MasterChef: The Professionals 2023 Winner Tom Hamblet: "It's such a risk going into it"

The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen caught up with Tom Hamblet after he was crowned MasterChef: The Professionals 2023 Winner.

After seven weeks of intense competition, Tom Hamblet, a 24-year-old sous chef at South Lodge in Horsham, has been announced winner of MasterChef: The Professionals 2023.

Speaking exclusively to The Staff Canteen about his win, Tom said: "It feels great. All the hard work and time that's gone into it, it's really nice to see it come out in my favour."

Thanking his family and friends for their support, he said: "I'd like to dedicate this award to my whole family and my girlfriend. Everyone has been so supportive throughout. Thank you for all the support off everyone."

Who is Tom Hamblet?

Studying at Tanbridge House School, Horsham, Tom’s career in hospitality began when he studied an NVQ level 2 and 3 in culinary arts at Westminster Kingsway, London.

Upon completion, Tom undertook an apprenticeship at South Lodge in Horsham.

Despite being a young chef, Tom has already racked up an impressive career history, working as a commis and demi chef at Michelin-starred The Latymer, before taking up chef de partie at Michelin-starred Interlude in Horsham.

After leaving Interlude, Tom took up a sous chef position at South Lodge’s Camellia restaurant.

Tom, who comes from a cheffing family, took on 31 other professionals, all striving to make it to the end of seven weeks of increasingly demanding culinary challenges.

MasterChef: The Professionals 2023

Throughout the competition, Tom impressed not only the judges but also restaurant critics and some of the country’s leading chefs during the Chef’s Table round of the competition, a part of the programme that he admitted was a challenge.

"I think the most challenging bit was the Chef’s Table. Just knowing who was out there, they're obviously all amazing chefs and there were so many Michelin Stars in the room, that was pretty daunting," Tom admitted.

"I was terrified going in there, I literally had the shakes. When I was in there, I tried to focus on what I was doing and trusted in myself in terms of how quick I could work," he added.

Explaining what it was like to cook for some the world’s most renowned chefs, Tom said: "I was pretty nervous to cook for quite a few of them. Matt Abé was out there, Daniel Clifford, Gareth Ward, Tom Shepherd, there was a lot of big names out there, so yeah I was pretty terrified."

During the competition, Tom and the rest of this year’s contestants were judged by Michelin-starred Marcus Wareing, Monica Galetti Chef Owner of Mere restaurant, and Gregg Wallace.

Describing the feeling of being judged by such established figures within British hospitality, Tom admitted: "I think I was nervous for all of the judges to be honest. You see them on TV, and then you walk into the skills test and they're right in front of you, it's a really surreal feeling."

"They were so supportive and brilliant so I wouldn't change it for anything," he added.

British Produce and Good Food Cooked Really Well

Describing his cooking style Tom explained he likes to keep things simple, creating delicious well-cooked dishes that celebrate top quality British produce.

"I didn't want to go too wild with flavour combos and mixes because that's not really me. I really enjoy something that surprises you, but I'm more good food done really well," Tom explained.

He added: "I really like British beef, I think that's one of the things that Britain does best. That's why I tried to save it for the final, didn't use at all up until then, obviously I didn't expect to get so far so I was trying to save doing lobster, beef, and the lemon dessert until the end."

Tom’s winning menu featured a poached native lobster tail with blanched red and yellow cherry tomatoes, 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.

His main was seared beef fillet on a bed of pan-fried oyster mushrooms, served with braised beef cheek wrapped in brick pastry, topped with a poached oyster, a lovage emulsion, salsify, beef and red wine sauce and a beef and oyster tartare.

For dessert, Tom served olive oil sponge filled with an olive oil jam, topped with a set lemon curd, crème fraiche cream, fennel tops and a fennel pollen tuille, served with a fennel seed ice cream.

"MasterChef: The Professionals is for the up and coming”

Talking about the importance of the programme, Tom explained that MasterChef: The Professionals helps chefs develop and even open doors to future opportunities.

"It's such a risk going into it, but I think it's so important as well because it pushes you, it opens up doors for you the further you go, and it's a really nice confidence boost. It's just a really good experience," he explained.

Following comments made by Marcus Wareing on Grilled by The Staff Canteen, who suggested that MasterChef: The Professionals ‘is a programme for everybody, whereas Great British Menu is programme for the elite,’ Tom revealed that both programmes are for chefs at different stages in their careers.

Responding to Marcus’ comments, Tom said: "MasterChef: The Professionals is for the up and coming, whilst Great British Menu is for the established. I feel like MasterChef: The Professionals caters more for the chefs coming up and making their way to where Great British Menu chefs are now. I think both shows are brilliant."

Looking to the future, Tom has confirmed that he will continue to work at South Lodge as he weighs up next steps and the best opportunities for him and his development.

"I will be continuing to cook at South Lodge for a few months. I'm not exactly sure what's coming up next, I don't want to rush into anything, I want to make sure everything that I decide to do next is something that I really believe in and just keep progressing as a chef, keep learning, and getting better," Tom revealed.

Sharing his advice for future competitors, Tom recommended to brush up on all of your kitchen skills, particularly pastry.

Tom advised: "I would definitely recommend it. I feel like just make sure you're ready; if you've got any areas in your abilities that need work get going on them, especially pastry, I feel like that really helped me out throughout the competition. I think sometimes a lot of chefs overlook it in terms of sticking to the hot side but the pastry was some of my best rounds."

"If you don't know pastry, I don't think you should enter, definitely come to terms with that before you enter as it's such important skill," he added.

In these challenging times…

The Staff Canteen team are taking a different approach to keeping our website independent and delivering content free from commercial influence. Our Editorial team have a critical role to play in informing and supporting our audience in a balanced way. We would never put up a paywall and restrict access – The Staff Canteen is open to all and we want to keep bringing you the content you want; more from younger chefs, more on mental health, more tips and industry knowledge, more recipes and more videos. We need your support right now, more than ever, to keep The Staff Canteen active. Without your financial contributions this would not be possible.

Over the last 12 years, The Staff Canteen has built what has become the go-to platform for chefs and hospitality professionals. As members and visitors, your daily support has made The Staff Canteen what it is today. Our features and videos from the world’s biggest name chefs are something we are proud of. We have over 500,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels, each connecting with chefs across the world. Our editorial and social media team are creating and delivering engaging content every day, to support you and the whole sector - we want to do more for you.

A single coffee is more than £2, a beer is £4.50 and a large glass of wine can be £6 or more.

Support The Staff Canteen from as little as £1 today. Thank you.

The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th December 2023

MasterChef: The Professionals 2023 Winner Tom Hamblet: "It's such a risk going into it"