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MasterChef star Aki’s love of cookery and science began at Henrietta Barnett School

PUBLISHED: 12:04 02 March 2012

Aki Matsushima preparing sushi. Picture: Polly Hancock

Aki Matsushima preparing sushi. Picture: Polly Hancock

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A finalist on this year’s MasterChef has revealed her gift for juggling cookery and science began as a student at Henrietta Barnett School.

Quantum physicist Aki Matsushima, who grew up in Hampstead Garden Suburb, left the BBC1 show last week after technical hitches smoking her chicken left chef Michel Roux Jr less than impressed with her complex Japanese dish.

But the 25-year-old, whose father runs Nakama Sushi Restaurant in Topsfield Parade, Crouch End, has been deluged with potential offers of work from ice cream makers after wowing judges with her own miso ice cream made with liquid nitrogen.

“It was an incredible learning experience, especially working inside a professional kitchen,” said Aki, who lives in Finchley “It was stressful but you learn a tremendous amount.”

She is a year-and-a-half away from completing her doctorate in quantum physics at Imperial College London and revealed she makes liquid nitrogen ice cream in the lab to celebrate birthdays.

But it was her expert touch with Japanese flavours and experimental food that made her stand out from the competition.

Aki left Japan for London at the age of eight and attended Henrietta Barnett School in Hampstead Garden Suburb before completing her degree at Cambridge University.

At Henrietta Barnett, which focuses on producing “independent women”, she took the academic route despite a love of cooking inherited from her parents and grandparents.

Her father remains her lifelong inspiration, but the highlight of her MasterChef experience was working with Italian chef Francesco Mazzei, who owns L’Anima restaurant in the City.

Having now left the series, Aki is keen to concentrate on authentic Japanese cuisine and is running her own cookery classes at her father’s restaurant.

“What I’ve learned is that my strength is in traditional Japanese cooking,” she said. “Whilst I’m very good at other styles, Italian for example, Japanese is where I excel and where I want to concentrate.

“I like to experiment and make substitutes for Japanese ingredients to make it feasible for people to make my recipes at home.”

To try Aki’s recipes or find out more about her classes go to www.aki cooks.co.uk

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