When Kenny Tutt first applied to go on MasterChef little did he imagine he would do so well.
But tonight sees the Santander bank manager compete in semi-finals week where it is now down to the last seven contestants.
“Getting through to the semi-finals is a fairy-tale moment,” Kenny, a father-of-two, reveals. “To think how proud my family are of me is the best bit.”
So how did this opportunity come about?
“I have watched the show for many years and have been threatening to apply for the last few,” he says. “It wasn’t until my wife put the laptop in front of me and said ‘right, you are doing it’ that I actually applied. I saw it as a great way to push myself and take a hobby to another level.”
But there are many stages to get through before you appear on the show.
“About 25,000 people apply, filling out a six to seven page application. You can send a few pictures of dishes and a video of yourself,” Kenny, 36, from Worthing, explains. “If they like that they will do a little phone chat and then a phone interview, I suppose to see whether you can string half a sentence together. They then invite you to go and plate up a plate of food of your choice to showcase what you can do and talk about the dish.”
It was then a nail-biting four-week wait for Kenny to find out whether he had done enough.
“I thought I had blown it,” he admits. “I was holding my youngest daughter Grace and got the phone call to say they wanted me to be on the show and I almost fell over. Big pressure.”
As you watch MasterChef you can see that it is full of highs and lows for the contestants.
“No one prepares you for how hard it is in that kitchen working to strict times under the watchful eyes of John and Gregg,” reveals Kenny.
“They are cracking guys and it was great to get the chance to cook for them both. I think they have both done great things for the industry as a whole.”
And it is not just in the TV kitchen that is tricky – the number of assignments you have to prepare for is also tough, especially when you are balancing a full-time job and looking after two daughters.
“I did get to a point when I was like, ‘man I do not know if I can do it’, because the briefs are really complex and they were coming thick and fast,” Kenny admits.
Luckily the support of his family and the camaraderie between the other contestants helped and Kenny reveals he has kept in contact with the likes of semi-finalists Alex and Greg.
“We were always mucking around and having a lot of fun because you are just waiting around,” Kenny says.
And were there rivalries between them?
“You never want someone to do a bad job, but it is a competition as well,” he says. “I am not willing people to have a meltdown, but at the same time when you apply you do want to win. You want to do the best you can do.”
MasterChef was filmed between September and December, so was it, and is it still, hard to not reveal who has won?
“I told my mum and my wife and that’s about it,” he says. “It is so difficult keeping shtum. I just played it down. It is difficult.”
So where did Kenny’s love of food come from?
“Cooking runs in my family and my mum is a fantastic cook,” he says. “From a young age I loved watching her in the kitchen and helped out wherever I could. My dad used to make a mean full English.
“My parents were always very encouraging and both love everything food related.”
Kenny moved around a lot as a child, attending Aldrington CE Primary School in Hove, St Mary’s Primary School in Pulborough, and The Weald Community School in Billingshurst, before attending Durrington High School in Worthing where he remembers enjoying home economics and was ‘particularly proud of a pretty decent lemon tart’ that he brought home.
He then studied leisure and tourism at Northbrook College.
However, it was after he left school and went travelling where he tasted ‘all of the amazing food this world has to offer’.
“There is just something exciting about interesting food which is steeped in history and culture.”
This love of travelling is reflected in Kenny’s favourite dish on the show so far.
“It has to be my Italian dessert. I had criticism before about putting too much on the plate and that is when it transpired I can refine dishes and make it elegant and pretty but make it taste good.”
One of the things I have always wondered is whether the food is still hot when judges John and Gregg taste it...
“Most of the food is stone cold but John and Gregg account for that,” Kenny says. “The reason is they take photos of it and you go up in a certain order so there is a bit of waiting around between the cooking and tasting the food.”
Obviously, as yet, we do not know whether Kenny will get much further in the MasterChef competition. But what are his ambitions for the future?
“Where do I start! I would love to get more young people cooking,” he reveals. “I always get my girls involved in the kitchen and my eldest – four-year-old Emily – just loves to cook and taste the food. It teaches so much from science to maths and allows children to be creative and proud.
“I would love to cook in the kitchens of Heston Blumenthal or Ashley Palmer-Watts. They have the ability to change the fabric of food with process, and the process they use actually makes things more delicious rather than doing it for doing its sake.
“I would also love to write about food and want to put together some great food events – be it supper clubs or private dining. The ultimate ambition would be to run a high-end gastro Pub/B&B.”
MasterChef semi-finals week continues on BBC One tonight (Thursday, April 5) at 8pm, and Friday, April 6, at 9pm.
Find out here what the best vegan/vegetarian food outlets in West Sussex are, according to our readers.