Hard graft, not stardom, awaits winner of 'MasterChef'
They're promised that victory will "change their lives" but the threat of MasterChef fatigue will hang over this week's winner, if history is any guide.
Just one previous champion, Thomasina Miers, who triumphed six years ago, is anything approaching a household name. She has since launched the Wahaca chain of Mexican restaurants, as well as writing several cookbooks, but she is hardly in the Nigella league.
Against the backdrop of a turbulent dining-out market, many past victors have found it hard to reinvent themselves as the restaurateur of their dreams. Steven Wallis, winner in 2007, is among those yet to fulfil his ambition of running his own place, as is James Nathan, who won the following year, although Mat Follas, who won in 2009, has opened the Wild Garlic in Dorset.
As for the likes of Peter Bayless, MasterChef 2006, his attempts to lift the lid on what it was like taking part in the BBC's ultimate cooking challenge, in his book My Father Could Only Boil Cornflakes, was hardly the exposé it might have been after MasterChef morphed into so many different formats.
Not that that will dent the hype that will greet MasterChef 2011 when either Sara Danesin, Tim Anderson or Tom Whitaker lifts the trophy on Wednesday night. Offers of work experience and more will flood in and should be snapped up, according to last year's winner, Dhruv Baker. "There are going to be so many opportunities. I was gobsmacked by it," he said yesterday.
Andy Oliver, a runner-up two years ago, has words of comfort for disappointed contestants. After 18 months working at the former Michelin-starred Thai restaurant Nahm, he will spend this summer trying to build up a private catering business while teaching the odd cookery lesson. He said he "would have gone down the same route" regardless of whether he had made it on to the show, adding: "It just might have taken a bit longer."
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