Tom Rennolds may not have won MasterChef ,but the competition has changed his life forever.
The 26-year-old plasterer who lives at home with his mum in Silsden hung up his trowel for the last time on Thursday and is now planning a new career in food.
“I’ve always loved food but it was probably from the age of 17 or 18 when I started cooking for my girlfriend more. I never really liked following recipe books; it was all a bit more trial and error as I liked experimenting with food.”
It was this experimental approach which wowed the MasterChef judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace and won Tom a place in the final three of the hugely popular cooking show.
It is two years since The Ilkley Grammar School pupil entered the MasterChef competition and nearly four months since last week’s final was filmed. Since then he has been sworn to secrecy, hence the fact he was only able to give up his day job last week.
“We finished filming at the beginning of December, so I’ve been keeping the secret a long time from my friends and family. After we finished, I went back to work as a plasterer as we weren’t allowed to do anything food-related until the final was shown.
“When I entered I never thought I’d get through let alone get into the final three.
“It was an amazing two and half months getting the chance to cook for John and Gregg and also the likes of Michel Roux and Tom Kitchen. You learn so much cooking for people like them.”
Throughout the series the chefs were put through a greulling series of challenges which included cooking for some the world’s finest chefs and food critics, travelling to Thailand to cook in a street market as well as mass catering challenges.
“The mass catering challenges were some of the hardest,” says Tom. “You’d normally get three days to prep for some of the things we had to do where we just got a few hours.”
Viewers of the show will know that another of Tom’s main challenges was his timing and he thinks this is what probably let him down at the last hurdle when he lost to fellow finalist Shelina Permalloo.
“I did have timing issues,” he admits. “But I like to push myself, there is no point playing it safe.”
There is also the added pressure of the television cameras and John and Gregg’s “little chats”.
“The chats last a lot longer than they look in the television, sometimes they can last for 10 minutes. I didn’t mind that, but the problem is while your chatting you can’t really keep cooking and when you only have so long to produce something like a three course meal it is a challenge.”
Now Tom is planning to turn his passion for cooking into a career.
“A few years ago, I had thought about giving up plastering and going into catering, but in the end I just didn’t have the courage,” He explains.
“When I got down to the final five in MasterChef, I made the decision that now was my chance. I know I still have a lot to learn so I am planning to spend the next year working in a number of kitchens so that I can get some valuable experience ideally in a top kitchen.”
Although he realises a lot of this experience will have to be done in London, his end game is to return to Yorkshire.
“We have some fantastic Michelin-starred restaurants in Yorkshire. Eventually I would like to have my own catering and private dining experience.” If he does, he will be following in the footsteps of another MasterChef finalist from Yorkshire. Sara Danesin Medio from York gave up her job as an intensive care sister to open her house as a private dining club which now has a long waiting list.
MasterChef has become a global enterprise with book and magazine spin-offs and even its own brand of cookware. Applications for the first series were just 400; producers now receive 25,000.
Competitors like Tom and Sara who do well in the series know just how important the MasterChef brand is and the importance of using its influence while they can.
Back home in his mum’s kitchen in Silsden, Tom rustled up one of his favourite dishes for you to try at home.
See Tom live on stage at the BBC Good Food Show Summer on Thursday, June 14 (running June 13–17, NEC, Birmingham). For more information, please call 0844 581 1341 or visit bbcgoodfoodshow.com
Duck tortelle oyster mushrooms with a beetroot and redcurrant sauce
Chicken stock 50ml
1 duck leg
50g pasta flour
50g fine semolina
Handful of small pink oyster mushrooms
1 small beetroot
4 cloves of garlic
Cranberry jelly 1 Tsp
Firstly, score the duck leg and season with salt and pepper. Put into a preheated oven at 200 degrees and then immediately turn down to 160 and cook for an hour.
In the meantime, peel the beetroot, dice and cover with a little chicken stock and braise in the same oven for 50 minutes.
Now for the pasta dough: Put 50g of semolina and 50g of flour into the processor and add one egg. Blitz until a ball forms. Knead the dough for five minutes and then wrap in clingfilm and rest in the fridge.
Add two cloves of garlic and a sprig of thyme to 50g of unsalted butter and cook over a low heat until it start to brown and your kitchen fills with the sweet smell of roast garlic.
When the duck is cooked remove the skin (dice for garnish... delicious!) and shred the meat easily off the bone add a table spoon of the garlic butter and this is the tortelle filling.
Soften a table spoon of diced shallot in a teaspoon of the garlic butter. Pour off the braising juice for the beetroot and add to the shallot and reduce by half – add a little more stock if there isn’t much.
Once reduced, add a tablespoon of cranberry jelly, mushrooms and a few redcurrants and cook for two minutes.
Roll out the pasta as thin as possible and then cut into 2 ½ squares .
Put a table spoon of the duck filling into the centre and fold in half diagonally.
Then with the two points that have been joined facing away from you take the left and right angle and fold together pinch in the middle to seal. Add the pasta to boiling water and cook for three minutes.
For an optional garnish shallow fry some slithers of garlic and some thyme leaves until crispy.
Plate up as you wish – you can always use the picture above left as a guide.