Chef says starring on MasterChef: The Professionals is a “dream come true”, despite coronavirus restrictions proving challenging.
A chef who grew up in Moray is set to star in the new series of MasterChef: The Professionals 2020 which airs next week.
Ross Burgess will compete against 31 of the nation’s top chefs in the six-week series which kicks off on BBC 1 at 9pm on Tuesday (November 10).
Currently working as a sous chef in Murrayside Care Home in Edinburgh, Ross has worked across the world, starting his career in his hometown of Elgin.
The budding chef will appear in episode five of the thirteenth series on Wednesday November 18, but almost missed out on the opportunity to take part in the show after thinking the voicemail the production company had left on his mobile was a cold caller.
A near miss
He said: “I’ve watched every series and I was one of those people who would be screaming at the TV at the contestants. My fiancée Amy said I needed to go for it myself if I was going to continue to shout at it. A few others had said to me to apply but I never really thought about it seriously.
“I applied online last November and to be honest I never thought I would hear back about it. In February I had a missed call and there was a voicemail from Shine TV. I thought, ‘what on earth is Shine TV?’. I actually thought it was a cold call as I didn’t recognise it at all. I luckily called it back and realised it was for MasterChef and the ball just got rolling from there. I’m still trying to digest it all.”
Joining Michelin-starred chef Marcus Wareing, highly reputed chef Monica Galetti and celebrated MasterChef Gregg Wallace on set was an experience in itself for Ross, with the chef saying it was a “surreal experience” and “like nothing I had done before”.
The MasterChef process and Covid-19
Getting the call to confirm his involvement in February, it wasn’t until late summer Ross and the other 31 contestants had to make their way to London to film the TV show.
However, with numerous restrictions in place due to the on-going coronavirus pandemic, Ross thinks filming was a little different to the norm, and was relieved there were numerous staff on set to help keep him and the other contestants right ensuring everyone was socially-distancing at all times.
“We filmed in the summer and it was more towards when we were thinking everything might be ok with Covid-19,” said Ross.
“I was on the train down to London from Edinburgh for the filming and got put up in a hotel. Filming took place at the 3 Mills Studios – there were people there making sure we were following all the restrictions at all times, and I’m such a hand shaker so I found that side of things quite hard when meeting people.
“It was amazing as you were on the MasterChef set, in your whites, but you were very aware you weren’t there for a tour and were there too cook. With Covid-19 there was an extra 20 things to remember so it was really tough. You have to put all that to one side and really just enjoy it.”
Meeting the judges
Meeting the judges for the first time was a moment in his career Ross won’t forget, but it was getting the honour to cook for them alongside a group of talented individuals which really spurred him on during the competition.
He added: “It is so surreal. You’re seeing it through your eyes but you almost feel you’re sitting at home watching it on a big TV. You don’t really believe that you’re there. I remember waiting to go on set and I heard Gregg Wallace’s voice for the first time through a window, you’ve known for a while you’d be going to meet him, but those first moments were just wow.
“You try and keep your feelings in check and keep your nerves under wraps but it was one of the most challenging things I’ve done. It is something you’ll remember for the rest of your life and you just need to remember to try and not do anything silly – and also have fun! There’s not many shows that you can show off your job. Cooking is a really celebrated trade and there’s cooking shows on all the time. I’m incredibly proud to be a chef and I’m so proud to be part of the MasterChef family now.”
Born and raised in Elgin, it was after leaving Elgin Academy at 16 and not being accepted on an apprenticeship as a joiner that sparked Ross’s career as a chef which would see him travel to more than 49 countries.
He said: “I left school around 16 and intended to become a joiner. Apprenticeships were hard to come by so I took a job at a restaurant in Elgin and realised cooking could actually be a career.
“From there I went to work at one of the best hotels in Elgin, Mansfield Hotel, for two and a half years – that opened my eyes to real chefing. I met my now fiancée when I was starting out and we decided we’d move to Edinburgh. I did a stage (an unpaid internship) with Tom Kitchen at The Kitchen and it totally inspired me. A year and a half later we got a flight to Melbourne and for two years I worked in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and St Darwin.
“We then travelled more – we spent around five years in south east Asia and went to Japan, Korea, New Zealand, the Philippines and visited around 49 countries in that time. Asian food is my favourite and is a phenomenal cuisine. Food there is more than just a meal, it’s about people coming together. I also did a stage at The French Cafe in New Zealand – it has three hats, which is kind of similar to Michelin stars, and the head chef Simon Wright worked under Marco Pierre White so when you’re standing next to him you’re like, ‘wow’.
“We did a big Europe trip at the start of 2018 and that was really just focused on food – there wasn’t any work involved. Everyone would ask what cultural things we’d done, but we really just ate as many places as we could.
Working in a care home
Currently working in a private care home in Edinburgh, Ross says he has felt honoured throughout the past seven months to be cooking for the residents as the whole kitchen team have gone above and beyond to keep them positive during this challenging time when visits from their family and friends have been limited.
“When I came back to Edinburgh I worked at Forage & Chatter and all of our ingredients were sourced within a 25-mile radius of the restaurant. We worked with a forager who would bring some amazing produce in. In early 2019 I took a job in a private care home in Murrayfield at Murrayside Care Home. I still wanted to create incredible food but I wanted a better work/life balance.
“I’ve been there for nearly two years and the food we’re creating is brilliant. The passion from the team is incredible. When lockdown first kicked in we realised we were working with some of the most vulnerable people. It really spurred us on as we knew the residents weren’t getting any visitors and we knew we had to really make sure we were delivering 150% on the food.
“We got really creative and have continued to have fun with it. We were asking them what they had as kids and really played on that nostalgic feel. Seeing the look on their faces when we recreated their granny’s bread and butter pudding was just incredible – it really gets to you. It really has been an honour.
“Food is in such an amazing place just now. Lockdown just got people cooking again and the glimpses we’ve seen since restrictions have eased has been people eating out and socialising over food and drink.”