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‘You can be whoever you want to be’ – Suffolk MasterChef contestant Hannah inspires others with chronic fatigue

PUBLISHED: 17:45 13 March 2020 | UPDATED: 17:45 13 March 2020

Hannah Gregory from Bury St Edmunds competing in the MasterChef quarter final episode on March 12. Picture: BBC

Hannah Gregory from Bury St Edmunds competing in the MasterChef quarter final episode on March 12. Picture: BBC

BBC

A Bury St Edmunds woman whose flavoursome food continues to impress the MasterChef judges has revealed she pushed on through the show while suffering with debilitating fatigue.

Hannah and Jon a few weeks ago after hosting their first WanderSups supper club. He was her sous chef and she said she Hannah and Jon a few weeks ago after hosting their first WanderSups supper club. He was her sous chef and she said she "couldn’t have done it with out him" Picture: HEATHER CARLEY

Hannah Gregory, 33, has now secured a place in 'KnockOut week' after her plate of battered tofu, chips, mushy peas, curry sauce and vegan mayonnaise got her through her quarter final contest, which aired on Thursday, March 12.

This follows her success in the episode the previous day in which judge Gregg Wallace described her lamb stew and accompaniments as 'nothing short of genius'.

MORE: 'Nothing short of genuis': Suffolk MasterChef contestant Hannah makes quarter finals

In an interview with us, Hannah, who works as a creative producer for music festivals, said she suffers with chronic fatigue syndrome (also known as ME), a condition she was diagnosed with in her early 20s, and had a relapse in January after pushing through filming last year and then travelling to France to produce a festival.

She wants to use her newfound TV fame as a platform to talk about how to cope with ME - and encourage others to follow their dreams in spite of the condition.

Hannah climbed to the top of a volcano in Guatemala last year - something she never thought she would be able to do Picture: HOLLY GLOVERHannah climbed to the top of a volcano in Guatemala last year - something she never thought she would be able to do Picture: HOLLY GLOVER

She said: 'When I first got diagnosed I was signed off work for two years and was told it would be very unlikely I could work in events as it was such a fast-paced environment.

'That really knocked me. At 23 that was all I wanted and thought 'I don't know what to do now'. In stubbornness and determination I kind of stuck two fingers up at the doctors.

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'I want to tell people you can be whoever you want to be - you just have to make it work for you.'

Hannah and her boyfriend Jon Tonkins in the Alps where she produced a festival and he was her build manager. The couple met working together on festivals Picture: BIMLA SAFKAHannah and her boyfriend Jon Tonkins in the Alps where she produced a festival and he was her build manager. The couple met working together on festivals Picture: BIMLA SAFKA

Hannah - who was faced with cooking up a plant-based dish in her quarter final - is no stranger to plant-based cuisine after she adopted this diet for six months to try and ease her fatigue.

'For six months I did feel lots better, but I really missed everything that comes from animals. I definitely have a lot of appreciation for it and I think it's a valid diet for some people, but I definitely couldn't do it long-term.'

In terms of how she coped with the condition and taking part in MasterChef, she said she 'just pushed through', but she had been quite poorly since January.

'My boyfriend thinks I'm absolutely mad for taking on so much - as I was doing MasterChef I was doing a really big contract for a music festival,' she said.

She described boyfriend Jon Tonkins, who owns Glemsford Tyres, as her 'absolute rock', adding: 'I wouldn't have got through MasterChef without his constant runs to the supermarket, calming me down when I was crying, looking after me when I was exhausted and tasting everything!'

Hannah described the quarter final as a 'roller coaster' as food critic William Sitwell had slammed her tofu, saying 'I never want to eat anything like that again for the rest of my life', but she was thrilled to be through to the next round.

During MasterChef's KnockOut week the strongest 16 cooks from the competition return to try and secure a place in the semi-finals. Finals week is the week of April 13.

-Hannah is launching supper clubs in the Bury St Edmunds area called WanderSups, with the Instagram handle @WanderSups


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