While sitting on our sofas at home, it’s easy to end up starving as people whip up delicious meals in what seems like seconds.
But is the MasterChef experience all it seems?
Former MasterChef semi-finalist Liz Cottam , who appeared in series 12, has shared how the show really works.
She now runs three restaurants with a 67-strong team and predicted revenues of £3.2M for the year ahead.
But in 2016, she bravely went on MasterChef – and has shared how the gruelling process works – with contestants filming their tasks at the crack of dawn.
Liz said: “It was pretty awful, I put so much pressure on myself to win, that was the only thing I wanted.
“I just wanted to cook things that I was super proud of and I enjoyed cooking and that was stuff that was fairly advanced for an amateur cook.
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“I’d spend two or three days prepping, I kind of made a rod to my own back to not enjoy it.
She said: “The [production team] were constantly asking if I would cook and I thought it wouldn’t happen.
“Then they put me into a professional kitchen and it was weird. That’s where everyone gets stressed out but it was the place I felt the calmest. Everything clicked.”
John and Gregg offer lots of support behind the scenes
While celebrity chef John is often focused on technique, greengrocer Gregg is known for his love of hearty fare and sweet desserts.
But while they may not always agree on food, the pair are “really sweet” to contestants behind the scenes, Liz said.
She added: “The two of them are really sweet, they’ve been really proud when I’ve seen them again.
“The production team are amazing as well.”
BBC/Shine TV Ltd)
It’s not always as fast-paced as it seems
Although we see the most dramatic moments of the process, there’s a surprising amount of downtime.
Liz said: “Everything is created to deliver a high level of jeopardy, that makes good TV.
“There’s a lot of waiting around in green rooms and not really knowing what is happening next and that really does get in your head.
“Then a producer might sit you down and ask you what you were worried about, and you’d say there was nothing.”
But it is very gruelling
Liz had to repack her suitcase every day – in case she got knocked out of the competition, as contestants were required to bring their luggage to set every day.
She said: “It is gruelling, it’s amazing but your life is on hold and it’s hard to do.”
“It’s very long days, I would travel down from Leeds and film for a few days. You have to take a suitcase with you every day in case you’re knocked out. It was pretty horrible, I didn’t have any time to do any washing!
Contestants have a secret Facebook group where they support each other and share their experiences of being on the hit show.
Liz had already applied and rejected an offer to appear on the show back in 2013 when her mum was suddenly taken ill.
Her mum would have 'loved to see her daughter on TV' and had been disappointed when she turned down the show, so Cottam decided to enter once again.
Sadly, her mum passed away, but soon after, when she got the call from the production company, she 'had a feeling it was meant to be'.
Previously, Liz worked in tech where she earned a six-figure salary before quitting aged 40 after getting to the semi-finals of MasterChef.
Now she has opened three restaurants in five years with all of them making it into the highly-prized Michelin Guide within 12 months.
Following the launch of fine dining restaurant HOME , Cottam and her business partner Mark Owens, former head chef of the Michelin-starred The Box Tree Inn in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, opened The Owl gastropub and taproom in 2019, and CORA, a bakehouse.
The North Yorkshire born-and-bred chef, who has also appeared on BBC Great British Menu, says her high-flying 20-year career in the city taught her "how to be successful in a man's world".
Whilst Cottam credits her corporate background with helping her to flourish as an entrepreneur, she says it also caused problems in the early days of her first restaurant, HOME , which she opened in 2017.
"In the corporate environment, I learned to be strong, decisive, dogmatic, driven, ambitious and could be ruthless, single-minded and argue my points of view really well," she said. "I had high expectations and impossibly high standards….THE perfect chef on paper.
“This approach destroyed people’s confidence, created mistakes, promoted fear, and created a culture that wasn’t nice to be a part of.
“I was running a business that was 90% great and I was living and pulling everyone around me into the 10% that was ‘wrong’ and I was furious about having so much ‘wrong’ in the first place. ”
“The reality is that this is what’s wrong with the industry."
Cottam, now aged 46, hired a life coach and set about transforming herself as she did not want to be a part of the toxic kitchen culture – with her spending £30,000 on the coaching so far.
She said: “I recognised that I was getting harder to work with, and I was more stressed out.
“I was dragging everyone into my framework, and this ridiculous pressure. Obviously, this is my dream and I didn’t want to mess it up.
“Kitchen culture is quite similar to the military, and I think it has a herd mentality. I’ve seen what it can do to people, we’ll have staff coming to work with us who have awful stories.
“And they don’t understand how to work in an environment that isn’t institutionalised. For me, I knew we had to change and I went to get help.
“It is a culture shock when people come to my kitchen, we lead with love and empowerment, we don’t do shouting and screaming.
“It can sound bo*****s but it’s not, I haven’t lost a member of staff in three-and-a-half years.”
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