Londoner and part-time DJ Natalie Coleman has been crowned this year’s MasterChef champion – dashing contestants Dale Williams and Larkin Cen’s hopes of becoming Wales’ first ever winner.
The 29 year old from Hackney triumphed over the nation’s first finalists in the popular TV culinary competition with a menu featuring dishes of lobster and pork and said: “It’s a dream come true”.
Both Welsh contestants spoke of their disappointment but remained positive about their experiences on MasterChef.
Recruitment consultant Dale Williams, from Cardiff, said he was “absolutely gutted” about the result.
“I think everyone could see how much I wanted it. Throughout the competition I was nothing but focused, I was really gunning for it.”
But the 28 year old added: “I would do it all again though, absolutely.
“My aim was to enter and to prove to myself if I was good enough to get somewhere in the food industry.
“I think getting to the final three in the whole of the UK is a pretty good indication of that.”
Solicitor Cen, also 28 and from Cardiff, praised Coleman, who was inspired to cook by her late grandmother: “She absolutely deserved to win.
“Looking at it, she’s been the most consistent the whole way through. We were all in the final for different reasons – Dale’s very versatile, I’m more creative. But Natalie was always consistent and I think that’s what you need in a restaurant environment.”
After a gruelling eight weeks which saw the final three whittled down from 50 contestants, the last task for Coleman, Williams and Cen was to create a three-course meal for judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace.
Cen’s menu included recipes inspired by his family, while Williams took inspiration from around the world.
Cen revealed he had not even told his parents Gong and Qiong Cen who had won.
“I think Mum might have been a bit miffed because I told her to wait and see,” he said.
What’s more, his parents weren’t able to watch the show with him last night because they were running the family takeaway.
Williams said: “I can’t quite believe he hasn’t told them! I did tell my Mum, but she thought I was making it up the whole time.”
Dale and Larkin’s best dishes of the series:
The contestants have squeezed the pressures of MasterChef around their day jobs – Coleman as a credit controller, Cen as a Bristol-based solicitor and Williams as the head of successful Cardiff-based recruitment firm Yolk.
Now MasterChef has ended, they are planning their next moves.
Coleman, who wanted to be a chef when she was 15 but was persuaded by her mother to pursue a career in finance, said: “I want to learn as much as possible under great chefs and possibly go into food writing once I’ve learnt a lot more about food. Depending on how good I get, my own restaurant one day would be amazing.”
Cen has set up his own website on www.larkincen.co.uk with details on cookery schools and private dining options.
He said: “It’ll be difficult, but I think I’d like to make that jump into cooking full time.
“It’s quite a small window of opportunity when you think about it and I’d like to take advantage of that.”
For Williams, food writing beckons as he hopes to mix his business acumen with his passion for food.
“I do a bit of writing already, so I’d really like to get writing for magazines,” he said. “I’d also love to collaborate with my Mum and write a family-friendly cookbook.”
All three finalists are now set to be featured in a MasterChef book, which will feature specially-created recipes from each of them.
Cen said this was his chance to shine beyond the competition. “I think this is where my strength lies, in creating interesting dishes,” he said.
Williams said: “I’ve been trying out different things at home and seeing if it would work for the book.”
MasterChef fans will have the chance to see the three finalists at work during the BBC Good Food Show between June 12 and 16 in the Birmingham NEC.