Chris still hopes to be chef

HE may have narrowly missed out on the MasterChef title, but Suffolk's Chris Gates spoke last night of his hopes of building a career in the kitchen.

Brad Jones

HE may have narrowly missed out on the MasterChef title, but Suffolk's Chris Gates spoke last night of his hopes of building a career in the kitchen.

Chris, from Halesworth, lost out to Mat Follas , from Beaminster, Dorset, who was crowned winner of the 2009 BBC contest after preparing a three course meal of wild ingredients including rabbit, spider crab and lavender.

But amateur chef Chris, who works at Lowestoft job centre, could still have the culinary world at his feet.

The 25-year-old's talent impressed judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode from the early rounds, with the latter describing him as one of the most naturally gifted cooks he had ever seen.

But despite the disappointment of missing out on the overall title after a gruelling week of final challenges, Chris now hopes the amazing experience will be a springboard to an exciting career in the industry.

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He told the EADT he wanted more experience of working in a professional environment - whether it be locally, in London or abroad - and use that as the stepping stone to eventually running his own restaurant.

He added: “I like my local area and the food they produce and it lends itself to the style I cook with - modern British. If I could have that in my area that would be a dream come true.”

The series was filmed last year, and life had returned to normal for Chris before his bid for the MasterChef title first hit television screens earlier this year.

Reaching the final a week ago thrust him further into the spotlight - he has often been recognised in the street by people wishing him luck.

However, the former Lowestoft College student has kept his feet firmly on the ground.

“It wasn't for 15 minutes of fame, although that has been nice. I went on there to get a springboard for what I want to do,” he said.

Last night, MasterChef viewers saw Mat Follas take the title after six weeks of heats, a week of gruelling semi-finals and a week of finals.

The 42-year-old's winning menu consisted of a starter of trio of wild rabbit, a main course of spider crab with hand cut chips and sea vegetables, and a dessert of lavender mousse with hokey pokey and a blackberry sauce.

Mr Follas, who declared he was "delighted" with his win, said his long term plan is to become a full-time chef with a restaurant, serving the type of wild ingredients he cooked up in the final.

Mr Follas, who is married with three children, beat fellow finalists Andy Oliver and Chris to the title.

"I'm humbled and proud that my dishes won such an amazing competition,” he said.

Presenter Torode said of Mr Follas: "Mat came in here and absolutely wowed us with food which was extraordinary in both presentation and flavour.'

PAST WINNERS

Previous MasterChef winners have found their triumphs have been a recipe for success.

Tommi Miers, the 2005 winner, previously told Channel 4 how winning the show changed her life as it made her believe she could be a chef.

She went straight into a kitchen after winning and worked as a chef for six months, going on to front the Channel 4 show Wild Gourmets, which involved dining off the land.

A year later, Peter Bayless took the title after impressing the judges with his Raymond Blanc-inspired seafood starter and his pastry work.

He later told the BBC that after the finals were shown "my wife and I were mobbed everywhere we went - it was unbelievable".

He said that since the show he had been in talks with publishers and talent agencies and was also writing ideas for TV programmes and magazine features.

Last year, former criminal barrister James Nathan, was named MasterChef.

It was later revealed that he already purchased a restaurant, but had failed to open it.

He bought the building in a scenic spot in southern Spain but was denied a permit by the Spanish authorities.

A spokeswoman for the BBC show said at the time that because Nathan was denied a permit in Spain he had not actually owned a restaurant.