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Dave King

ROTARY ed​itor

Tom Hamblet is feeling on top of the world. It’s been four months since the likeable 24-year-old from Horsham in West Sussex lit up our television screens just before Christmas by winning the 16th edition of BBC TV’s ‘MasterChef: The Professionals’.

Michellin-starred judge Marcus Waring described Tom’s food as “exquisite” during the final, while fellow judges Monica Galletti and Gregg Wallace also sang his praises. Food critic Grace Dent insisted one of Tom’s desserts was the best she had ever tasted on MasterChef.

“It has been non-stop since the final,” explained Tom. “People have got so excited about MasterChef and I’ve received loads of supportive messages. During the final of MasterChef, the website where I work actually crashed. There was so much interest.”

Work was at the Camellia restaurant at the South Lodge Hotel in Horsham where is dad, Lewis, is the executive chef, and mum Haley works as a pastry chef.

However, in April, Tom is taking up a three-month residency at Lainston House in Winchester, Hampshire, putting on show a menu which has been inspired by the MasterChef experience.

He will be serving an £85, three-course menu featuring dishes inspired by his time on the programme. These will include wood pigeon with crispy onions, celeriac rémoulade, celeriac purée, pigeon and chocolate sauce; with a baked chocolate tart, blood orange and peppercorn pate de fruit, caramelised popcorn, orange gel and tallicherry pepper ice-cream.

“I’ve got this residency lined up, but after that I’ve not got anything lined up. I will see where life takes me,” said Tom. “I haven’t got a clear idea of what I want to do yet. I’ve got a few months to figure it out as I don’t want to rush into anything.

“I have always been very careful with what I have selected, so I want to carry on doing that.”

Tom Hamblet in an apron is standing in front of a glass door and smiling at the camera

Tom Hamblet won the 16th edition of BBC TV’s ‘MasterChef: The P​rofessionals’.

It was 10 years ago when Tom’s culinary talents were first spotted when he won ​the Rotary Young Chef competition in 2014 – his first cooking competition.

The final took place at the Dundee and Angus College when the then 14-year-old, ​sponsored by the Rotary Club of Horsham, collected a £250 cheque from Filippo ​Berio, a bag of Filippo Berio products and a cookery course at Toscana Saporita’s ​Italian Cookery School in Tuscany.

Tom’s winning menu at the Rotary Young Chef final was seared scallops with ​mango, Jerusalem artichoke, brown butter and capers for a starter. That was ​followed by roasted breast of Gressingham duck, bacon quinoa, char-grilled Wye ​Valley asparagus, morels and broad beans. Dessert consisted of ginger and ​honey cake, rhubarb, yoghurt, pistachio and almond.

“I was at school in Horsham at the time, and to win the Rotary competition was a ​bit of a shock,” recalled Tom. “It was my first cooking competition. I got into it ​through my teacher who suggested I have a go.

“Rotary Young Chef was a good experience. It was all about the practice you put ​in outside of the rounds. All competitions are like that, you’ve really got to graft, ​make sure your timings are right so nothing throw you.”

From Rotary Young Chef, Tom trained at Westminster Kingsway College, and ​after graduating was offer a commis position at The Pass in Horsham. He stayed ​there for a year before moving onto two Michelin-starred restaurants; The ​Latymer, at Pennyhill Park in Surrey, and Interlude in Horsham.

“At the start there’s 32 of you so you don’t ​really fancy your odds, but as we were ​going through the show, I was getting ​more and more confident.”

It was no surprise that with two professional cooks in the family, Tom would be ​grow an appreciation of fine cuisine “My love of cooking came from my parents. ​Whenever they made dinner at home it was always really nice. When you’re ​surrounded by good cooks you take to it much easier. I think the first thing my ​parents taught me to cook was a sausage!”

The decision to enter MasterChef was driven last year by the death of his ​grandfather and wanting to give his grandmother a distraction. In fact, the ​MasterChef trophy is housed at the family home next to the television and ​beside a photograph of Tom’s late grandfather.

There were no auditions to get onto the show; just two phone calls and a ​meeting. “The show’s producers look at your CV, run through a few sample ​dishes, but I think they are looking more at personality at the start, for sure.

“Once you get to the studios in London it was quite surreal. You see it on the telly ​and then to actually be there was quite a daunting feeling, especially as you ​knew it was being recorded. But it was a great experience.

“Marcus Wearing and Gregg Wallace were really nice. They wanted you to do ​well. A lot of people assume that they want the chefs to slip up, but they don’t, ​they are really supportive.

“When you’re cooking and chatting to Gregg and Marcus you almost forget about ​the cameras. You are so focused on what you are doing.

“MasterChef really is as you see it. There are no people running about in the ​background helping you. You have a table where you put your washing up, and ​people take it away. But other than that, it’s all down to you.”

Tom Hamblet at 14-years-old holding his Rotary Young Chef trophy

To​m was 14-years-old when he competed and won in the Rotary Young Chef competition back in 2014

Filming took place over three weeks last summer, so Tom and his family had to ​keep the result a secret when the series was broadcast in the autumn. He ​celebrated watching the final at home with his parents, girlfriend and the family ​dog.

“The dish I was most proud of was the three I served in the final,” he admitted. “I ​just thought they all went together on the day. That was the biggest most ​amount of pressure I had been on, but it was great to nail the dishes.”

Tom’s winning menu started with a poached native lobster tail, filled with lobster ​claw meat in a lobster and chilli oil, topped with a lemon verbena gel, courgette ​balls and a creamy lobster and tomato sauce Américaine. Gregg told Tom: “This ​is a great, light dish that really packs a flavour punch.”

The main was seared beef fillet on a bed of pan-fried oyster mushrooms, served ​with braised beef cheek wrapped in brick pastry and topped with a poached ​oyster. Marcus’s verdict was: “Everything on this plate is cooked beautifully and ​your attention to detail is exquisite.”

Tom finished with an olive oil sponge filled with an olive oil jam, topped with a ​set lemon curd, crème fraiche cream, fennel tops and a fennel tuille. Monica’s ​take on the desert was: “It’s just a delightful way to finish your meal. I love it, love ​it, love it.”

rotary Young Chef 2014

read the original report from the edition of

rotary young chef which tom hamblet won

Tom admitted he had learnt much about himself and widened his cooking skills ​against 31 other chefs during the competition, which included working in the two ​Michelin-starred Alchemist in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Head chef, Rasmus Munk, led the finalists into an immersive, breath-taking world ​where science, art and food collide. The chefs had just hours to master ​extraordinary creative dishes as part of an epic 50-course tasting menu and ​deliver to a whole new level.

Asked whether he thought he could win MasterChef, Tom revealed: “At the start ​there’s 32 of you so you don’t really fancy your odds, but as we were going ​through the show, I was getting more and more confident. I never thought at any ​point ‘this is mine’. I stayed focused and didn’t get side-tracked.

“But then after the final, once I’d plated those three dishes, I took a step back ​and thought ‘that’s all I can do now’. I don’t think it could have gone any better.”

The plaudits were plenty for the young chef from West Sussex. Marcus Wareing ​said: “From the minute that young chef stepped into this kitchen, he’s been ​consistent, and he’s delivered at every single level. Tom’s food today was ​technical, it was beautiful and, most importantly, it was delicious.”

Monica Galetti added: “I find how Tom is bringing his little modern twists, his ​personality, and his cheekiness into his cooking. His food has been cracking ​throughout, and he’s still so young.”

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