Interview with a Masterchef: Imran Nathoo

By Caterina Dassié

I had the honour to interview Imran Nathoo who took part in MasterChef 2017, reaching not only the quarterfinal but won a place as one of the final 10 contestants. Working as a Dentist for the last 11 years, his love for food and cooking have always been part of his life…

Full name: Imran Nathoo

Age: 37 (Argh! Too close to 40 for my liking!)

Nationality: British

Where do you live? Cardiff!

Academic background: Graduated from Cardiff University Dental School as a dentist in 2006.

Photo Credit – Imran Nathoo

What is your favorite food?

Ah, difficult one this as I’m one of those people who is thinking about what’s for dinner while still eating my lunch. I think about food all the time so it’s hard to pinpoint a favourite type of food. I’m a bit of culinary magpie, if it’s good, then I’m into it. So my tastes are quite diverse.

I feel you…while in bed in the evening I am already thinking about what to cook myself for breakfast. Do you have a favorite chef?

My mum is the best cook I know, but I really look up to the likes of Yotam Ottolenghi and Raymond Blanc. TV chef-wise, I love to watch Jamie Oliver, Tom Kerridge and Rick Stein.

Random query, but…If you had to choose a motto, what would it be?

There is no such thing as the right time. If you want to do something, there is no time like now!

Let’s get to real questions…have you always been interested in food?

Food has always been a part of my life, as mum is such a great cook and food was always at the centre of any family get-together. As a family, we always tried to eat together also. So with mum cooking, there was no need for me to get involved, that is, until I went to uni and needed to eat! Hence it started in earnest way back in my second year at uni (my first year was a blur of ready meals and takeaways). My passion for food really grew once I had graduated and got hooked on cooking shows!

So, what made you decide to apply to Masterchef?

I’m a big fan of the show and over the years, as my cooking was improving, I had toyed with the idea of applying, however I never did. Then one year I though stop messing around and apply, what have you got to lose? I thought MasterChef would be a great test for me to see if I could cut it, and if I wasn’t completely put off by the stress of the whole thing, then I must really love food, so worth giving it a try! I’m glad I did!

Photo Credit – Imran Nathoo

What was the programme itself like? Was it stressful?

It’s the most stress I have ever experienced! I was still working full-time during filming, and we had my 3 year old boy to look after so it was bonkers. Coming back in the evenings from work then practicing cooking late into the night! That, coupled with the whole surreal experience of being filmed, interviewed and judged! I think the constants that deal with stress well do the best. I was not one of those people!

Did the programme make you like more, or understand things better, that you didn’t like about cooking?

Yes, I thought if this doesn’t break me or put me off food, then I must try and pursue my love of food. It taught me that flavour and taste is everything. It also taught me that I shouldn’t try to be a cook that I’m not, meaning I needed to stay true to my style of cooking.

Could you tell me the best and worst moments of the programme?

In the knockout rounds, getting glowing feedback from both the judges on my trio of desserts was brilliant. Also, getting a great response from a proper food critic (Amol Rajan) was amazing! Obviously leaving the show was gutting!

I mean…You have done many things since MasterChef, from cooking live on BBC Radio Wales to being part of the Royal Welsh Show to having you own supper club…but what has really changed the most since getting eliminated from the programme?

I’m a better cook that’s for sure! You learn so much after the show – its unreal! I now work part time as a dentist and the rest of the time I cook for supper clubs, events and recipe development. It really is a great balance as I get lots of family time too. I just sleep a little less as I’m so busy!

What about Cardiff? Has it been supportive since then?

Massively so! I had great support from the people of Cardiff during my time on the show and after it also, both online and people coming up to me in the street! It means so much as Cardiff is now my home and I’m so pleased that I have such great support for my events from the good people of this amazing and vibrant city!

And last, but not least…What is the next chapter going to entail?

I’ve just launched my next series of supper clubs. Think sunshine food, think spice and think good times! I’ve also launched cooking classes for people who want to eat tasty and ideally nutritious food but are pushed for time or don’t know how to! Hopefully I’ll be popping up at a few food festivals also. So look out on Instagram and Twitter @kitchenclonc for more information.