East Finchley MasterChef finalist Emma reveals her cooking ‘cardinal sin’

Emma will be in the MasterChef final tonight

Emma will be in the MasterChef final tonight - Credit: Archant

This year’s BBC hit show MasterChef has seen a mother-of-four from East Finchley beat other amateur chefs from across the country to reach the finals.

After six gruelling weeks, contestant Emma Spitzer is tonight one of three finalists left fighting to be crowned the 2015 MasterChef champion.

Married with four young daughters, the 40-year-old was working as a luxury travel executive before entering the cookery competition.

She gives her take on the last six weeks...

What is your cooking background?

“I’ve been cooking for about 25 years - I started young! But cooking doesn’t run in the family.

“My mum always cooked really nice meals but she wasn’t passionate about cooking. I never met my maternal grandmother but I’m told she was an amazing cook, so I guess it skipped a generation! I was the only one growing up with any interest in it so my mum used to indulge me and let me cook for her friends.

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“I wasn’t a very well behaved child in school and Home Economics was one of the only lessons I never skipped. I really looked forward to it and would even say I was teachers pet. I loved taking in a bag of ingredients and coming out with a dish of something; it was very satisfying.”

Why did you enter MasterChef?

“I entered the competition to know if I was any good. MasterChef offers such an amazing platform to launch yourself off. It’s refreshing (but terrifying) that the judges are so brutally honest; unlike friends and family who are usually nice to me when I feed them.

“I didn’t realise how much the competition meant until the night before we had to cook for a place in the Semi-finals. I was in floods of tears telling my husband that this was make or break for me. I knew that if I could reach the Semi’s, it could potentially be life changing. I was very emotional during and after the cook, so hearing I’d got through was unbelievable.

“John and Gregg’s encouragement and belief in me helps spur me on as I really don’t want to disappoint them. I can never predict what they were going to say; their critiques always surprise me.

“My toughest moment so far had to be cooking for William Sitwell in the Quarter Finals. He wasn’t mad about my Kofte dish to say the least… I wanted the ground to swallow me up there and then. I put bad food on a rectangle plate – is there a more cardinal sin?”

What are your cooking influences/passions?

“I have such a diverse range of flavours that I love to cook with, but my passion lies in Middle Eastern cuisine: I was fortunate enough to travel a lot through the Middle East when I was younger and the food had a huge impact on me. I rarely ever follow a recipe; I love to improvise and that’s my driving force with cooking – trying to create something in my own style. I also love baking and making deserts.

“I remember watching Keith Floyd in the 80’s and thinking how much fun he was having cooking, but it was Nigella in her first series that made cooking look cool – I loved her obvious lack of finesse but her food always looked amazing.

“My dish to impress would be Spice-rubbed beef short ribs with a Persian rice dish called Chelow, followed by sticky toffee pudding and vanilla ice cream. I’d love to cook for the cast of Coronation Street, I was brought up watching it and I never miss an episode.”

What is your ambition?

“To combine my love of travel with my passion for cooking would be fantastic. In particular, I would love to teach kids how to cook and get them started young; it gives me such satisfaction seeing my own kids taking an interest in food and helping me in the kitchen. I definitely want to do some private catering and my dream is to one day have a deli or restaurant but the kids need to be old enough to help me run it!”

The final, between three hopefuls, will be on BBC One tonight, at 8.30pm.