The hosts labelled her dishes ‘crazy’ – but also ‘amazing’ and ‘fantastic’.
And now York MasterChef contestant Jess Gardham is hoping to build on these rave reviews with a plan to open her own bistro.
Millions tuned in to see Jess storm the first episode of the new series of MasterChef on Monday night.
On Friday (March 2), she’ll be back on our screens in the first quarter final (BBC One, 7.30pm). She says being on the programme was “an amazing experience”.
Going to be a yes person
Jess, 35, told YorkMix that she’s wanted to go on MasterChef for years. “And over the last couple of years I’ve decided that I’m going to be a yes person – get on and do it rather than talk about it for years.”
After a successful audition she finally made it. During Monday’s episode Jess said: “I’m really excited to cook for John and Gregg.
“And do you know what else I’m really excited about? The woman with the really attractive voice that starts talking about the food.”
In the first round hosts John Torrode and Gregg Wallace were unsure of her choice of ingredients, which included soy sauce, sesame seeds, chorizo, butternut squash, duck and blackberries alongside some bok choy and garlic.
“Jess’s combination of ingredients was pretty crazy, right out there,” John said. But the finished dish “came together”.
Having got through to the second round, Jess cooked Asian glazed fillet of beef with crispy chalottes, bok choy and carrot and ginger puree.
Her dessert was banana sticky toffee pudding with caramelised pecans, a vanilla whipped cream and chargrilled banana.
Judges declared the beef brilliantly cooked and the sauce “amazing” – and she made it through to the first quarter final.
One thing they weren’t keen on was her untidy workstation. “I’m not usually messy,” said Jess.
“I was just so aware of the time constraints. I thought, do you know what, I’d much prefer to have a messy bench and get the food out on time, and looking and tasting good, than spending too long clearing as I go.”
Was it tough? “Oh my goodness, it’s as pressured as you can imagine. Obviously in your own kitchen you haven’t got multiple cameras on you.
“And you haven’t got John and Gregg telling you you’ve got ten minutes left, or tidy up your workstation. It is very pressurised.
“I kind of enjoyed the pressure – because it’s a real good test of your nerve. But it was so much fun, I’m so glad I did it.”
How did she watch her TV debut? “I went round to my friend’s house because she’s got a much bigger TV. And I actually cooked one of the dishes to give a 3D experience – the sticky toffee pudding.”
Live music and good food
Jess works as a dental nurse at the St Saviourgate Dental Practice, where everyone has been “absolutely fantastic”.
In the evening she’s a singer songwriter. But would she like to be a full-time foodie?
“Regardless of how far I get in the competition I’ve always said that one day I want to have my own bistro,” she said.
“Being a musician, that’s another passion of mine. I would combine the two things. I would love to have a bistro where there’s live music and really good food.
“That is definitely something I want to do.”
She added: “I’ve got a creative mind. Dentistry is a creative profession – you’re recreating people’s smiles. Food’s creative, music’s creative as well. All of these things go hand in hand.”