Sussex chef fights for his future on TV cooking show

James Villiers (Photograph: Masterchef) SUS-161128-145301001

James Villiers (Photograph: Masterchef) SUS-161128-145301001

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A Brighton chef has cooked his way through the quarterfinals of Masterchef and into the knockout round of the BBC show.

James Villiers, 33, head chef at the Ginger Dog in Kemp Town, has been a fan of the hit TV show for many years.

James Villiers (Photograph: Masterchef) SUS-161128-145317001

James Villiers (Photograph: Masterchef) SUS-161128-145317001

He said: “I watch it year in year out, it’s my trade so I’m always really interested.

“It’s so surreal being on the show after so many years of watching, it’s quite a big thing for me and I’m really enjoying it.”

He added: “This is just me entering the contest to see how well I know my trade.

“You’re up against the best of the best so it’s interesting to see how you compare to others in the trade from throughout the country.”

Mr Villiers, who lives in Uckfield with his wife and three-year-old daughter, has so far impressed judges of the hit TV show with his technique and creativity.

His proudest moment was his reinvention of a roast chicken dinner, which he cooked as an homage to his nan Gladys.

He said: “I was laughing when I found out the task was a reinvention of roast chicken because I’m a British boy, brought up on roast dinner.

“My nan was my inspiration for that round, she always made us a roast and it meant a lot to me doing this.”

Judge Marcus Wareing, who Mr Villiers refers to as a ‘culinary God’, said he had done himself and his nan proud.

However, the judges were somewhat more cynical about his unusual dessert of lemon and asparagus cake.

“The asparagus cake is dead and buried now,” he said.

“It had a good run, I made it for a few years but I tried to upgrade it for Masterchef and I think I got too ambitious.

“There were positive and negative comments about it though.”

Asked how the judges’ notorious facial expressions impact him when working under pressure, Mr Villiers said: “You don’t notice when you’re standing in front of them.

“You’re like a horse with blinkers, you’re completely focused on the task in front of you.”

MasterChef: The Professionals airs Tuesdays to Thursdays at 8pm on BBC Two.

James will next appear in the ‘knockout’ round on Tuesday, December 6.