Who is chef Matt Willdigg, MasterChef: The Professionals 2021 finalist?

The  Staff Canteen

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

Matt has his own foraging catering company called Foray Catering, offering private dining experiences as well as catering for weddings and events with his business partner and MasterChef: The Professionals 2018 finalist Oli Martin.

Having impressed the judges in the skills and signature rounds, he went onto cook for Jay Rayner, Tracy McCleod and Jimi Famurewa in the quarter-finals, and despite tough competition from his fellow contestants, Matt and Daniel Marreiros both secured a place in the semi-finals.

Then, after preparing a pop-up dish for the most well-versed street food chefs in the capital, Matt created a dish that spoke to his passion for foraging, winning over the judges and earning him a spot in finals week. The final episodes will air on BBC One on Tuesday 14th, Wednesday 15th and Thursday 16th December at 9pm.

Instagram: @chef_mattwilldigg

Biography

Region: Lytham St Annes, Lancashire.
Originally from Cannock

Age: 30

Profession: sous-chef

Personal: Twin sister 

Cooking background: I grew up in Cannock and while at Cannock Chase High School, I did work experience at a 2 AA-Rosette restaurant and realised that I loved cooking.

It spurred me on to learn the foundations of cooking at The Moat House Hotel in Acton Trussel, whilst doing a day a week at Stafford College. After this, I moved to London to work at the two-Michelin starred Hibiscus, under Claude Bosi, and Michelin-starred Murano under Angela Hartnett

Influences: At the very beginning of my cooking career I was heavily infuenced by molecular gastronomy. I would research all the time about new technologies and techniques and watch Harvard lectures on food science. I was totally captivated by the endless possibilities it opened up in cooking.

I then became more focused on wild flavours. Finding different flavours in foraged ingredients was another eureka moment for me. I love how cooking is constantly evolving and you never stop learning. The chefs who have most influenced me are Claude Bosi, Heston Blumenthal, Gordon Ramsay and Rene Redzepi

Food Passions: I have a real passion for foraging and discovering ancient forgotten plants and fungi (especially hunting for mushrooms). As far as cooking, I love it all - bread making to desserts!

I’m pretty happy doing anything involving food. During lockdown, I really got into Neapolitan style pizza and donut making, so hope to branch into those down the line.

On MasterChef: The Professionals: Being in lockdown gave me the motivation to apply for MasterChef. I wanted to push myself to see if I could do it. I suffer from a condition called cluster headaches, which are pretty severe and impair me from actually working when I have them.

This is the first year I have felt I can control these and thus able to apply. I’m so happy to have gotten through to the finals. You forget when you're in the competition how far you’ve come, your only focus is what’s ahead.

The most challenging thing for me so far has been balancing work and MasterChef. It’s been an intense few months and I used every spare minute to practise my dishes. It’s tough, but part of the competition!

Cooking ambitions: I’m currently setting up an events catering company, Foray Catering, with MasterChef: The Professionals finalist, Oli Martin, in the North West of England.

We’ve worked together for nearly five years after meeting in Australia, and we started this business because we wanted to use our shared love of food and take it in another direction. Lockdown gave us the realisation we wanted to do what we loved but have a life outside of the kitchen. We’re working hard to grow the company and cater for larger events. I also have plans to open a pizza shop in the future.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th December 2021

Who is chef Matt Willdigg, MasterChef: The Professionals 2021 finalist?