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TV chef finds a winning formula

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Two times MasterChef Live winner Gareth Kyle’s gastronomic pop-up plans are taking him a step nearer to realising his culinary dream. Jane Hall reports
elebrity chef John Torode offered Gareth Kyle some sage advice as the heat was turned up in the nation’s favourite battle of the palates. Competing for the coveted MasterChef Live crown in 2011 against two other culinary hopefuls, the Australian gourmand advised the 30 year old to “calm down, pull back, take your time and concentrate.” Never one to do things by halves in the kitchen, Gareth had decided to impress John and fellow judge Gregg Wallace by adding a third dish to the two the contestants had been asked to serve-up. “I think John thought I was being too eager!” Gareth recalls with a laugh. He still went on to successfully win his second MasterChef Live title to add to the one he had lifted just months earlier in front of an enthusiastic audience at the BBC Good Food Show at the NEC Birmingham. He even earned a delighted hug from pudding lover Gregg when he discovered Gareth was making the all-time British classic dessert, baked custard tart. Despite John’s fears for Gareth’s blood pressure as he raced against the clock in the intimidating surroundings of one of the world’s most famous kitchens, the Tynesider actually thrives under stress – a feat he has shown time and again in some of the toughest culinary contests. It all began in 2010 when still working as a rep for the national food distribution company 3663, he found himself appearing as a national contender on ITV’s high-profile Britain’s Best Dish where he served a trio of desserts – poached pear, peanut brittle and raspberries; rose scented chocolate and Italian meringue and raspberry macaroon served as a cocktail. He didn’t make it beyond that stage but “got a massive buzz from doing it” and developed a hunger to continue proving his foodie credentials. The two MasterChef Live challenges



Masterchef contestant Gareth Kyle and, right, with judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace and


Pop up Masterchef
followed and last year he again entered the competitive fray when he won the Eat! New­ castleGateshead Trial Shift clash, which saw him take over the kitchen at Blackfriars and serve a meal inspired by the restaurant’s med­ ieval roots, with pease pottage, braised pig’s cheek with celeriac puree and what is fast becoming his signature dish – a trio of des­ serts of singing hinnies with lemon curd, Earl Grey tea ice cream and a cherry bakewell. And this year he reached the final of the North East Culinary Trade Association’s North East Chef of the Year. He didn’t win – that accolade went to Gabor Pustzai of the acclaimed Duke of Wellington Inn at Newton in the Tyne Valley – but the fact Gareth was deemed good enough to take his place along­ side the likes of Gabor, Daniel Parker from Wynyard Hall and Paul Johnson from Close House, was a spectacular achievement. For he has no formal training as a chef, describing himself as a “very good home cook” , and is currently holding down a full­ time job in the financial services industry commuting to Glasgow from the home he shares with wife Rachel, 26, in Gateshead. He is hoping all that will soon change though. He has decided to put his gastro­ nomic skills to good use and follow a long held­dream to cook for a living. In June he held his first pop­up dining event at Whickham’s Hermitage Community Garden. Tickets for all three nights for the Geordie Garden Supperclub featuring special themed dishes such as black and white scotch eggs and ham hock with pease pudding, sold out within days of going on sale. There was even a waiting list, which prompted Gareth to announce further pop­up dates this autumn in the tranquil surround­ ings of the rediscovered and restored Victo­ rian garden just off Whickham Front Street. The first of these was held last month, when diners sat down to experience Gareth’s unique take on the Gateshead bacon floddie as well as seasonal game – something the North East is renowned for. Later this autumn he plans to host a North West­themed supper club in honour of Rachel, who hails from Wigan. With the Oasis­ inspired title Don’t Look Back in Hunger, win­ ter warmers such as Lancashire hotpot, More­ cambe Bay potted shrimps and Eccles cakes (given a Gareth twist) are likely to feature. He is also looking for other unusual and unique venues across the region where he can delight diners – Tynemouth station, Gibside and even the railway arches behind the Sage in Gateshead are all on the wish list. Gareth isn’t ready to give up the day job yet, but with pop­up dining events taking off across the region he hopes he can successfully plug­in to the trend and extend his repertoire to include party and event cheffing and cookery workshops. It’s all a long way from Gareth’s first dining escapades as a young teenager when he discovered his cooking skills were a good way to impress the girls! While other boys were trying to win over the opposite sex with fancy sporting footwork or singing prowess, Gareth was tackling tricky labour intensive dishes like lobster Thermidor for the latest object of his affections. “The other boys thought cooking was a bit naff, but I quickly realised it was a good way to make a positive impression on the girls. “But it wasn’t until 2011 that I decided I needed to do something with my cooking and take it much further. “Winning two MasterChef Live titles opened my eyes to the culinary possibilities out there for me. It has given me the confi­ dence to see there can be life beyond a day­ to­day 9 to 5 job if you are willing to put the work in. “I may not quite be in the position to fly solo yet but I believe if you are willing to put everything you have got into following your dream you will go far. “The great thing about food is that you never stop learning and, with so many fantas­ tic local ingredients to play with, the only lim­ itations are your imagination and innovation.” For more information on Gareth Kyle and his supper clubs go to gareth.kyle or