A young chef from West Dorset has wowed the judges and critics on MasterChef: The Professionals and looks set to go far in the BBC1 competition.
And the good news is that Charlie Jeffreys, 24, aims to return here and open a fine dining restaurant of his own one day.
Charlie’s love of good food stems from his mum, Katie Old from Dorchester, who is a fantastic home cook. One of his first desserts on the show, a lemon meringue, was also inspired by his gran Pauline Old’s cooking. Pauline, who lives in West Stafford, would make the dessert when Charlie was growing up.
Aged just 15, Charlie started as a pot washer at Yalbury Cottage. The chef there, Jamie Jones, was keen to encourage him and Charlie started cooking a couple of years later. Six years ago he moved to London, where he now works at The Dorchester under Alain Ducasse, who holds three Michelin stars.
The experience Charlie has had shone through when he impressed the critics, with Jay Rayner declaring one of his dishes – a salt-baked beetroot with a wasabi and goat’s cheese foam – the ‘best expression’ of those ingredients he had ever tasted.
“It was very scary,” said Charlie, of the first few rounds of the competition. “You go in not knowing what you will have to cook and cooking in front of the judges, knowing it’s going to be on TV.
“But you do get used to it, and it’s the best experience I’ve ever had.”
You would hardly know how nervous Charlie was – he has a very chilled out air about him – a fact that was remarked upon by the judges, Marcus Wareing and Anna Haugh. But the extraordinary dishes he prepared, particularly for the critics, showed how hard he was working, and he went straight through to the semi-finals, with Wareing calling him ‘outstanding’.
Having just bought his first flat with girlfriend Freya, it may be some time before Charlie realises his dream of having a restaurant with a farm attached in Dorset.
But he already has a solid line-up ready to staff it, in brother Jack, 26, who is a farmer and younger brother Nathan, 22, who works at the Four Seasons, a stone’s throw from the Dorchester in Park Lane.
Freya is head waitress at one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants, so she will come in useful too. And Charlie’s cousin Crystal Old, who he worked with at Yalbury, could hopefully be persuaded to come in too – she works in catering in Surrey currently.
Charlie could then go fishing to his heart’s content, pulling fresh produce from the sea at Chesil Beach to produce the sort of plates of food we can only dream of – French-inspired works of art, using English produce.
I can’t wait, can you?
The Semi Finals of MasterChef: The Professionals continue at 8pm, Thursday 1st and 9.05pm, Friday 2nd December, on BBC One and iPlayer.