Cooks from Croydon stage takeover of BBC MasterChef kitchen

Skilled and talented cooks from Croydon have been staging a quiet takeover of the MasterChef kitchen in this latest series, with a second outstanding contestant from the area impressing the judges in this week’s episodes.

Fresh ingredients: will Miles make it through to the knock-out stages in tonight’s quarter-final

The BBC1 programme, the country’s favourite cookery competition, saw Vanessa D’Souza, from South Croydon, make it through to the knock-out phase next month from the first batch of nine home cooks.

D’Souza features in Inside Croydon’s latest Under The Flyover podcast, where she talks about her cookery.

This week, there’s been another Croydon cook who impressed the judges to win his apron, although 35-year-old graphic designer Miles Khan had to survive a close decision in Thursday night’s episode.

Tonight’s quarter-final will decide whether there will be a second cook from Croydon going into the knock-out round coming up in May.

Khan is described by the programme producers as “born and bred in Croydon”.

Ahead of the programme’s recordings, he said, “I am inspired by natural, fresh produce and the many flavour profiles that can be shown off through artisanal and traditional cooking methods and processes, like fermenting, ageing, pickling, curing and clarifying.

“Even as a mere embryo, I spent every summer holiday in Slovenia until I was about 15 years old. My earliest memory of cooking is going through the forests in Slovenia with my cousins and family, picking mushrooms and berries, corn and vegetables from the garden.

“I’d go to my auntie’s house and watch her cook, and help clean and wash the berries and fruits.

“When I came back to England I remember helping my mum and my Guyanese aunties and nani make rotis, making the dough, clapping the roti, stirring the pot and helping add the ingredients.

“When I got to around 18 I moved out and remember starving and being broke. I took everything I remembered and cooked an arrabbiata everyday until I nailed it. From then the doors opened and I’ve not stopped cooking since, one new dish at a time.

Tough judge: John Torode will need to be impressed

“I’ve always dithered between careers, always trying new things but the whole time in the background my passion was always in culinary artistry. In hindsight, it was the path I wish I had taken earlier, but alas I got older and time ran away with me.

“Going on MasterChef was the push I needed to give me that focus and conscious effort to make something of all the cooking I have been doing over the years and see if I can turn it into a career.

“I love embracing change and finding focus, but I have ADHD and I struggle to stay engaged on one thing. When I’m in the kitchen cooking, it’s the only time I feel ‘normal’ and on point.

“I wanted to break out of Instagram and just photos of food, and prove to people that I can really cook, showing how hard I have worked to come up with my recipes.

“I pick, source and manufacture as much produce and products as possible to use within my recipes and what better way to show that than on the world’s most well-known cooking show on TV!

“The ultimate dream is to meet new chefs, travel the world eating, stage in kitchens that celebrate quality, local produce and foraged foods. I want to be a sponge, learning as much as possible. With all the knowledge I gain, I want to come back to the UK and run supper clubs with a taster menu showcasing what I have learned in that season. I want to eventually open a restaurant that features ever-changing creative food with simplicity, class and finesse.

“You don’t have to have a Michelin star or a degree in botany to make the most of your ingredients. I want to inspire people to be more resourceful with food, showing that once you break it down you can make lots of your own ingredients, because I did and I have no training or professional background in food at all.”

MasterChef’s third quarter-final, featuring Croydon’s Khan, sees the week’s most talented four cooks return to fight for a place in knockout week. They must cook two courses that will excite not just regular judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace, but also three former contestants who have been there, done that and got the T-shirt (or the apron…).

It is broadcast on BBC1 at 9pm tonight, and is then available on BBC iPlayer.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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