MasterChef: The Professionals winners - where are they now?

The Staff Canteen

MasterChef: The Professionals has blessed our screens for the past twelve years. While you await the next series featuring chefs Marcus Wareing, Monica Galetti and presenter gregg wallace, catch-up with the previous winners and what they're up to now.


MasterChef: The Professionals first came to our screens in August 2008 as we saw the country's top chefs competing for the chance to prove themselves and gain public notoriety.  Exposure for the winners is massive, but is it just a flash in the pan, or do their careers feel a long-term benefit? The Staff Canteen caught up with some past champions to find out.

Derek Johnstone 2019
Derek Johnstone, MasterChef: The Professionals
winner 2008

Derek Johnstone

The very first winner of the show Derek Johnstone was a junior sous chef in Scotland when his head chef convinced him to enter in 2008.

Speaking about how he felt when he won he said: “I was delighted to be the first MasterChef: The Professionals winner. It all happened so quickly that it took a while to sink in.” 

After more than a decade since taking the MasterChef: the Professionals crown, it’s no surprise Derek has been up to a lot.

When the show aired Derek met renowned chef Michel Roux Jr. in London along with one of the directors of MasterChef. They expressed their high hopes for him to work in one of the best restaurants in the country and it was not long until he bagged a job working with Michel.

“I ended up working for both Michel and his father Albert for six years,” he said. “During my time with the Roux family, I was sent on stages to gain knowledge and experience around Europe in 1, 2 and 3 Michelin star restaurants.”  

However, winning MasterChef: The Professionals didn’t just impact his career, it also helped Derek find love as he met his fiancé in London while working at Le Gavroche. He then decided to return home to Scotland in 2010 to take a head chef role at Chez Roux at Greywalls Hotel. 

Then, in 2014, Derek became the chef proprietor for The Golf Inn, Gullane, until it closed in 2018. The restaurant was taken over by Tom Kitchin and now goes by the name The Bonnie Badger.

In 2017 Derek was appiointed head chef at Bothwick Castle in Gorebridge, and in 2021 he was named executive chef at Rusacks St Andrews, where he oversees the F&B offering across three concepts: 18, The Bridge and One Under Bar.

Derek came third in the Craft Guild of Chefs' National Chef of the year 2019 competition, and was a runner up in the 2020 awards.

Steve Groves

The second series of Masterchef: The professionals in 2009 snagged a BAFTA award, fending off competition from Heston Blumenthal’s ‘Heston’s feasts’ TV series.

After winning Steve stayed at then Michelin-starred Launceston Palace in South Kensington before leaving to commit himself to six months of stages in various restaurants including Noma, The Ledbury and finally Le Gavroche, where he snagged a permanent role.

Series winner Steve Groves was the head chef at Roux at Parliament Square from 2013 until it closed in December 2020, the same year he took The Craft Guild of Chefs' title of National Chef of the Year, as well as appearing on the BBC's televised cooking competition, Great British Menu. In April 2021, he took on the role of executive chef at Sussex opera house, the Glyndebourne.

Steve Groves Michel Roux Jr 2019
Steve Groves,
MasterChef: The Professionals
winner 2009 with chef Michel Roux Jr

In an interview with The Staff Canteen, Steve that his main goal when entering the Masterchef: The Professionals competition had been to land a job with Michel Roux Jr.

He said: “For me the whole thing about getting on Masterchef: The Professionals was to get in contact with chef Michel. It was always in the back of my mind that I would come and work for him. Initially I thought that would be in Le Gavroche but obviously the opportunity presented itself to work [at Roux at Parliament Square], I thought it was a really good opportunity.” 

Asked what advice he’d give to other hopeful contestants, he said: “Cook things you know, that you’ve tried plenty of times. There are times in the competition that you really need to push the boat out to set yourself apart from others and there are times when you just need to kind of stick to what you know."

"Once it gets towards the end you need to set yourself apart and that’s when it comes time to start taking a few risks.” 

Steve believes MasterChef: The Professionals accelerated what was an already upwardly bound career path.

“It gives you contacts and opportunities,” he said, “but it’s up to you as an individual to make the most out of it. You have to grab the bull by the horns. I think I would have achieved what I wanted to achieve in the industry without it but it definitely helped and getting noticed by chef Michel presented its own opportunities.”

Claire Lara

The Merseyside-born 2010 winner, the first woman to win the competition, Claire Lara, was at a different stage in her career when she entered MasterChef: The Professionals. Teaching catering part-time at Liverpool Community College, Claire felt that she needed new challenges and a boost to her confidence.

Claire Lara 2019
MasterChef: The Professionals 2010 winner,
Claire Lara

Winning MasterChef allowed her to get out of the classroom and back into the kitchen, moving back to become head chef and partner in The RiverHill Hotel and Restaurant where she served her YTS apprenticeship years before.

The chef then worked at Llanrhaeadr Springs in Denbigh, Wales  until it closed in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. She now works as as a development chef alongside her husband at Doubletree by Hilton Hotel restaurant, Koukash, in Liverpool. 

Becoming MasterChef: The Professionals champion wasn’t the only surprise, after trying for a baby for seven years Claire discovered that she had been pregnant whilst competing.

She said: “I didn’t know I was pregnant on the show. Afterwards, I was still feeling sick and there was no Michel Roux Jr. in sight!

"Like some of the lads from the competition, we were feeling sick and nauseous because you’re cooking for some of the best chefs in the country. It turned out that I was three months pregnant,” she stopped to laugh before continuing.

“I was actually doing MasterChef: The Professionals live on the Saturday and gave birth on the Sunday. When I look back I just think, 'what an idiot' - they don’t call it labour for nothing."

Claire's most exciting venture since winning MasterChef has been cooking for Queen Elizabeth, which she calls "one of the pinacles" of her career.

"I was asked to pick my own team, then come up with 3 menus and she just picked her favourite,” she said. 

The Queen picked a pressed foie gras terrine, turbot and Claire’s MasterChef: The Professionals winning white chocolate mousse. 

“We had some really brilliant feedback. She doesn’t eat much, she’s a really small lady and apparently, it was the first time she finished a 3-course meal in a long time so that was amazing.”  

Anton Piotrowski and Keri Moss

2012 saw joint winners for the first time in the franchise’s history with Anton Piotrowski and Keri Moss both coming out on top. Sharing the crown didn’t dilute the attention and knock-on benefits to Anton though, who went back to running a suddenly much busier kitchen in the pub where he was the executive chef, The Treby Arms in Devon.

He said: “As soon as it was over, the phone didn’t stop. We were getting 100 – 120 bookings a 

anton piotorowski 2019
Anton Piotrowski,
MasterChef: The Professionals

day every day and it hasn’t stopped. We’re already booked up until the middle of the year.”

The head chef told The Staff Canteen that the benefits for younger professionals competing on the show go beyond just having a full restaurant.

“It’s all about the contacts you make,” he said. “If I want to go and work for the Roca brothers I can do that or if I want to go and work for Tom Keller again I can do that. If I was 21 or 22 I’d be out doing that now.”

The chef took a risk when he entered the MasterChef competition, as he had only bought his business six weeks prior.

"It could’ve ruined my business as well at the same time," he laughed.  

Prior to entering MasterChef: The Professionals, Anton tried his hand at the Roux Scholarship, but was rejected after finding out he was just over the age limit.

He then received a private message from the competition hosts with a suggestion that he try and enter the MasterChef: The Professionals competition instead.  

While at The Treby Arms, Anton received a Michelin star“I’m the only contestant to achieve a Michelin star, that’s my claim to fame,” he joked in an interview. 

Anton said  that the MasterChef win had a positive effect on his life, “because MasterChef is such a big programme, it’s watched by quite a lot of people and it’s a platform so people notice you. Unless you get your star by yourself obviously you’d get noticed for that but MasterChef has helped massively.” 

In the summer of 2017,  Anton set up a crowdfunding site to finance his new restaurant, Röski. Despite not raising as much as he'd hoped, the chef opened the Liverpool venue in December 2017, taking more than 1000 bookings in 24 hours.

It has been praised by famous food critic Jay Rayner -  who said the food at Röski was "serious, bourgeois cooking, with no interest in the restrained" - and received several mentions in the BBC Good Food Guide. 

As well as continuing with his award-winning restaurant, in the wake of the pandemic, the chef now offers his services for private dining.

Ash Mair

Before entering MasterChef: The Professionals, series 4 winner Ash Mair was working for a catering firm by day and studying web programming at night.

He was becoming disillusioned with the chef trade until he competed in the 2011 competition, reigniting his passion for the industry.

I was actually in the middle of a crisis, having uncertainty if I wanted to stay in the industry or not," he said. "After participating in MasterChef though, I was thinking to myself, 'what am I doing? I love food, I love cooking, and I love the industry as a whole.'"   

Ash was selected for the show at the very last minute after another contestant dropped out. As he had had far less preparation than his competitors, he didn’t think he would get very far into it.  

I went in to the competition pretty open minded in the fact that I might not be there for long," he said, "but after getting through to the quarter finals I started to really push myself a lot more.” 

Ash Mair, MasterChef: The Professionals winner 2011
Ash Mair, MasterChef: The
Professionals winner 2011

Since the win Ash said that he was flooded with offers to take part in various projects.

“The day after the final went out, my email went nuts. I was getting some hundred emails a day, from people congratulating me to different offers and I actually had to say no to most of them - except the book one -  so I could just concentrate on getting that out.”

He went back to Australia to have some down time with his family and wrote his book, entitled 'My Basque Cuisine' before having a short stint helping Spanish Group Bilbao Berria open a restaurant in Lower Regent Street.

Since then, Ash has been working mainly as a development chef and consultant to restaurants and manufacturers, working with companies such as Cucina Catering and Scratch meals.

He has also spent a lot of time doing food development for restaurant Chick'n'Sours, which now has three London locations in in Haggerston, Seven Dials and Islington, as well as the company's offshoot restaurant, Chick'n, located on Baker Street and in Soho.

“Since winning MasterChef it hasn’t really stopped,” he said, “but I’m just glad to be kept busy.”

Steven Edwards

While taking part in the show, 2013 winner Steven Edwards was the head chef at The Camellia Restaurant in the South Lodge Hotel, a role he returned to after winning the programme.

“I stayed with my current employers because I worked at South Lodge for six years leading up to the show and I worked there for almost a year after the show to show gratitude for all the help they had given me.” 

Steven Edwards 2019
Steven Edwards,
MasterChef: The Professionals
winner 2013

Winning the competition ultimately gave Steven the courage to venture out on his own. “It definitely gave me the confidence and self-belief to want to chase my dream of setting up my own restaurant," he explained.


Though he wound up winning the show, Steven almost didn’t even take part, he explained: “It was only my boss Lewis at South Lodge who had the belief in me. I would say he almost made me enter!"


After leaving The Camellia Restaurant in South Lodge, Steven spent a year and half doing pop-ups around the country, honing and craft his culinary identity.


Steven opened The Etch in Hove, Brighton in the spring of 2017, a casual fine dining offering a seasonal tasting menus.


In 2021, he decided to refurbish and expand the restaurant by purchasing a second property next door.


After a delayed opening of the new much larger renovated restaurant, he returned full force for the 2021 festive season. 

Steven also took the opportunity to change his offering to focus more on sustainability, with changing menus every week to avoid overusing ingredients and make use of local produce at its peak.

In 2020, Steven doubled his portfolio by taking over the Bingham Riverhouse in Richmond.


Reflecting on winning the sixth series of MasterChef: The Professionals, Steven said: “The journey since MasterChef has been incredible but it has also had its ups and downs," especially in his quest to find a location for, then run a restaurant.


"I was quite well supported whilst working in the hotel and it’s quite a difficult to succeed out there in the real world.”


Jamie Scott, MasterChef: The Professionals winner 2014
Jamie Scott,
MasterChef: The Professionals winner 2014

Jamie Scott

As Steven did, 2014 winner Jamie Scott also returned to the restaurant that supported him whilst he battled it out on the show.


The chef stayed at the three AA rosette restaurant, Rocca Bar & Grill in St Andrews, for a further six months before leaving to pursue his own endeavours. 


He ran eight pop-up restaurants in six months before opening his restaurant, The Newport, in 2016.


The restaurant with rooms has earned multiple awards, including 2 AA Rosettes, a mention in the Michelin Guide and the AA Restaurant of the Year award 2018-2019.


Prior to the pandemic the chef opened a sister bakery to the restaurant called The Newport Bakery, which was a great asset to the local community during lockdown, making 500 deliveries a week. This led to the launch of a production facility to meet retail demand.


The chef also owns two branches of The Daily Grind Coffee shop, one in Arbroath and one in Dundee. 


In October 2021, Jamie added to his Scottish portfolio with a new Doughnut shop, Wrecking Ball Doughnuts, in Dundee.

Jamie has adapted his business model to meet the desire for different work patterns within the industry, giving returning chefs roles in the coffee shops, or doing prep should they wish to "keep cooking lovely food," or deliveries and even administrative work, with the belief that this is the way forward for the industry.


"It's more attractive for people who might want to have a bit more of a family life but still want to cook lovely food," he said. 


At the time of winning the competition, the chef said that the boost in publicity offered by MasterChef is what gave him the confidence to spread his wings and go his own way.


"Your friends and family all tell you you’re good at your job but they’re never going to say your bad, so to have that peer recognition is a massive confidence builder,” he said.


Mark Stinchcombe, MasterChef: The Professionals winner 2015
Mark Stinchcombe, 
MasterChef: The Professionals
winner 2015

Mark Stinchcombe


After winning MasterChef: The Professionals 2015,  Mark Stinchcombe remained in his role as head chef at Eckington Manor in Worcestershire for three years, living and working with his wife and co-head chef, Sue, until 2019 when they both moved to Gloucestershire and took over the food offering at The Severn & Wye Smokery alongside culinary director Greg Nicholson.



Prior to Eckington Manor, both Mark and Sue worked for some of the most talented chefs in the UK.


Namely, Mark worked at Michelin-starred Lucknam Park, Ston Easton Park in Somerset and Driftwood in Cornwall, and completed stages at The Fat Duck and Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.


Sue worked at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London and staged at the French Laundry with Thomas Keller in California.


Prior to appearing on the show, Mark had toyed with the idea of taking part and was encouraged to enter by his friends and family. After seeing a link to the application through Facebook, he couldn’t pass on the opportunity.


Upon his victory, he said: “I can’t believe it. I’m massively proud of what I’ve achieved; it’s been such a long journey. It’s been phenomenal.


“My ambition is to run a highly-acclaimed restaurant in Britain, and to one day have a Michelin star, but I think the most important thing is to have happy customers, and to be happy in the way I cook.”

Gary Maclean

The 2016 MasterChef: The Professionals Glaswegian victor Gary Maclean was a senior chef lecturer at the City of Glasgow College when he took part in the competition. 

Prior to this, he owned and operated his own restaurant, headed up the kitchen at Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art and the Burrell Collection; he worked at Ferrier Richardson’s Yes restaurant in Glasgow as head chef, as well as at October in Princes Square. 

In 2021, Gary opened Creel Caught, a seafood restaurant located at The Bonnie and Clyde marketplace in Edinburgh St James'.

Gary Maclean, MasterChef: The Professionals winner 2016
Gary Maclean, 
MasterChef: The Professionals winner 2016

Speaking about winning the competition, Gary said: "It still doesn't feel real. It's just been an absolute whirlwind and since winning in December I haven't really had the chance to stop and think about it."

Winning the show hasn't come without its perks.

Gary said he has turned down numerous job offers all over the country and has appeared on breakfast TV in Asia and held guest spots at a number of restaurants throughout Scotland, something that couldn't have happened without the success that has come with winning the popular competition.

"It's taken my career to a degree that's really quite surreal", Gary explained. "I was at ScotHot for The Staff Canteen Live and after I got off the stage I was there for two hours taking selfies with members of the audience! I'm even getting recognised in the street and taxi drivers are stopping on main roads. It's really taken me by surprise."

Craig Johnston

Craig Johnston 2019
Craig Johnston,
MasterChef: The Professionals
winner 2017

2017 winner Craig Johnston is now sous-chef at The Berkeley -  MasterChef: The Professionals judge Marcus Wareing's Michelin-starred restaurant.

During the show, Craig cooked for - and left an impression on - some of the world’s best chefs including Mauro Colagreco, chef patron of two Michelin-starred Mirazur.

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.”

After the show, Craig was approached by Marcus to come and work at his restaurant at The Berkeley.

Craig then spent the day working alongside Mark and Shauna Froydenlund, joint chef patrons of The Berkeley and decided that it was the right place for him.

At the time, he said:  “It’s a pretty exciting time for me at the moment. I’m looking forward to what’s about to come. I’ve got a great opportunity from someone that knows my abilities, who’s got a great reputation in the industry and I think it’s a good move for me to take that next step up, to a two-star restaurant like Marcus.”

He added: “It’s another level from what I’ve done before so I’m looking forward to learning more - a different style, different techniques. That’s my key goal for these next couple of years, to learn as much as I can.”

From senior chef de partie, Craig has risen to the position of sous chef at the restaurant. 

Laurence Henry
MasterChef: The Professionals
2018 winner
Laurence Henry

Laurence Henry

Even before he took part in the competition, MasterChef: The Professionals 2018 winner Laurence Henry was working in one of the country's best restaurants for chef Sat Bains at his eponymous two Michelin-starred site in Nottingham.

Prior to working for Sat, Laurence was a sous-chef at Jason Atherton's Pollen Street Social before taking on the position of head chef at The Woodstock Bar & Grill in Mayfair.

Describing the boost to his career that taking part in the competition gave him, he said: “I tell everyone, It’s a bit like a game of snakes and ladders; MasterChef is like when you land on a ladder and you go up to the next level. You’ve still got quite a long way to go, but it’s a great little boost.

"The whole thing, the progress from start to finish upped my confidence massively. It gets you to do lots of different things you wouldn’t get to do normally, like designing your own dishes, which you don’t often get to do in the restaurant.”

As a MasterChef: The Professionals champion, Laurence said he received an outpouring of offers from potential investors, and is currently planning the launch of his own restaurant in his hometown of Nottingham. 

"It’s a bit overwhelming sometimes, when you’re getting all these offers, you don’t know what to do with it all. It’s quite difficult as well as amazing," he said.

Originally planned for April 2020, the launch was delayed due to the pandemic. In the meanwhile, Laurence joined forces with award-winning Nottingham butcher Johnny Pusztai and launched a gourmet burger delivery service, Snobby Burger.

When it finally does open, the chef said his restaurant will offer a tasting menu of modern British dishes, highlighting the best ingredients available in the region.

His advice to the chefs considering taking part in the competition?

"It's a great opportunity regardless of how far you get. My only advice would be make sure you are ready for it, to get the best out of it you should be at a stage in your career where you feel you can get far.” 

Stu Deeley upon receiving the news
that he'd won MasterChef: The Professionals 2019

Stu Deeley 

Chef Stu Deeley, formerly head chef at Alex Claridge's Birmingham restaurant, The Wilderness, decided to spread his wings and fly after winning the competition.

His plans to open his own restaurant were compromised by the pandemic and in April 2021 the chef took on a role as a development chef at Hampton Manor.

In August 2021. he became head chef of Smoke at The Manor, where guests are invited to try his dishes of seasonal ingredients cooked over coals in the venue's old furnace house.

In an interview with TSC shortly after winning MasterChef, Stu explained that for him, taking part had been a matter of overcoming his fears and being a good role model to his son. 

“I'm a person who sometimes lacks self-belief and I don’t like to push myself into the limelight, " he said. "That's why I chose to enter the competition; to show my little boy that if you want something, you have to face your fears and go and get it." 

As for what the biggest challenge was for him in the competition, he said, like many others before him, he was stumped by the skills test.

"I just stopped thinking like a chef," he laughed. "My mind shut off and I just made a few silly mistakes."

Ever the humble chef, Stu never expected to win the competition. He said: “Getting to the final is not something I ever believed I could do. It was just an amazing feeling to keep passing each round and beating my own expectations.”

“I’ve always struggled with self-belief, I even struggled to believe I was good enough for the head chef role at The Wilderness. I struggle with knowing if I’m going in the right direction, so winning gave me the confidence of knowing I am doing a good job."

Stu believes that for chefs to be on TV "is great for the industry." 

He added: "I think people like to see what happens behind the scenes because not every kitchen is open. MasterChef is a great platform which recognises young talent and helps them make a break for themselves."

Alex Webb

2020 Champion Alex won the competition in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, taking the lead over fellow finalists Bart van der Lee, Santosh Shah and Philli Armitage-Mattin

Since then, he has left his role as head chef at Square One Restaurant and his private chef services have been in high demand, as have his Dine at Home boxes developped in collaboration with Sauce Supper Club.

News of his next venture awaits, but the chef has promised that something "highly exciting" is in the pipeline. 

Alex and his fellow MasterChef: The Professionals 2020 finalists took part in a live cook-off for the Foodies Festival in London in August 2021, as well a Nomadic Dinners pop-up experience.

On his MasterChef: The Professionals experience, Alex said: “I decided to enter MasterChef because I wanted to see how far I could go; winning is something I will always be very proud of. I really wanted it and all the blood sweat and tears, and sleepless nights have paid off.”

Speaking about his next steps, Alex said: “I want to enjoy the moment and make the most of all the opportunities which may be out there. I have lots of ideas for a book and I really enjoyed the experience of being in front of the camera so would like to look into any chances there may be to do more of this."

"Hopefully one day, I will be able to achieve my big dream of owning my own restaurant.”

All of the previous winners speak of the importance of having some experience or training and also of having the right attitude to what you’re doing. Arrogance, it seems, won’t cut the mustard.

They all have very positive stories about their MasterChef experiences, but also offer strong advice on some of the pitfalls facing aspiring chefs thinking of going on the show.

As Steve Groves said: “Those people who go on there thinking they’ll become a celebrity chef overnight generally come unstuck because unless your motivation is to impress chef Michel and have the right attitude, you’re not going to go that far because he picks up quite quickly who are the right kind of people.”

A humble attitude, a desire to learn and a couple of years’ experience of the industry combined with a certain amount of talent are the ingredients, it seems, that go into making a MasterChef: The Professionals winner.

Other than that, it’s all in the hands of the judges – and the gods who decide whether soufflés rise or mousses set.

Dan Lee

Dan is the 15th chef to be awarded the prestigious MasterChef: The Professionals title and takes his place in MasterChef history alongside other exceptional winners

Born in Birmingham, and as well as being a ‘proud Brummie’, Dan is from Chinese, Irish and English heritage and has strong associations with food from both sides of his family.

In a punishing Final Week, Dan was up against outstanding chefs and he had to use every ounce of technique, inspiration and tenacity to better his competitors in rounds of increasing difficulty and pressure.

Currently Dan works as a private chef in his hometown of Birmingham as well as running a significant social media following where he posts tutorials and videos of his dishes.

Once plagued by the question of how he defines his food style, his answer became "I cook food I like to eat," drawing on his Cantonese background, as well as flavours and techniques from his travels across Asia.

"It was a big thing, trying to shake off the fear of being judged for what I like to eat," he said.

"That built my confidence, to go through it that way." 


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MasterChef: The Professionals winners - where are they now?