"The biggest thing I've learnt is calming nerves in the kitchen and trying to keep a level head. It's interesting the things you learn about yourself when you are under pressure."
Olivia Burt, Sous Chef at Claridge’s, is competing in MasterChef The Professionals on BBC2. Olivia was also the only female chef to make the finals of the Roux Scholarship. Women In The Food Industry have been following her career with interest since interviewing her in the run up to those awards. Their co-founder, Mecca Ibrahim, recently spoke to Olivia about her experience on MasterChef The Professionals and what it's like cooking on a national TV show.
Olivia took some culinary courses after she left school at 18 and went to Ballymaloe Cookery School in Cork with Rachel Allen and Davina Allen for three months. After realised she wanted to do cookery full time, she went to Le Cordon Bleu in London where she studied for a few months and then I moved to Paris to finish off the course there. Working for Joël Robuchon for just under a year, she travelled and did some private cheffing work. About four years ago she began working at Claridge's where she has been ever since.
When asked how to prepare for something like MasterChef The Professionals she said: "I sat down for a long time and thought about what I wanted my signature dish to be. What I did the most was go back onto BBC iPlayer and watch back episodes. I looked at the different challenges and tasks to get some idea of what to expect and the process of the show. The challenges and skills tests are changed every year though, so you never know what you're going to get. Ultimately though I know I needed to do the food that I liked and understood".
Coming up with her signature dishes for the show was not an easy task. She said "I wanted to do something I really loved and adored. I wanted to do fish because of the timing constraints. Time is short and I didn't want to risk meat with the timing, resting the meat and using an unfamiliar oven. I also went with the seasons and cooked what was plentiful when we were filmed. That's why I went with white asparagus, courgettes and some amazing sea herbs."
Obviously being filmed for national TV and under the scrutiny of judges Marcus Wareing and Monica Galetti must have been nerve wracking, but Olivia treat the whole experience as an opportunity to learn. She said: "It's interesting the things you learn about yourself when you are under pressure, it's almost like learning to cook again for the first time. In the skills test your mind goes completely blank, so you need to slow everything down and go back and simplify everything. It's about knowing that you can do it. No one knows what it's like when you first walk into the studio kitchen. But there's so much to learn from the show and I'm really grateful for the opportunity".
You can read the full interview with Olivia Burt about competing on MasterChef The Professionals here.