A MASTERCHEF finalist from Northumberland has proved he has the recipe for success.
Daniel Graham, 27, of Haltwhistle, is one of only three contestants remaining in the BBC cookery show MasterChef: The Professionals.
Double Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux and judge Gregg Wallace are on the hunt for a young chef who wants to make it to the top of the culinary world.
And Daniel, who previously worked at Northumberland’s Matfen Hall Hotel, has fought off competition from some of the country’s top rising stars to make it to the last week of the series.
The first episode of the final week will be broadcast tonight, when the contestants will be creating pastry in the world’s only Michelin-starred restaurant to serve high tea – Sketch, in London.
Daniel told The Journal how it felt to work under the watchful eye of his hero, Michel Roux.
He said: “It was fantastic. I don’t think I have ever been put under so much pressure in my life. But if I was given the chance, I would do it all over again. I loved every minute of it.
“I got to cook for one of my heroes. When I worked at Slaley Hall, when I was 19, Albert Roux used to come in for a private tasting experience.
“When Michel Roux’s book came out, we were each given a copy, and it was the first cook book I owned. To cook for him myself was amazing.”
Daniel studied at Haydon Bridge High School before moving to Carlisle to complete an NVQ in food preparations.
He then returned to Northumberland to work at Slaley Hall, followed by a stint at Langley Castle Hotel, and then a move to Matfen Hall Hotel.
He left the job after the filming of MasterChef to live in London, where he is working for an agency and enjoying a taste of life in some of the capital’s best Michelin-starred restaurants. But Daniel said he dreams of returning to the North East and setting up his own restaurant on Newcastle’s Quayside.
He said: “Obviously the show has opened up a few doors for me. It’s given me the opportunity to pick and choose which restaurants I work in.
“I really want to get some Michelin star experience in London. But I love Newcastle to bits, and my plan is to eventually move back.
“I would really like to open my own restaurant and try and introduce Michelin-star cooking to the North East.
“We have got some fantastic restaurants in Newcastle, and we have Seaham Hall which has a Michelin star, but there is nowhere in Newcastle itself where you can eat and think ‘this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience’.
“I think a Michelin-starred restaurant on the Quayside could change the way people think about food.”
Daniel was tight-lipped about how he fares in the final week of the show, which comes to a close on Thursday when the final three chefs face the toughest challenge of their career.
In Browns Hotel in the heart of Mayfair the finalists must prepare a Michelin standard course each for more than 30 world-renowned and critically acclaimed chefs, including Michel’s father, Albert Roux.
A BBC spokeswoman said: “After six weeks of cooking at the highest level, the final three have shown they have the talent, precision and focus to stand out in their industry.
“The chefs must impress Michel and Gregg one last time when they must cook the best most sublime three-course meal of their career in just two hours.
“Everything comes down to the last challenge, the final cook off, when afterwards only one chef can be crowned MasterChef: The Professionals champion 2009.”
:: MasterChef: The Professionals is on BBC2 tonight at 8.30pm.