Credit controller and part time DJ Natalie Coleman has become the third woman to win MasterChef after beating Welshmen Larkin Cen and Dale Williams in the final.
Natalie is only the third woman to win the series, following 2005 winner Thomasina Miers and Shelina Permalloo who took home the title last year.
Although professional cooking can be a man’s world, self-professed “proper cockney” Coleman was not deterred. “I can deal with the boy banter, I’m quite a tomboy anyway,” she says.
“There are quite a lot of strong female chefs to look up to like Clare Smyth and Angela Hartnett. It’s whether you’re willing to make a sacrifice as a woman. I get on really well with guys, I feel comfortable around them” she added.
Natalie says her ambition now is to get a job working in a professional kitchen. She has quit her “nine-to-five Dolly Parton” job in finance to follow her dream and hopes that her MasterChef win will attract some offers.
The 29-year-old impressed judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace with her lobster tail starter accompanied with fennel; a main of roast pork belly with quail’s scotch egg, pomme puree and caramelised shallots; and a vanilla panna cotta accompanied by a chocolate tuile, caramelised pears and a trio of hazelnut biscuits.
The inspiration for her main course, she says, came from a traditional British roast. “I don’t think anyone’s cooked a ponce-d up British roast dinner on a MasterChef final before! But it’s the most British dish you can cook apart from fish and chips. I thought: go for it.”
Natalie has won fans throughout the series with her down-to-earth personality and cockney accent, although the latter has attracted a few negative comments. “I know some people say I sound like a reject off of EastEnders, but do you know what, I don’t actually care.
“I wasn’t on MasterMind, I was on MasterChef. Like I said on the show, it’s a good job they’re judging cooking and not speaking because I wouldn’t have got very far.”
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Judges John and Gregg have said judging this year’s competition has been the toughest so far, and Natalie admits she was intimidated by her fellow finalists Larkin and Dale.
“Larkin is like a mad Chinese Heston and when he’s on form he’s dangerous. I first met him when he cooked his paella dish [with citrus foam and guinea fowl]. I was sort of shaking, thinking there’s no way in hell I was going to beat him.
“I met Dale on the same day and his food wouldn’t look out of place in a fine dining restaurant,” she says.
But Natalie remains humble despite her win. Her main ambition is to work in a kitchen, not to open her own restaurant. “People walk out of this competition thinking they can open a restaurant straight away, it’s illusions. You can’t just come out of this and do that. You’ve got to learn and work hard before you can.”
Natalie will be appearing at the BBC Good Food Show Summer which takes place at the NEC, Birmingham in June; the book MasterChef: The Finalists is due out in October 2013.
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