Following six weeks in the kitchen (and a short delay), MasterChef 2021 came to an end tonight (14th April) as this year’s winner was announced.
Tom Rhodes, 31, became the 17th amateur cook to claim the prestigious title, after competing against Mike Tomkins, 27, Alexina Anatole, 30, and Laura Michael, 46, who left on Thursday night’s show.
Speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com after his win, Tom said: “It’s an absolute dream come true. I’ve watched the show for so many years and I admired the past champions so to be a MasterChef champion is amazing.”
Although he managed to make it all the way to the end of the competition and bag the famous trophy, Tom never imagined he’d get this far in the competition and actually thought he could be going home during the semi-finals.
He said: “So my last dish in the semi-finals round which was my halibut and chips dish, I knew it wasn’t my best cooking in the competition. There were a couple of things that went wrong on that day and it only takes those couple of things to go wrong to really take you off your track, so I really feared that I was going to go home at that point.”
Luckily he was saved, and he believes it gave him the “boost” for finals week, as he pulled out all the stops for his final three dishes – a selection of oysters prepared in three different ways for starters, a steak dish with bone marrow sauce for the main, followed by a tart with olive meringue and olive oil ice cream – delicious!
“I really wanted the menu to be a celebration and when I think about celebrating, I think about indulging!” He gushed.
Following his win, Gregg Wallace and John Torode praised him, with Gregg saying: “Tom walked into this kitchen and surprised us. He has defined himself a style all of his own and it’s fantastic. His food is delicious and it looks beautiful. As an amateur chef what he is doing is really impressive.”
So, how did it feel to be judged by the TV chefs?
“I think when you initially watch it on TV, it does seem very daunting to be cooking for John and Gregg, especially if these are some of the first people that you’ve cooked for,” Tom explained.
“They’re not friends and family and they’re under no obligation to say how great your food is, but actually they’re both really supportive and definitely when we were getting feedback, I totally agreed with it. A lot of the things did come down to individual preference I think, but for the most part, they want to see you succeed. So the things that they’re telling you, they’re telling you for a reason!”
Not that that made it any easier for Tom as the competition progressed, with the 31-year-old admitting: “As you get later on in the competition, it becomes very intense and it really is all consuming. As we got down to those final challenges you’re filming a lot, there’s less and less time to prepare and a lot of sleepless nights.”
Nevertheless, Tom wouldn’t change the experience for the world, and is glad he decided to come back after being turned away 10 years ago.
When asked what advice he’d give to amateur chefs looking to apply for the show, he said: “I would say, ‘Absolutely go for it!’ The reason I say that is it’s so great that I’ve won it, but it really is the most incredible experience right from that beginning. I applied 10 years ago and got quite far, but wasn’t lucky enough to get on. For years I contemplated whether I should apply or not and last year, I actually did and it was incredible.”
Now, Tom hopes to put out his own cook books and has thoughts of opening a restaurant.
He added: “So I went into the competition really wanting to write about food. I love cookbooks, I have probably over 300 cookbooks, so I’d love the opportunity to do more writing about food, whether it be in magazines, newspapers or online. Eventually I would definitely like to build up a cookbook, but also working in the professional kitchen on the show was something that I really enjoyed and wasn’t necessarily expecting to. So, I definitely wouldn’t rule out opening my own place in the future, but I think there’s still a lot to learn, and a lot of hard work before that becomes reality.”