After competing in the first ever all-female final, retiree Irini Tzortzoglou was crowned champion of the 2019 series of BBC One’s ‘MasterChef’ last Friday (March 29) – becoming the fifteenth amateur cook to claim the title.
Facing competition from 54 contestants, through seven weeks of culinary challenges and a close final cook-off, Irini was awarded the MasterChef 2019 trophy by judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace.
Irini’s winning menu, inspired by her childhood and Greek heritage, started with red mullet with a squid risotto, confit tomatoes, a rosemary and garlic sauce, with bottarga (grey mullet roe) and an aged balsamic foam. Her main course was griddled rosemary lamb chops with trahanas puree (cracked wheat cooked in soured milk), peas, confit herb tomatoes, pearl onions, crumbled feta and a lamb and tomato jus. She finished the meal with a fig and hazelnut baklava with roasted honeyed fig topped with Chantilly cream and candied fig, fig leaf ice-cream and syrup, on a hazelnut crumble.
John said: “Taking the food that she knows from the island of Crete and putting it into a modern context – that’s what Irini does and it’s stunning. She’s introduced us to things we’ve never seen before and flavours we’ve never tasted before. She is able to take these flavours she loves so much and take them to a completely different food. It’s magical.”
Gregg added: “Irini’s little touches of Greek flavours and Greek ingredients are nothing short of inspired. You can learn cooking technique but what you can’t put into somebody is absolute love and passion – and Irini is just bursting with it. It’s from the heart every time she cooks.”
Commenting on future plans, Irini said: “My biggest ambition is to continue learning, researching, experimenting and showcasing Greek food and ingredients. I would love to get a lifestyle book published with memories and recipes which I’ve been writing for the past year. And I would love to film a programme all around Greece, which combines cookery, travel, diet, health, environmental and historical topics. With its diverse land and climate, Greece provides a variety of produce and food.”