an accountant when people said I couldn’t be an accountant. When people told me I couldn’t travel the world as an independent blind person, I made it happen by setting up the world’s first company that enabled blind people to get out on their own. And obviously television. So I thought, ‘Great, let’s do it!'”
Although he was excited to start his MasterChef journey, reality did kick in just as he was about to begin filming for the show.
“I was thinking, ‘What the hell am I doing? I can’t really cook! I’m blind! I’m going on a contest with people who can see.'”
To get over the nerves, Amar decided to take charge of the situation and practise, visiting several restaurants for tips, including The Foundry Wine Bar and Restaurant, owned by MasterChef runner up Matt Healy.
“Two or three weeks prior to going on the show, I lived and breathed cooking. I cooked at breakfast, lunch and dinner and chatted to people. I went and had a cup of tea in Matt Healy’s restaurant and I contacted a friend who is a manager of a restaurant bar.”
As well as this, the presenter came up with a clock system to memorise where his items were in the kitchen, as he revealed that MasterChef made it “clear” he wouldn’t be allowed extra time.
He said: “They [MasterChef] gave me a sighted person, who was there to pass me things if I wanted something. I could use their eyes for that. That was something at least, but when you’re under tight pressure, what was more important for me was knowing where everything is, so I created a system.
“I always had my chopping board in front of me, my knife to the right of the chopping board and then along the top, starting from 11, I had things like onions, garlic, tomatoes and yoghurt, so I would know exactly where everything was, like for example, I knew if I went to one o’clock, my bottle of oil was there.”
One of the biggest struggles Amar says was trying to find information on how to cook as a blind person.
“I tried researching, but there wasn’t much on it,” he explained.
He therefore hopes his experience on MasterChef will improve the experience of other blind people and provide others with a better representation of what it means to be blind.
He said: “I feel like it’s good because it gives hope to other blind people. It’s tough out there – 66 per cent of bind people of the working age are unemployed and I think if people see that I’m doing things like this, it just gives them hope and makes them realise that they do have a future.
“I love being a tv presenter because it helps to change people’s preconceptions about blindness, because if they can see me doing ridiculous things on TV that you wouldn’t see a blind person doing, then when that employer has a blind person coming through their door they won’t have their own preconceptions. They might think, ‘Oh we saw this crazy, bald, blind guy doing this. Maybe we’ll give this blind person a chance!”
Celebrity MasterChef continues tonight, 9pm on BBC One and is available to catch up on BBC iPlayer. To see what else is on, have a look at our TV Guide.