MasterChef: The Professionals winner crowned

The 2021 champion called on the Government to support the hospitality industry as it struggles due to the surge of coronavirus cases.
The 2021 champion called on the Government to support the hospitality industry as it struggles due to the surge of coronavirus cases.

Dan Lee has said he is “speechless” after being crowned the winner of MasterChef: The Professionals but criticised the Government for “abandoning” the hospitality industry during the pandemic.

The Birmingham-born private chef, 29, was awarded the prestigious title during the cooking show’s final, which saw the remaining three chefs cook up a three-course meal in a bid to impress the judges.

Lee told the PA news agency: “I’m still speechless to be honest, a huge shock, it’s just the build-up of the emotions, you’re physically and mentally drained by the end of it.

“So it’s so much to take on, but it’s also overwhelming, it was an incredible experience.”

However, he said he was very conscious of the difficulties his industry was facing at this time due to the rise in Covid-19 cases from the Omicron variant.

Lee told PA: “I can’t speak on behalf of the whole industry, but from what I hear when I speak to friends and what I know, especially with the Omicron virus and these new restrictions that have come into place, and obviously public safety always comes first and everyone in the hospitality industry appreciates that, but as a Government who put these rules in place, you surely need to think of the repercussions on industries, such as the hospitality.

“It’s a huge industry, so many people rely on it, we’re struggling enough in the industry as it is and it just feels there was no thought process of how this will affect the industry and it’s left us standing alone here.

“There’s no fair representation of the whole industry in Government, which I still can’t really wrap my head around given how much of a big industry it is and how many people it affects, yet we seem to be abandoned a little bit during this pandemic.”

He reflected on how Christmas and new year is one of the most important periods of the year for business but said restaurants are struggling and closing early as people cancel reservations and are hesitant to go out.

Lee added that it is “obvious” certain restrictions are necessary but feels it is likely businesses will close if action is not taken, adding: “We are screaming out for help and there’s not a lot coming back.”

The chef was self-employed at the time the pandemic began and was not able to qualify for furlough so had to pick up a job in a supermarket until things settled down.

Dan Lee has been crowned MasterChef: The Professionals champion 2021 (BBC/Shine TV)

Having experienced these issues first hand, he feels the Government needs to formulate a plan with a group which knows and can represent the hospitality industry fairly so that ministers understand the implications for the industry when they are enacting new policies.

Lee won the show after six weeks of intense culinary challenges, seeing off competition from dozens of chefs, including Aaron Middleton and Liam Rogers in the last round of the BBC cooking show.

In the final, Lee impressed the judges – Michelin-starred chef Marcus Wareing, renowned chef Monica Galetti and TV presenter Gregg Wallace – with his three-course meal which was inspired by his time working in Singapore.

The winning menu started with his version of Singapore chilli crab, which Wareing described as a “sensational plate of food”.

This was followed by his take on the classic Singapore chicken rice and to finish he served a dessert of smoked hay treacle tart.

He explained that he focused on Singaporean dishes for his final meal as he feels the country played an important part in his culinary career as he moved out there in 2017.

“It was basically to showcase that amazing, good food does not have to be expensive,” he said.

“It’s just a lot of love, care, attention and understanding, it can still be amazing food at really affordable prices.”

Making tasty food at affordable prices is a passion for Lee, who hopes one day to set up a street food truck and a restaurant that promotes “really good” Asian food at affordable prices.