Who is chef Daniel Lee, MasterChef: The Professionals 2021 finalist?

The  Staff Canteen

Introducing Dan Lee, one of 32 chefs taking part in MasterChef: The Professionals 2021, airing on BBC One every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 9pm.

Dan is a 29-year-old private chef from Birmingham who used to cook at Michelin-starred celebrity restaurant Table65, Singapore, but now works alone as a private chef.

The chef impressed judges Marcus WareingMonica Galetti and Gregg Wallace in both his skills test and with his signature dish, allowing him to progress to the quarter-finals.

There, he presented two dishes to three food critics, securing a spot in the semi-finals.

Finally, with his pop-up dish inspired by his travels, followed by another signature round based on the theme of memory, Dan made it through to finals week.

Skillfull cooking in the first round saw him through to the Chefs' Table, where his food was tasted by prominent names in the industry including Matt Abé, Daniel Clifford, Lisa Goodwin-Allen, Nieves Barragán, Glynn Purnell, Michael Caines and Aktar Islam.

In the next step of the finals, airing on Wednesday 15th December 2021 on BBC One at 9pm, he will join the three remaining finalists in the MasterChef kitchen for two final challenges before one is eliminated and the others go on to cook at Alain Ducassse at The Dorchester under executive chef Jean-Phillippe Blondet at the three Michelin-starred restaurant.

Instagram: @daniel.jb.lee

Biography

Region: Birmingham

Personal: Three sisters

Cooking Background: I grew up in Birmingham and went to Hall Green Secondary School. I then got my Diploma in Cookery at University College Birmingham.

Fancy food and Michelin stars were not something I had growing up but some of my favourite memories are Sundays at my grandad’s takeaway with the family eating traditional Cantonese dishes, with my chef auntie, forcing me to try intestines and fish eyeballs – it was always a lot of fun.

On my mother’s side, we had my Irish nan and English grandad, whose stew was so opposite to Chinese cuisine, but made me feel at home. His bacon sandwiches - where he dipped the bread in bacon fat - were unbelievable. 

Influences: It all started with my auntie growing up, of course. Then a lot of Asian chefs based in the UK like Andrew Wong, Jeremy Chan, Jun Tanaka, Ching He Huang are so inspiring.

Kray Treadwell and Gareth Ward are two others who I follow closely. Most people I’ve met through work have influenced me and have given me an opportunity to grow – from the kitchen manager in my first job at a Carvery or Prin Polsuk at the world’s best Thai restaurant. I love being able to learn.

Food passions: I have spent the last 10 years mainly travelling around the world, learning about different cuisines and cultures. Food for me is a universal language - everyone can bond over food.

Different cultures have their appraoches, techniques and ingredients and that’s where my passion for food lies. Regardless of what else is going on, few things beat sitting down for a meal and sharing that experience with other people.

On MasterChef: The Professionals: One of my best friends has been pushing for me to enter for a few years, but I was always busy or out of the country. Then COVID hit, I had to then stay in the UK for the foreseeable so she finally managed to convince me to apply! My most challenging moment in the competition has been the dish I dedicated to my Auntie, where I served undercooked chicken. I felt like I let my Auntie and myself down. But I managed to pick myself up and that moment made me much stronger. I feel over the moon and so proud to have reached this point. I love what I do, but sometimes struggle to completely back myself and have full confidence in my food, so to get here is mind-blowing. 

Cooking ambitions: I’m working as a private chef for different clients, doing pop-ups and residencies at restaurants. My aim is to set up a street food truck as well as a restaurant. I want to promote Asian food, encourage people out of their comfort zones but also take street food back to its essence – really good food that’s affordable for everyone. Right now, I’m eagerly waiting to get back on a plane to a different country and learn something completely new!

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 15th December 2021

Who is chef Daniel Lee, MasterChef: The Professionals 2021 finalist?