Gary Maclean: The Masterchef Opens Up
Being stopped in the street by fans of Masterchef: The Professionals is definitely something new to recent champion Gary Maclean. Having gone from Senior Lecturer for the cooking department at City of Glasgow College to familiar face to millions in the space of a few weeks, his new-found fame feels understandably odd to him.
Gary’s Masterchef experience has also opened numerous doors and created opportunities that have allowed him to travel the globe.
'The last three months have been a complete whirlwind,' he says, 'with everything from cutting the ribbon of new colleges in Singapore, to dinners in New York and launching food festivals. It’s been pretty busy.'
However, Gary has found the strangest part of it all to be meeting fans of the show in his everyday life. 'The biggest thing is being stopped in the street when I’m out with the kids,' he continues. 'People are always asking for pictures. It’s quite weird.'
Thirty years of culinary experience played a huge part in his success on the show, but six years as a culinary competition coach for students benefited him even more.
'I have had more time than most to focus on how to deliver things on time, knowing what looks good and developing these types of competition skills.'
Prior to working in education, Gary always worked as a head chef or executive chef in restaurants in Glasgow, and although it may have been easier for his generation to find a job, he believes that there are now different opportunities for young people who share his passion. 'From a very early age I always loved cooking. I really enjoyed it and I was good at it. I was lucky enough to get a job as a chef at fifteen. However, back then, in the mid-eighties, chefs weren’t profiled the way they are now. You never really saw them on TV. It’s a bit different now.'
Cooking remains a prominent part of his life outside the workplace as well. 'Of course I enjoy good food, my whole life is good food,' he enthuses. 'But don’t get me wrong: I enjoy simpler things as well. It’s not all foie gras and rabbit at home!
'If you’re out somewhere really nice and you’re paying a lot of money, you expect high-quality food. But if you’re out with the family for fish and chips, you get what you pay for.'
The experience of preparing food for a string of top chefs on Masterchef may have appeared intimidating, but he relished the experience and, in fact, believes that feeding chefs is easier than feeding laypeople. He maintains this approach when he eats out, and doesn’t tend to critique the food he eats in restaurants.
'Chefs appreciate the time, effort and skill that goes into good food. I’m not overly critical; I take things as they are. I do expect to learn something new from a plate of food, though.'
As a true Scot, Gary finds local food to be among his favourites. 'Anything Scottish is really what I’m into,' he says, 'but fish and shellfish would have to be my favourite.' This would be handy if he were, for example, stuck on a desert island, but what essentials would he also want with him in such a situation?
'If I could take one cookbook, it would have to be Eleven Madison Park by Daniel Humm. I’d also want a book by Irvine Welsh and a mortar and pestle. Get the spices used! If you’re on a desert island you need some flavour in your food.'
Gary’s nomination for next interview: Gregg Wallace (Masterchef co-presenter)