‘I joined MasterChef – the contestants have a secret FB group and have a strict suitcase rule’

Gorgeous dishes, a thrilling competition and witty John Torode and Gregg Wallace – MasterChef has all the ingredients for a successful recipe.

While sitting on the sofa at home, it’s easy to end up starving as everyone prepares delicious meals in seconds.

But is the MasterChef experience everything?

Former MasterChef semi-finalist Liz Cottamwho appeared in the 12 series, shared how the show actually works.

She now runs three restaurants with a strong 67-person team and predicts £3.2 million in revenue next year.

But in 2016 she bravely joined MasterChef – and shared how the grueling process works – with contestants filming their missions at dawn.

Liz said: “It was terrible, I put a lot of pressure on myself to win, that was the only thing I wanted.

“I just want to cook things that I’m incredibly proud of and I love to cook and that’s pretty advanced stuff for an amateur chef.

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Liz currently runs three famous restaurants


Chris Leah)

“I’m going to spend two or three days preparing, I’ve strangled myself not to like it.

While on the show, Liz didn’t think she would be a chef – but now runs a restaurant HOME PAGE, Owl and CORAall in Leeds.

She speaks: ” [production team] kept asking me if I could cook and I thought it wasn’t going to happen.

“Then they took me into a professional kitchen and it was weird. That’s where everyone is stressed, but where I feel the calmest. Everything is up and down.”

John and Gregg provide a lot of support behind the scenes

While celebrity chef John often focuses on technique, greengrocer Gregg is known for his love of hearty dishes and sweet desserts.

But while they might not always agree on food, the pair were “sweet” to the contestants backstage, Liz said.

She added: “The two of them are really sweet, they were really proud when I met them again.

“The production team is also great.”

Saliha Mahmood Ahmed, Liz Cottam, Stephen Kielty


BBC / Shine TV Ltd)

It’s not always as fast paced as it seems

While we saw the most dramatic moments of the process, there was a surprising amount of downtime.

“Everything is made to deliver a high degree of danger, which makes for a good TV,” says Liz.

“There’s a lot of people waiting around in the green rooms and not really knowing what’s going to happen next and that really comes to mind.

“Then a producer can sit down and ask you what you’re worried about, and you’ll say it’s nothing.”

Liz says life coaching has changed her work life


Ben Bentley)

But it’s very tiring

Liz has to repack her suitcase every day – in case she is disqualified from the competition, as contestants are required to bring their own luggage to prepare each day.

“It’s exhausting, it’s great, but your life is at a standstill and it’s hard to do that,” she said.

“Those are very long days, I’ll be traveling down from Leeds and filming for a few days. You have to carry your suitcase every day in case you get knocked out. It’s pretty horrible, I don’t have time to do that. wash it!

The contestants have a secret Facebook group to support each other and share their experiences on the hit show.

Liz applied for and turned down an offer to appear on the show in 2013 when her mother suddenly fell ill.

Her mother must have ‘would love to see her daughter on TV’ and was very disappointed when she turned down the show, so Cottam decided to join again.

Sadly, her mother passed away, but soon after, when she received a call from the production company, she ‘had the feeling that it meant a lot’.

Previously, Liz worked in technology, where she earned a six-figure salary before quitting at age 40 after reaching the semifinals of MasterChef.

Now, she’s opened three restaurants within five years, and all of them have made it to the highly rated Michelin Guide within 12 months.

After launching a fine dining restaurant HOME PAGECottam and her business partner Mark Owens, the former head chef of the Michelin-starred The Box Tree Inn in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, which opened The Owl pub and lounge in 2019, and CORA, a salon cake.

The North Yorkshire-born and bred chef, who has also appeared on the BBC Great British Menu, says her 20-year high-flying career in the city has taught her “how to succeed in a man’s world”. “.

While Cottam credits her corporate background with helping her grow as an entrepreneur, she says it also caused problems in the early days of her first restaurant, HOME PAGEwhich she opened in 2017.

“In a corporate environment, I learned to be strong, decisive, dogmatic, driven, ambitious, and able to be callous, unconventional, and truly refute my point of view,” she says. good. “I have set unbelievably high expectations and standards…. The perfect chef on paper.

“This approach has destroyed people’s confidence, created mistakes, fueled fear and created a culture that is not nice to be a part of.

“I’m running a 90% great business and I’m living and dragging people around in the 10% ‘wrong’ and I was furious about having so much ‘wrong’ in the first place. “

“The reality is this is what’s wrong with the industry.”

Cottam, now 46, has hired a life coach and set out to transform herself as she doesn’t want to be part of a toxic kitchen culture – with her having spent £30,000 on coaching so far .

“I realized it was getting harder and harder for me to work, and I was also more stressed,” she said.

“I’m pulling people into my framework, and this unreasonable pressure. Obviously, this is my dream and I don’t want to mess it up.

“The kitchen culture is pretty much like the military, and I think it has a herd mentality. I’ve seen what it can do with people, we’re going to have staff come work with us who have terrible stories.

“And they didn’t understand how to work in an uninstitutionalized environment. For me, I knew we had to change and I reached out for help.

“It was a culture shock when people came to my kitchen, we lead with love and empowerment, we didn’t scream and scream.

“It sounds like it but it’s not, I haven’t lost an employee in three and a half years.”

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