Andrew D’Amery and Maximilian Holba from Stevenage both to star in tonight’s MasterChef: The Professionals on BBC Two as pair battle with final 12 for place in next round

The final 12 for MasterChef: The Professionals, which included Andrew D'Amery and Maximilian Holba.

The final 12 for MasterChef: The Professionals, which included Andrew D'Amery and Maximilian Holba. - Credit: Archant

Two Stevenage men who cook for a living have made the final 12 of MasterChef: The Professionals and in tonight’s episode on BBC Two will be battling for a place in the next round.

Andrew D'Amery from Stevenage is on this year's MasterChef: The Professionals.

Andrew D'Amery from Stevenage is on this year's MasterChef: The Professionals. - Credit: Archant

Andrew D’Amery and Maximilian Holba will both be featuring on the 8pm quarter final show after judges Marcus Wareing, Gregg Wallace and Monica Galetti placed them in the top three of their respective heats which concluded last week.

Both chefs attended North Hertfordshire College’s Hitchin campus and, while Andy had already set his sights on the profession by taking a cookery course, Max did a public services recruitment course as he harboured an ambition to become a firefighter.

Of his time at NHC, Andy said: “It definitely gave me my first insight into the professional kitchen. I had studied catering at GCSE but stepping into the North Hertfordshire College kitchen, in my very first pair of chef whites, and getting that buzz for service has definitely carried me to where I am today.”

About the show, the 25-year-old – who has lived in the Great Ashby area of Stevenage for nine years and now works as a junior sous chef at Wembley Stadium for Delaware North – said: “I know it sounds like a bit of a cliché but MasterChef: The Professionals is something that I have always wanted to do. Ever since I became a chef I have always watched the show and have always admired the chefs who take part.

“Personally, I think MasterChef is the best and most difficult platform for a chef to showcase their ability and this year I just felt the time was right and it I should go for it.”

During his heat Andy made a banoffee cheesecake, before cooking a trio of lamb for his signature dish – consisting of lamb and white pudding wellington, lamb cutlet, and a kidney faggot served with pea puree, fresh peas, scorched leeks, crispy capers and a herb ash.

Maxmilian Holba from Stevenage, one of this year's contestants on MasterChef: The Professionals.

Maxmilian Holba from Stevenage, one of this year's contestants on MasterChef: The Professionals. - Credit: Archant

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The two efforts were chalk and cheese, with the former a self-confessed disaster and the latter described by head judge Marcus as ‘faultless’.

“I have made 1,000 cheesecakes in my career but the pressure and the nerves of the skills test made me make some silly decisions,” said Andy, whose first job in a professional kitchen was at Stevenage’s Gordon Craig Theatre under head chef Darren Rumble, before he went on to work at Tewinbury Farm Hotel in Welwyn Garden City.

“However the feeling of being in the same room as Marcus, Monica and Gregg for the first time is still one I will never forget.

“And I am still absolutely blown away by the judge’s comments after Marcus Wareing called my signature dish ‘faultless’. As a chef this is literally the type of feedback you dream about and after such a disaster in the skills test I was convinced that I was going home.

“I cannot even put into words how shocked and privileged I felt to make the final 12, MasterChef is the biggest cookery show in the world and to start off as one of 48 chefs and to make into the last 12 left me absolutely speechless.”

Max’s reasons for applying for the show are a little different. The 37-year-old – who lived in Stevenage and Aston for the first 20 years of life, attending Letchmore Road, Almond Hill, Aston St Mary’s and Thomas Alleyne schools – said: “Sheer frustration prompted me to enter. I’m an avid fan of the show and have watched all the series, but last series while watching an episode with my wife, a chef came on the skills test and didn’t know how to make mayonnaise!

Marcus Wareing, Gregg Wallace and Monica Galetti - the judges for MasterChef: The Professionals.

Marcus Wareing, Gregg Wallace and Monica Galetti - the judges for MasterChef: The Professionals. - Credit: Archant

“I went ballistic at the television as I don’t understand how chefs can be head chefs of restaurants or even work in a kitchen if they don’t have the basic cookery knowledge? I feel these chefs don’t represent our industry very well, and it’s more about putting food on a plate with tweezers than knowing and understanding cooking skills. With that said, my wife said ‘well go on then, you have a go’, so I did!

In his heat Max – who now lives in London where he is the head chef of The White Horse pub in Exchange Square – made a tagliatelle carbonara from scratch in his skills test, while his signature dish was pork ribeye, kale, calvados-poached apple dice, fennel purée, apple purée, crispy sage, and crackling with a calvados jus.

About the experience, he said: “It was nerve wracking but once I nailed the skills test, the pressure was off so I then preceded to embrace and enjoy the whole experience – I would do it again if I could! Also, the friends I’ve made from the show have made it even more special.

“It felt amazing to get through to the final 12, a relief really as the competition was obviously very strong. I was quite confident in getting through as I felt I put in a very solid performance all week.

Max added: “It’s been incredibly difficult to keep how I’ve got on a secret, and very frustrating at times. It feels like when you buy an amazing present for someone but you have to wait for Christmas to see them open it!

“I’ll be watching tonight’s show at home with my little family – my wife, my two-month-old son and our two cats, and not forgetting a few glasses of wine!

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As for Andy, he’ll be watching the show at home in Stevenage with girlfriend Lily and his mum.

“They have both been amazing support and encouragement for me on the MasterChef journey,” he said.

“I’ve had so many messages on Facebook and Twitter as well, but luckily I’ve managed to keep a lid on how I got on.”

• Both appear on tonight’s show and MasterChef: The Professionals airs Tuesdays to Thursdays, 8pm on BBC Two.

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