Five minutes with 2020 MasterChef winner Thomas Frake

For a cooking obsessive with a competitive edge, becoming champion of TV’s prized cooking competition MasterChef is a life-changer, but during a pandemic everything changes. For now, thoughts of running a gastropub and doing the round of food festivals have been put on ice in favour of perfecting a snack we all love to love: the sandwich. Intrigued? Thomas Frake’s #lockdownlunch IGTV videos are all about making two slices of bread a whole lot more enticing. We caught up with him to find out his loves, loathes and behind-the-scenes stories

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Five minutes with 2020 MasterChef winner Thomas Frake

What did you cook to get on the show?
Pie and mash. My style is to cook classics and make them the best they can be. 

How did you watch the final?
A video connection with friends and family – and a few drinks. 

Behind-the-scenes story: When we filmed in Mauritius, I had heat stroke and was so hung over on the first day of filming that I was bright red. The crew teased me mercilessly. It didn’t help that we were in a red tent. 

Desert-island food: A nice loaf of bread with good butter. I’d eat half straight away.

Food hate: Blue cheese.

The gadgets you wouldn’t be without: My Microplane grater and mini processor – the processor is great for whizzing up quick sauces like soffritto or for shortbread and pastry.  

What did you learn on MasterChef? Work smart, work clean. When John Torode [judge and presenter] says ‘Let’s cook’, people used to dive straight in and get on, whereas I would put things in the fridge and clear the space. 

Most challenging moment? When I cooked for chef Tom Kitchin on the show it was palpably the most stressful day and I didn’t do my best – but I did learn that every detail matters. 

Are you obsessive? A bit, yes. I spent four hours researching how to make Yorkshire pudding – understanding the science of it – to make sure it was the best it could possibly be when I cooked it on MasterChef. And I’ve been known to spend six hours cooking a three-course meal at home…

First place you’d love to go out to eat after lockdown? Salon restaurant in Brixton. It’s mindblowing. And next on the list is a place in Tooting called The Little Taperia – it’s probably the best I’ve been to in London. I’ll have a plate of Spanish croquetas and a bottle of red. YES.

Food book you turn to most? The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit 

Any other food writers you admire? I’m interested in understanding how food and culture relate to each other. I love to read Elizabeth David and Patience Gray, who wrote a brilliant book called Honey From A Weed. Both of those writers show how to bring quality ingredients together into great simple dishes. 

Favourite chefs: Keith Floyd! He was a man after my own heart – always a glass of wine on the go. I’m a fan of Rick Stein, too. And Nathan Outlaw and Tom Kerridge. All of them have had an influence on my cooking. 

Which dishes remind you of home and your mum’s cooking? Her one pots, lasagne and toad in the hole.

Favourite foodie film? Heat (1995), with Robert de Niro 

…And what would you eat when watching it? Ice cream – it’s my guilty pleasure. Salted caramel is my achilles heel. My Big Nan always had a block of Wall’s in the freezer. Little Nan always had choc ices. 

Food secret: I’m not afraid to use an instant gravy pot for the Sunday roast.

The bit we didn’t see on camera: When I made fish and chips I swigged the leftover beer I’d used in the batter. As I said, I’m a bit of a Keith Floyd when it comes to cooking – I like to have a glass in my hand. 

And finally, what’s next… Has MasterChef changed your life? The lockdown has given me plenty of time to think about that! I’d like to travel the country meeting producers and telling their stories and, one day, I’d like to own a gastropub or two and cook my style of food. 

Pub classics with a Thomas Frake twist. It’s sounding good to us… 

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