Liverpool’s MasterChef semi-finalist reveals how the competition’s given her new confidence
1 year ago
Liverpool chef Gabriella Margiotta’s bowed out of MasterChef: The Professionals.
And while she might not have got through to the finals of TV’s toughest cooking competition, she says taking part has been an eye-opening achievement which has fired her passion and drive to succeed.
Gabriella says she underestimated how hard it would be, but she adds with a smile: “I also underestimated how much it would mean to me.”
And she says: “MasterChef: The Professionals has given me a confidence I didn’t realise I never had – so in my eyes I’ve won.”
MasterChef: The Professionals returned to BBC One last month, with 32 chefs from across the country battling it out to become 2022 champion.
Gabriella, 29, made it to the semi-final stages, wowing both judges and critics who sampled her mouth-watering dishes.
“It was my sister who wanted me to do MasterChef. I hadn’t thought it was for me, I never thought I was good enough!” she says.
“But as soon as you start, this fire is lit within you and with every round, and all the great comments I’ve had, it’s given me this drive and belief.”
She adds: “It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions, with the positives being the feedback and comments from the judges and the most incredible chefs, Marcus and Anna (Marcus Wareing and Anna Haugh). These are chefs you grow up with, and you dream of one day having someone like that taste your food; to have them say ‘this is brilliant’, and to have food critics saying ‘I hope I will eat this dish again one day’, they are just pinch-yourself moments.
“The downs are when you have had a bad day in the kitchen, and then you feel disappointment because you know that you are able and you’re capable of better.”
Gabriella left school at 16 to go to catering college, before working in the city’s London Carriage Works. From there she ran a chalet in the French ski resort of Meribel for six months, then set up a small family business with a friend, selling street food in Manchester.
For the last five and a half years, she’s been sous chef in the family business, Cucina di Vincenzo in Woolton, and she has hundreds of followers of her culinary ‘how-to’ videos on YouTube which she does under the name Gabriella’s Kitchen.
Life is already busy, and successful, so why do MasterChef: The Professionals, and why this year?
“I think because this was the year I was turning 30. My mum always said that your 30s will be the best years of your life, so it was now or never. I’m so grateful I got to do it.
“My goal was to get past the first round. I’m not Michelin-trained, I’ve not been in fine-dining kitchens, I’m very much a home cook, but I think my secret weapon was to take my passion and my love of food and just let that drive me through on my journey.
“Everyone who knows me knows where I started. I’m from an Italian family, full of love, family, and food, and I wanted to share that, and spread the message that it doesn’t matter what your background is, if you can slice an onion, or you can boil an egg, with heart and passion you can do anything.
“I wanted to show and teach people how easy it is to cook, and get people back to the table, bring families back to the table … to have friends round, and get kids involved. I want to take the fear out of cooking and show there’s fun; and just put my heart on a plate basically.”
Gabriella says one of her highlights was meeting Marcus Wareing: “I was super-excited to meet Marcus. I live in Liverpool but I’m born and bred in Southport – like him – and proud to be from that seaside resort. You don’t meet many people from Southport, so when I got to speak to Marcus I said ‘I’m a sandgrounder like yourself’.
“It’s inspiring to see someone who has come from that same seaside town do so well, and I think it’s a good push to work hard and one day be as successful as him.”
However successful, though, she doesn’t think she will ever venture far from Liverpool.
“Working alongside these incredible chefs with fine dining backgrounds, it’s set a little spark inside me and I do think maybe I would like to go and do a stint here and there in some Michelin-starred restaurants to get that experience. But I’m a home girl, I’ll never stray too far from my family business. It’s where I started and I where plan to stay; to stay true to myself.
“There’s something very magical about Liverpool as a city. There’s a sparkle that I don’t think any other city has, from the people, the culture, the history, and the food scene.
“A lot of the restaurants are doing so well, and these independents are run by hardworking people who have got love and passion for food and the industry.”
Gabriella will continue to make her contribution to that with a renewed enthusiasm and confidence, and she says: “The whole experience has been a dream come true. It’s something I never believed I was capable of or could happen to me.
“I have more confidence in my ability as a chef, and in me, a self-belief.”