MasterChef bid puts Oliver in spotlight

Oliver Haigh.
Oliver Haigh.

Chef Oliver Haigh enjoyed a taste of stardom this week when he put his skills to the test before a TV audience of millions on the latest series of MasterChef: The Professionals.

Oliver, 22, who works at the Old Red Lion, Grenoside, made his first appearance on Monday’s episode of the popular series.

Given seven ingredients to work with, he created a goat’s cheese and tomato ravioli, served on lentils with caramelised walnuts and baked tomato petals.

Chief judge Monica Galetti, Michel Roux’s sous chef at Le Gavroche, was unimpressed: “It doesn’t work as a whole dish,” she said.

Oliver was disappointed, admitting: “Sometimes my style can be a bit wacky. I’m trying not to let my imagination take control of me… I was rubbish today. I’ll just have to move on from it.”

The technical test, shown on Tuesday and Wednesday, involved crowning a duck – something he hadn’t done for years.

But his performance was good enough to get him through to the big test tonight: cooking for Michel Roux.

Oliver began his career at the age 13. His first job was at the Cutlers’ Hall, then he worked under Christian Kent at the Blue Room Brasserie until signing up for a course at Sheffield College.

After qualifying, he became part of the team at the Michelin-starred Old Vicarage, Ridgeway, and then progressed to working for the legendary Roux family at the Waterside Inn, Bray.

Keen to come home, he then returned to the Old Vicarage before taking up his current role, alongside Adam Tollerfield at the Old Red Lion.

“I enjoyed taking part in the show, but it was nerve wracking,” he says. “Your brain just switches off because of the pressure.

“But I’m really glad I did it. It taught me a lot and I’m hoping it will further my career.”

To find out whether Oliver makes it through to the quarter-finals of the show, see MasterChef tonight, BBC Two, 8pm.

Lesley Draper