A Surrey MasterChef contestant who is one of four amateur cooks to make it through to the last stages of the competition says nothing could have prepared him for the pressure of finals week.
Mike Tomkins, 27 and from Guildford, will be up against three fellow finals week chefs in the penultimate episode of series 17 which airs on BBC One on Thursday (April 8).
The competition began with 40 ambitious foodies but professional chefs have helped judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace whittle the group down to just four.
Mike, a senior sales executive, said: “Everyone is so good now so any little error and you’re out. You might have got around one or two slip ups in the earlier rounds, but as it goes on John and Gregg get tougher with you as well.
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“You get to know the guys [John and Gregg] better and they have higher expectations of you that they might not have had beforehand.”
Mike has recalled the “pretty hardcore” preparation he did ahead of finals week and said it feels “surreal” to have made it so far.
“I practised dishes at home and it’s just trying to make sure the dish you make in the MasterChef kitchen with the pressure is as good as you made it at home. I don’t think you can ever prepare for how tough that pressure is,” he added.
Mike previously told SurreyLive food has always been a big part of his life and his earliest memories are being in the kitchen with his mother.
His style is heavily influenced by his Italian roots on his mother’s side of the family, and the passion for food was passed on by his grandmother, or nonna.
Over the course of the competition he has had to balance staying true to himself and being flexible with his style following advice from the pro chefs.
A highlight was praise from celebrity chef Marcus Wareing and The Telegraph’s restaurant critic William Sitwell.
He said: “I think I learned less is more, it took me until now to realise. It was understanding it was not doing a plate like my nonna used to do when we were young. There were definitely changes made and you have to adapt.”
Mike did not take his ticket to finals week for granted. “You grow in confidence a little but you’re only as good as your last dish”, he said. “You do want to put your best foot forward.
“I feel really proud of myself for getting this far. My girlfriend and I always laugh about it because each time I’d just want to make the next episode. That is how I went into finals week just wanting to stay as long as I could. I loved being in that environment and getting stuck in – I didn’t want to leave,” he added.
Filming for the series has finished so Mike has been sworn to secrecy and cannot reveal what happens beyond Thursday.
You can watch Mike in the MasterChef kitchen battling for a spot among the final three on Thursday. The final episode where one MasterChef champion will be crowned is to air on Friday (April 9).
You can also see Mike’s journey on Instagram by following @thenotecook.