Craig Johnston is the winner of MasterChef: The Professionals 2017

The Staff Canteen

Craig Johnston is the youngest winner of MasterChef: The Professionals and he can finally talk to The Staff Canteen about his victory.

Craig Johnston
Craig Johnston

“It’s gone crazy!” said Craig. “The whole way through the competition I never thought about winning so when it came around to it, it shocked me. Steven (Lickley) and Louisa (Ellis) both said they had to catch me when it was announced as they thought I was going to faint.”

Craig, who beat fellow finalists Louisa Ellis, senior chef de partie, The Wilderness and Steven Lickley, sous chef for Vacherin London plus 45 other professional chefs in the tenth series of the show, has kept his winning secret since the beginning of August. The sous chef at Michelin-starred The Royal Oak in Maidenhead can finally celebrate with his team who ‘weren’t expecting it’.

“They were as surprised as everyone else,” explained Craig. “They’ve all been very supportive and they’re all really chuffed.”

He added: “The food we do at The Royal Oak is very flavoursome, something Gregg (Wallace) mentioned about my dishes in the final so working there definitely had an influence on how I cooked in the competition.”

After school, Craig trained at a two-AA Rosette restaurant in Maidenhead - Boulters, under chef Daniel Woodhouse and whilst working there achieved NVQ Levels 2 and 3 in Professional Cookery from Henley College. He also did a few months at Pollen Street Social.

Craig's MasterChef: The Proffesionals highs:

The trip to France was amazing, the restaurant is absolutely stunning and to work with Mauro Colagreco in one of the world’s best restaurants – that was an amazing high.

Le Manoir was incredible, that kitchen is fast passed and a machine of an operation so to be a part of it was incredible.

And lows:
It has to be the final 12 cook-off in knock out week. I hit a real low and I rushed into a decision that day about what I was going to cook.

It wasn’t my best plate of food but I had to come back fighting and that gave me the kick up the backside I needed for the rest of the competition.

He’s been cooking for six years and Craig is excited to see what doors will open now he has joined the elite MasterChef champion list which includes, Derek Johnstone; Steve Groves; Claire Lara; Ash Mair, joint winners Keri Moss and Anton Piotrowski; Steven Edwards; Jamie Scott; Mark Stinchcombe and last year’s winner, Gary MacLean.

gregg quote

“Winning is down to all the hard work I’ve put in not just for MasterChef but my whole career,” said Craig. “I’ve worked really hard to learn as much as I can and I’ve had some great head chefs who have taught me a great deal which I’m always thankful for.

“I’m excited to see what opportunities come and what doors open, for me personally the competition has been a real journey. You learn more about yourself as a chef and it’s been interesting for me to challenge myself dish by dish and round by round.”

He added: “For someone who wants to push themselves in their career I’d say do it, 100%, you wouldn’t regret it.”

His challenges through the competition included: creating and delivering a Michelin-standard dish for 23 gastronomical giants from around the world with the others in the Final Four; and, as part of the Final Three, travelling to the South of France to learn in the supremely innovative two-Michelin starred kitchens of the fourth best restaurant in the world - Mirazur - from inspirational Argentinian chef Mauro Colegreco.

He said: “The Chef’s Table was amazing, I got fantastic feedback and I put a lot of work into that dish. I wanted to show off to the chefs and show what I can do.”

He added: “I had a couple of tweets from chefs who were there, Tommy Banks said it was a cracking dessert and I got one from Paul Ainsworth. Just to get recognition and feedback from chefs of that calibre is truly amazing."

Judged by two Michelin-starred chef Marcus Wareing, renowned chef Monica Galetti and MasterChef’s seasoned judge, Gregg Wallace. Craig received outstanding praise from all three, he says to start with he was petrified to be in a room with them but by the end they were very friendly and genuinely interested to see what he would cook next.

Marcus 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.”

Monica added: “Not only is he good in the savoury section, but he’s produced some out of this world desserts as well.”

On his relationship with fellow finalists Steven and Louisa he said: “All three of us are really good friends, you spend so much time with each other throughout the competition. They are both so determined and really great chefs.”

Craig is clearly one to watch and as Marcus said ‘a star of the future.’


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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 22nd December 2017

Craig Johnston is the winner of MasterChef: The Professionals 2017