The moment when Marcus Waring, tells our Craig, 'there are some things in life you have to learn and there are some things that just come natural and I think cookery just comes natural to you - I really do'
Craig entered the competition with a blast – he smashed the first skills test and went on to produce his Cannon of Lamb dish, which received great praise from the judges and put him through to the quarter finals.
In the quarter finals, he really showed his ability to think on his feet when in the critical invention test he produced an awesome roast duck dish, from the ingredients and produce provided and within the tight timescale! Having earnt his place to cook for the critics he prepared a delicious John Dory dish, that received high praise - Jay Rayner, claimed that he’d like to steal Craig’s ideas :-). Craig’s goat cheese mousse with compressed apple, aerated white chocolate and a sweet sorrel velouté sealed his place in the Knock Out Week.
On the first day of Knock Out week Craig had a little wobble when his Gurnard and Raviolo dish didn’t make the grade. Therefore, he was one of the 4 chefs who had to compete for their place in a cook off. Under intense pressure Craig pulled it off with his delicious chocolate and caramel mousse which put him through to day 2 of the Knock Out.
Now one of the ten remaining chefs in the Knock Out, Craig single handedly produced the dessert for the fine-dining menu at a special event for the President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, who was hosting leading luminaries from the engineering profession. Spot on time, Craig’s passionfruit and lemon parfait with a crystallised white chocolate crumb went down a treat. In the next test the chefs cooked their own personal dish for the judges, and guess what? Craig’s pan-roasted chicken breast and braised thigh with a pine nut crust was named ‘Dish of the Day’ by Marcus Wareing, and Monica and Geoff loved it too. The outcome: Craig was now one of the remaining eight chefs going through to the semi-finals.
In the first phase of the semi-finals Craig blew the judges away with his Reinvented Flapjack dessert, pictured below – Yum! Inspired by baking with his Mum when he was a child. There were some really talented chefs competing for the title, which means the judges had some tough decisions to make. We’re happy to say that Craig made it through to the second phase of the semi-finals.
In the second phase Craig, along with Louisa and Tom went to the Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons, Raymond Blanc’s famous 2 star restaurant and hotel. The first task was to cook for Gary Jones, Executive Chef at Le Manoir. The dish was Gary’s lobster signature dish inspired by his time in the Caribbean. As Gary said himself, “there are many many ways you can mess a lobster up”, but once again Craig nailed it. Next Craig found himself on the team in Le Manoir kitchen, responsible for preparing an intricate pasta dish for 80 lunchtime diners. As Gary explained there was a lot of history attached to the dish and timing and precision was paramount! However, under extreme pressure, Craig completed the task brilliantly, resulting in happy diners and a very happy Gary Jones.
Back in the MasterChef kitchen each chef had to prepare a main and dessert. Craig cooked Pan-Roasted Aged Duck served with Caramelised Celeriac Puree and Duck Sauce. Marcus Wareing declared that he couldn’t have cooked it better himself – esteemed praise indeed. Craig's Citrus Custard with Rose Compressed Strawberries, Fennel Seed Biscuit and a Strawberry Syrup dessert, brought the house down and confirmed that Craig is a natural – a truly ‘natural chef’. Needless to say Craig went through to the finals!!!!
In the finals, Craig faced outstanding competition from the other finalists, Louisa Ellis, Steven Lickley and Jamie Park. Fighting to show the judges just how far he could push himself, Craig’s creativity, determination and cooking skills were tested to their limits.
The ultimate challenge of the entire competition for the final three chefs (Craig, Louisa and Steven; Jamie was knocked out on the second day of the final), was to create the best three-course meal of their lives for judges Marcus Wareing, Monica Galetti and Gregg Wallace, in three hours. Craig’s winning menu started with Torched Mackerel and Mackerel Tartare, with Salt-Baked Beetroot, Horseradish Milk Gel, Beetroot Pickled Onions, garnished with Beet leaves and a Sorrell and Dill Iced Granita. His main course was Roasted Squab Pigeon with Thyme-Infused Pomme Anna, a Ras El Hanout-Spiced Pigeon Leg Pastilla, Charred and roasted Thyme Onions with a Nasturtium Oil, Radicchio Leaves and a Red Pepper and Tomato Ketchup, finished with Pigeon Sauce. Craig’s final dessert was Sauterne and Yoghurt Mousse, Basil Marshmallow, Bergamot Curd and Olive Oil Crumble, topped with frozen Lemon Cells and Verbena Frozen Rocks.
During the tasting of his winning menu, Monica Galetti said of Craig’s dessert: “This speaks volumes about where you started and where you are now as a chef. You’ve always given us delicious, beautiful food, but it’s on another level now. Where are you going to be, five or ten years from now?”.
Marcus Wareing added: “That is just stunning. It’s just perfect. I am speechless.”
Gregg Wallace told him: “You’re a class act, Chef.”
Following the judges’ feedback, an emotional Craig said: “I so appreciate those comments. I’m in a state of shock. I entered the competition for a reason and you want to win. So to get those comments, I’m absolutely speechless. I gave it my all, that’s the best I can do. That’s me.”
During the judging process, Monica Galetti said of Craig: “When you’ve got such a solid chef, the next step is to improvise and take your cooking to the next level – and it’s that little something extra that makes you sit up and pay attention.”
Marcus Wareing said: “The minute Craig walked into this kitchen, he showed real skill, right from the word go. Today, he took his food to a completely new place. The star-dust – that bit you want to find in the Final – absolute genius.”
Gregg Wallace added: “For me, Craig ticks every box. His dishes are elegant, smart, but more than anything else, that man knows how to produce flavour.”
Craig’s reaction to the win: “Wow. To be the last man standing is unbelievable. I feel like I’m dreaming – it’s a dream come true. I’ve loved absolutely every minute of it. My parents will be very proud.”
Judge Marcus Wareing said: “You don’t come across cooks like this very often. We’ve just found a star of the future. What a fabulous talent. Twenty one years old, amazing.”
Judge Monica Galetti added: “Not only is he good in the savoury section, but he’s produced some out of this world desserts as well.”
Judge Gregg Wallace commented: “The best chefs in the world learn, and create their own style. And that is what I’ve watched Craig do in this competition – dish, after dish, after dish.”
Craig was crowned MasterChef : The Professionals Champion on 21st December 2017, making him the youngest chef to ever have won the competition. He was the out and out winner, so justly deserved, it really couldn’t happen to more genuine, determined and modest young man. “We are and always will be so very proud of you Craig”, Nick and all the team at The Royal Oak.
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Skills Test & Signature Dish
Quarter Finals - Invention Test & Cooking for the Critics