10 Minutes With: Steven Edwards, MasterChef: The Professionals 2013 winner

The Staff Canteen

Steven Edwards was crowned the champion of MasterChef: The Professionals 2013 on last night’s nail-biting finale.

The Staff canteen caught up with the 27-year-old head chef of The Camellia at South Lodge Hotel to ask about the highs and lows of one of professional cooking’s toughest challenges…

Note: At the end of 2016 Steven purchased his first restaurant in Brighton & Hove and opened the doors of his first restaurant 'etch' on Friday, March 24, 2017

What first inspired you to go on MasterChef: The Professionals?

My boss wanted me to do it. I was a bit apprehensive because I wasn’t sure if I was quite good enough; you always think of the worst case scenario like going out in the first round or being faced with a challenge you can’t do, but he persuaded me and big thanks to him because I think I did need that kick up the bum to go ahead and do it!

You had the chance to meet and cook for some amazing chefs; was there one who was a particular influence on you before you went on the show?

Ashley Palmer-Watts was one of my top chefs that I looked up to so to be given the opportunity to go to Dinner by Heston and spend two days with him and cook for him was just amazing.

How did you cope with the nerves and the pressure?

It sounds strange but I would say I was more nervous in the first week than I was from the semi-final onwards. After that it was easier for me to get into the zone and focus on what I was doing. Before that I was just worried about going out. The minimum expectation I’d put on myself was to get through the first week so once I’d done that it lifted the pressure.

Was there a moment when you thought you couldn’t cope and you weren’t going to make it?

I felt early on, especially with the feedback, that I was always going one ingredient too far; that made me think about the style of my cooking for the rest of the competition. Cooking for the journalists was the turning point where I started using just one or two flavours and really using technique to get the most out of each of them. I felt the worst moment overall was cooking for the critics, just because it was such a tight deadline; it was four plates of food and time just flew by. The lesson I learned there was to make sure you planned your dishes and had enough time because you just can’t do good food if you run out of time.

Was there anything that surprised you about cooking for TV?

What really got me was the amount of time it takes to do a show like that. For a one-hour episode – although we’d only be cooking for an hour – there was all that time in the green room, or filming shots where you walk around the corner, or little interviews – that really struck me just how big a show it is.

How difficult was balancing the show with your day job and personal life?

I timed it all wrong, but I don’t regret that now. My wife gave birth to a little baby boy just before the competition started and I was working five days a week and doing MasterChef on my two days off. I was lucky that work were really supportive and I managed to get that time back. At the time it felt very difficult but it all paid off and I think it was an important lesson about the more you put into something the more you get back; and also, is there a good time to do anything? You could talk your way out of doing a lot of things. I think you just need to do it and go along with the ride.

Was there a particular highlight for you apart from winning?

In terms of the experience, going to Italy and working with Massimo Bottura was something you don’t get to do every day; to be given that opportunity and to spend two days with someone so passionate and enthusiastic – that will stay with me forever.

When was the point in the competition where you realised you could actually go all the way?

I was just trying to keep my head down and not look ahead too much but once I got into the final three it really struck me; there’s no more eliminations; I’d made it to the end so the pressure had kind of lifted and I knew I just had to do my best. I was just focussing on my own cooking at that point and not on what the other guys were doing and just trying to cook the best food I could; that was how I wanted to leave the competition and if I’d come runner up knowing that I’d done my best, I would have been happy.

Who did you see as your biggest competitor?

My biggest competitor was Adam, no disrespect to Scott because he’s a fantastic chef; I say Adam because we had more of a journey together. We weren’t separated by the judges so I had that constant focus of trying to beat him.

Can you remember your exact emotions when you were announced as the winner and during that horrible pause before?

The pause seems to go on forever! You’re not really thinking about anything; you’re just trying to focus on what they’re saying. You’re just waiting for one word and just hoping that it’s your name. Then when they said “Steven” you’re just concentrating and thinking, did they actually just say that? It’s only when the two other chefs start walking off that it really hit home that I’d won.

What happens next? Everyone will be asking if you’re going to open your own restaurant…

Yes, like every chef that goes into the trade, you want your own restaurant and that’s now become more of a reality for me but for the time being I’m happy where I am at South Lodge Hotel and doing want I’m doing.  

Have you had any offers?

A few people have joked around and offered to buy me a restaurant! It would have to be a concrete offer but I’m not really looking around at the moment because I’m happy and just enjoying the ride.   Read our article on previous MasterChef: The Professionals winners here  

In these challenging times…

The Staff Canteen team are taking a different approach to keeping our website independent and delivering content free from commercial influence. Our Editorial team have a critical role to play in informing and supporting our audience in a balanced way. We would never put up a paywall and restrict access – The Staff Canteen is open to all and we want to keep bringing you the content you want; more from younger chefs, more on mental health, more tips and industry knowledge, more recipes and more videos. We need your support right now, more than ever, to keep The Staff Canteen active. Without your financial contributions this would not be possible.

Over the last 12 years, The Staff Canteen has built what has become the go-to platform for chefs and hospitality professionals. As members and visitors, your daily support has made The Staff Canteen what it is today. Our features and videos from the world’s biggest name chefs are something we are proud of. We have over 500,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels, each connecting with chefs across the world. Our editorial and social media team are creating and delivering engaging content every day, to support you and the whole sector - we want to do more for you.

A single coffee is more than £2, a beer is £4.50 and a large glass of wine can be £6 or more.

Support The Staff Canteen from as little as £1 today. Thank you.

The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 13th December 2013

10 Minutes With: Steven Edwards, MasterChef: The Professionals 2013 winner