Television show triumph was recipe for better life

TWO year ago, Jonathon Davies was working as a steel worker by day and trying to run his online cooking business by night.

"I was thoroughly miserable," he says. "You spend something like 80 per cent of your life at work and life is too short to spend so long being unhappy."

Now, after winning the finals of ITV's Britain's Best Dish, he is living the dream.

The 10,000 prize meant he could give up the job he hated and concentrate on his first love, food. He now runs his own chef consultancy and internet business from his home in Leeds. He is in the process of launching an app which will include demonstrations of some of his favourites recipes and also introduce people to the spices he loves.

"I have always loved food since I was a child," explains Jonathon."My nan was really into cooking and I spent a lot of time with her because both my parents worked. I would cook with her and then I would cook my own dishes at home.

"Even when I was at school food was my main interest. When everyone else was going into town to hang around, I would go to the market to look at the fish and vegetables and decide what I could experiment with."

But it was a decision to travel that would really make a change to Jonathon's love of food and is direction for the future.

Six years ago, he sold everything to travel throughout the Indian sub-continent and parts of South East Asia – developing a passion for the vast variety of flavours in Asian food.

But it was winning the television competition that allowed him to fulfil his dream of working with food full-time – although if it hadn't been for a certain volcano erupting in Iceland last March, he may never have had the break.

"I was working so many hours that I just didn't think I was going to get time to go to the audition," he explains.

"But then the volcano and the ash cloud happened and the spices which I imported from Asia for my online business didn't arrive and so I had a little spare time and thought I'd go along. I thought up the dish on the way to the audition."

And luckily he did. After winning through the first stage he was up against an Indian woman who had been cooking Indian food all her life. As a relative newcomer to Asian cuisine, Jonathon thought his time was up.

But the judges were so impressed by his Seared Masala Spring Lamb that he won, eventually triumphing in the eight-week series.

It was his sweet onion chutney accompanying his main dish that really one over the judges including celebrity chef John Burton Race who said it was the best chutney he had ever tasted.

"All my dishes are about fresh ingredients imported directly from sources. I try to deconstruct the ingredients so that each flavour is very apparent on the palate."

Unlike many chefs, Jonathon has never harboured an ambition to run his own restaurant. "I have a passion for food and I know quite a few chefs who have lost that passion because they work in a kitchen all the time. That isn't what I want."

Jonathon's ambition is to run a chain of top-class delis where he can sell his chutneys and sauces. At the moment he is busy running his own business as a private and event chef and offering menu consultations. He can be contacted at

www.jonathondavies.com

Britain's Best Dish is back for a fifth series and the programme makers will be holding auditions in York this weekend. The idea behind the series, to be screened on ITV1 in the spring, is to find the tastiest starter, main course and dessert cooked in the UK. Phone 09011 223311 to find out more about the auditions.