Stu Deeley from The Wilderness wins MasterChef: The Professionals 2019

Cara Houchen

Head chef of Birmingham’s The Wilderness restaurant, Stu Deeley, has won MasterChef: The Professionals 2019.

Millions of viewers tuned in to the BBC last night to watch as the 28-year-old beat fellow finalists Olivia Burt and Exose Grant Lopo-Ndinga.

Speaking to The Staff Canteen he said: “It was more of a shock for me than anyone I think because I never thought I could win it, I entered to have a go and to test myself. I looked at Olivia when they said ‘the winner is’ because I saw her dishes when we were plating up and they wouldn’t have stuck out in a Michelin-starred restaurant.

“So, when I won it, it was almost like a really weird dream.”

Stu has been keeping his win under wraps since earlier in the year so he’s relieved to finally talk about, and said: “It’s so hard to keep a secret, especially in this industry because everyone talks – but this is a big thing, so many people watch it so you have to keep it a secret right until the end so there is that suspense.”

He added: “Once everyone found out it went absolutely nuts.”

Stu recently announced that he is leaving The Wilderness after two years so his victory will be a great boost to his new venture, but he says the main reason for entering was for his son Jack.

“I think it’s important to raise your kids with the right intentions of what you want them to do and I couldn’t say to jack ‘you have to be confident and chase after opportunities’ if I’m not willing to do it myself,” he explained.

“The main fear for me was that I would enter and then go out in round one. As I progressed, I believed in myself a bit more and I started to think ‘I’ve got this far just keep going, keep doing what they are telling you to do and pack the dishes full of flavour’."

Stu’s new-found fame wasn’t what he was looking for from the show, he said: “I absolutely hate being in the limelight to be honest, any type of social interaction is always slightly awkward, and I do wonder sometimes if I’m 100 percent there!

“The main thing was I could talk about what I do and showcase the food I do.”

Alex Claridge and Stu Deeley 

Cooking for the chef’s table was his highlight of the competition, he said: “I think there were 26 Michelin stars between them all. I decided to cook something which chefs want to eat so a bit of crispy pork belly, a Thai bisque, black pudding, langoustines – the only concern was I put them all onto the same plate so it could have gone horrifically wrong!”

He added: “I got to meet some amazing chefs who have been my idols since day one but then I had the reality of ‘what if they said they don’t like my dish’, I don’t know how I would have coped with it!”

On the other finalists Stu says, ‘they all got on really well’.

He explained: “They are all really talented and everyone in the final had a really unique style which I think is great because it makes for more entertaining TV.

“When you get to the end everyone wants to win, no one wants to come second when you have the opportunity to push yourself and come first. But there was no stitching up or anything like that, we all wanted each other to do well.”

Owner of The Wilderness, Alex Claridge, has been supportive throughout the whole competition and Stu said: “He encouraged me to go on MasterChef and he’s a really great guy who just wants to see people succeed.”

On chefs being on TV he is very positive and said: “I think TV is great for the industry, I think people like to see what happens behind the scenes because not every kitchen is open. MasterChef is a great platform which recognises young talent and helps them make a break for themselves.

“I’ve always struggled with self-belief, I even struggled to believe I was good enough to do the head chef role at The Wilderness. I struggled with knowing if I’m going in the right direction so winning for me gave me the confidence of knowing I am doing a good job.

“It was such an overwhelming experience and I felt so proud of myself.”

The next step for Stu is opening his own place next year in Birmingham in the Jewellery Quarter, he wants to showcase his own style but that’s all the details we are getting for now…. so watch this space.

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Cara Houchen

Cara Houchen

Editor 19th December 2019

Stu Deeley from The Wilderness wins MasterChef: The Professionals 2019