BBC MasterChef:The Professionals Winner Interview Exclusive: Mark Stinchcombe
“Life after MasterChef”
As BBC MasterChef The Professionals draws to a close, previous champion Mark Stinchcombe explains how the culinary reality show changed his life.
As the remaining contestants sharpen their knives ready for the final showdown on MasterChef, former contestant Mark Stinchcombe understands more than most the pressure in that kitchen finale. It has been two years since chef Mark appeared on MasterChef: The Professionals in 2015
The 30-year-old chef (who was 28 at the time) went on to win the show that aired over Christmas 2015. That was just the beginning of the experience that changed his life. Yet he clearly remembers the highs and lows of his unforgettable ‘journey’.
“On the first show we stepped into the kitchen to face Marcus Wareing, Monica Galetti, and Gregg Wallace for the first time. It was one of the most nerve-racking moments of my life. I could feel my heart fluttering,” he remembers.
Mark is Head Chef at Eckington Manor, in Worcestershire, working alongside partner Sue (who is now his wife). The pair had been at Eckington for just six months when Mark applied for the programme keen to show the UK what he and the restaurant were all about. “Eckington Manor was doing well and picking up a lot of trade from London but I wanted to showcase what we did to the local community and broaden our horizons.”
Mark certainly achieved that recognition and much more when he went on to win the series and put Eckington on the map across the UK. Mark admits he was confident in his food and hoped to do well but says that he never expected to win.
“I never once thought I’d win. I just wanted to get far enough to showcase my skills to experts at Chef’s Table.”
With a culinary CV that boasts experience at top British restaurants such as The Fat Duck, Le Manoir and The Square, Mark’s skills were never in doubt. His dishes, honed with the help of wife Sue, were menu favourites, tweaked to perfection. It was still agonising, he says, putting his menu in front of such prestigious judges.
“When you put your heart and soul into a menu, dishing it up to be judged is nerve-racking. When you’ve put everything into a dish and they don’t like it, it’s heart wrenching.”
Mark’s winning menu consisted of a starter of roasted scallops, a main course of fillet of beef with a bone marrow crust and a dessert of elderflower panna cotta.
After the win, Mark had to keep his victory a secret until it was aired. Only a few close confidantes, including Sue, knew of his success. In this whirlwind year, Mark and Sue were married at Eckington Manor. It was a rare break from the kitchen when their friend and former Michelin star chef Andy Waters took on catering duties.
“If it had been down to me we’d have done our own catering,” says Mark, “but Sue put her foot down and thought we had other things to concentrate on.” Sue was right, she gave birth to their first child in Summer of 2017.
The pair put their honeymoon on hold until after the final was shown. Since Mark was crowned the ninth champion, on television on Christmas Eve 2015, bookings haven’t stopped. nearly two years later, Eckington Manor is as popular as ever.
“The restaurant went from strength to strength. The restaurant is as busy now as when the show finished. We keep pushing forward and are enjoying a lot more local trade.”
The pair now strive to one day achieve that elusive Michelin star.
Mark says he would encourage any budding chefs (amateur or professional) to apply for the next series of MasterChef or MasterChef: The Professionals. His advice is simple:
“Read lots of books, make sure you have a well-rounded knowledge and know your own style. It’s important to stay true to yourself. If foams and liquid nitrogen don’t suit you then don’t do them. Stick to what you have a flair for. For me, simplicity is key, perhaps three or four quality ingredients; I’d prefer an amazingly cooked chicken to a deconstructed chicken pie.”
Mark also acknowledges the importance of great support, and how soul mate Sue and the team were behind him, offering advice and criticism, and ensuring Eckington Manor restaurant customers remained fed during filming.
MasterChef was an opportunity that he acknowledges he will never forget.
“I made some amazing friends and learnt so much, not just from judges, but from fellow chefs; many of whom are still close friends.
“I had an amazing experience and would do it all again in a heartbeat.”
Would you like to enjoy an eXclusive Cookery Masterclass and meal with Mark and at Eckington Manor Cookery School? More details Here
Signature Chefs Recipe Book:
Mark was invited to feature in Signature Chefs Recipe Book, featuring 75 Chefs recipes from the Heart of England and Wales. Now a best seller at Eckington Manor.