Scott Barnard, sous chef at The Grove in Hertfordshire, lifts the lid on life in a professional kitchen and reaching the finals of MasterChef: The Professionals.
What made you decide to go through all the stress of taking part in MasterChef: The Professionals?
A friend of mine who I trained, Steve Barringer, reached the final in 2011, and he suggested it. My wife and my head chef, Russell Bateman, also pushed me to do it. I was going to do it last year, but my daughter was born at the same time as they were filming, so it wouldn’t have been fair to do it then. Maybe I should have waited another year, then I might have won!
How nerve-wracking is it?
It is stressful, mainly because of the pressure you put on yourself because you don’t want to look like an idiot on TV! And you want to do your friends and family and work colleagues proud. It doesn’t help that there’s a 15-strong production crew watching you all the time!
What was the standout moment from your time on the show?
The chef’s table, when I had to cook for 25 Michelin-starred chefs. It was nerve-wracking cooking for people who I follow and who inspire me, but I had a good day and I think that was one of the greatest achievements of my career. All of us 10 finalists watched it back together before it went out on TV and Mark Stinchcombe – who won it – and I had the biggest grin on our faces! At the time I was gutted I didn’t win, but now I look back on it I’m really happy with how well I did.
How scary are Monica Galetti and Marcus Wareing in real life?
Very scary at first. Marcus, in particular, is a tough nut to crack, but I finally got there in the end. I think he liked a little bit of cockney charm! Monica was a bit easier to approach. But everyone on the show really supports you and pushes you to progress.
Are chefs a competitive bunch, or are you all one big happy family?
Of course chefs are competitive, it’s a dog eat dog industry, but everyone’s going through the same ride so we support each other. And we all genuinely got on really well on Masterchef. You don’t want to see anyone mess up and you want everyone to do well… you just want the judges to enjoy your food more. There are a lot of professional kitchens where chefs are always against each other; they want to make sure they’re ready for service and they don’t care about anyone else. It’s a tough environment to be in. We don’t work like that at The Grove – we’re a relaxed, friendly team – but I’ve worked in kitchens before where everyone’s out to get each other, which isn’t nice.
Are there any other chefs in your family? What inspired you to take this route?
No, none. I was brought up in South East London where a good dinner was pie and mash, which I still love to this day! We didn’t used to cook a big Sunday lunch and all sit down together, my family wasn’t like that. It wasn’t until we started going on holiday to France, Italy and Spain when I was a kid, and we would go and get fresh bread, pastries and jam from the market, that I started to get into food and became more adventurous with what I ate. Then I decided to do Home Economics at school as I was never very academic and it was all girls in the class! My tutor actually told me never to go to catering college because I was always getting in trouble.
Where are your favourite places to eat out in your local area?
I live just outside Tring and I don’t get to eat out much, but when I do I like to see my good friend Laurie Gear at The Artichoke in Old Amersham – where I’m hopefully doing a guest chef spot soon. I used to like going to Pennyhill Park in Bagshot when Michael Wignall was there and Danesfield House in Marlow when Adam Simmonds was there. And, of course, Tom Kerridge’s The Hand and Flowers and The Coach in Marlow.
What’s your guilty food secret?
If I could only have one more meal, it would probably be a chicken Caesar salad, sod all the 10-course tasting dinners! I’m also a sucker for crisps – I could eat salt and vinegar all day long.