Wynne Evans: Challenges that inspired Celebrity MasterChef win


Wynne EvansImage source, BBC/Shine TV

Image caption,

Wynne Evans has become the 18th Celebrity MasterChef winner

By Peter Shuttleworth

BBC News

He’s celebrating being crowned the new Celebrity MasterChef champion, but the stories behind Wynne Evans’ dishes are a blend of pain and joy.

While produce from his home in Wales were at the heart of his dishes, his main aim was to “cook stuff that people do every day and relate to”.

His first Christmas as a single dad was behind a signature sandwich and his grandparents’ story inspired another.

He also drew on food he’d had from Cardiff’s infamous ‘chippy alley’.

The story behind Wynne’s Christmas cake sandwich

“I couldn’t be more impressed if it sung me a hymn,” was MasterChef judge Gregg Wallace’s typically understated critique for the opera singer’s semi-final sandwich.

But the origin of arguably Wynne’s most celebrated Celebrity MasterChef masterpiece was the father-of-two’s first Christmas as a single dad after he split from his now ex-wife in 2016.

Image source, Shutterstock

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Many people would know Wynne as the opera singer with the moustache on an advert for a long-running insurance comparison site

“As a single dad, sometimes you don’t get to see your children on Christmas Day and that’s quite sad,” recalled the singer and radio presenter.

“I want to make Boxing Day really special for them so how to make not just another Christmas meal for the kids and them saying ‘not another Christmas dinner!’

“The first year I was on my own, I wasn’t really together and we ended up having a Chinese takeaway as I had nothing in the house – those are the realities of real life.”

The Christmas Cake sandwich was layers of sliced bread, turkey breast and sage pesto, Brussel sprout coleslaw with maple syrup pecans, crushed roast potatoes with cranberry sauce in a sandwich that has a crème fraiche and cream cheese frosting.

John Torode: “This is something we’ve never seen on MasterChef before. Your imagination is quite incredible Wynne.”

Gregg Wallace: “We’ve got the leftovers of Christmas dinner. That’s really, really clever.”

What’s the story about Wynne’s grandfather?

It was the dish that almost got him knocked out before the final six but the emotional story behind Wynne’s white sausage was a love story involving his grandparents.

“My grandfather came over from Belgium to flee the Nazis,” recalled the singer, from Carmarthen in west Wales.

“He met and fell in love with my grandmother and they had a baby, which was my mother.

“But unfortunately he was already married so he went back to his family in Belgium after the war. My grandmother was devastated. So my memory of my grandfather was always tainted.”

That was until Wynne met his first cousin after being united with his Belgian family by a Welsh TV show.

“He said ‘I’ve got to tell you, your grandfather used to sit me on his knee and tell me he wanted to go to his love in Wales but his family would disown him’,” he said.

Image source, BBC/Shine TV

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Wynne has vowed never again to cook boudin blanc after what he describes as his “rubbish” attempt in celebrity MasterChef

So Wynne’s semi-final sausage brought back memories of his family travelling to Brussels at Christmas time and having boudin blanc.

Boudin blanc creamy white sausage and chicken mince flavoured with truffle, nutmeg and thyme served with stomp, a mashed potato of leaks, carrots and bacon, beer braised chicory and an onion and Belgian beer gravy.

John Torode: “The stomp is really well made, I love the gravy. Your boudin blanc is a little bit grainy, it should be more of a mousse texture. It’s not quite perfect but pretty good.”

Gregg Wallace: “The boudin blanc… I admire your courage but it is such a difficult thing to do and I find yours is a little bit dry.”

How a day out watching rugby inspired Wynne

“If this menu was any more Welsh it would turn into a dragon and breathe fire,” Gregg summed up nicely.

We’re not saying Wynne likes a day out drinking with mates on matchday watching Wales play rugby in Cardiff, but it was the inspiration behind two of his Celebrity MasterChef dishes.

Firstly his faggots, peas and mash quarter-final serving to guest judges Andi Peters, Rylan Clark and Vicky Pattison – influenced by finishing nights out at Cardiff’s fast food take-away mecca chippy alley, more formally known as Caroline Street.

Image caption,

Sports fan Wynne Evans has sung at a packed Principality Stadium before Wales rugby matches

“When you’ve had a couple of drinks in Cardiff, there’s a place known locally as chippy alley and the a classic things to have is chips, cheese and gravy so I did cheesy potatoes with onion gravy with mushy peas with the faggots.

“I’d actually made faggots before and MasterChef struggled to get pigs hearts and livers to make them but I went to Cardiff market and picked them up straight away, no problem.”

Wynne said his final week ‘Cardiff curry’ menu was inspired by days out in Cardiff with Go Compare founder Hayley Parsons.

“We’ve all been to the rugby, had a couple too many and had that chat with mates ‘are we having fish and chips from chippy alley or a curry?’,” he said.

“I wanted to combine those things. I hope to go down Caroline Street one day and see up in the window Wynne’s Cardiff curry for sale here.”

Scallop on a cauliflower purée bed and cockle popcorn and chorizo crumb. Faggots with minted mushy peas and cheesy potatoes, served with onion gravy.

John Torode: “That scallop is nice and soft, I like the home-made chorizo, I think it’s a great combination. The faggots are really, really good and the potatoes are rich and creamy.”

Gregg Wallace: “This thing has made me happy. The textures and flavours combined were really good. It’s my sort of food.”

Spice-battered hake, triple-cooked chips in a madras salt, spiced dahl mushy peas, served with a mango and tomato ketchup and coriander and lime vinegar and a rum and pickled egg cocktail.

John Torode: “I love the crispy batter on the outside of that piece of hake. The hake inside is really lovely and flakes apart. The chips are great. Your mushy peas are fab.”

Gregg Wallace: “You’ve done brilliantly well and I like the concept.”

Why Wynne used Welsh produce in MasterChef

From former Welsh rugby captain Alun Wyn Jones’ rum alongside his Cardiff curry to his Welsh lamb recipe, Wynne committed to Welsh produce despite the extra challenges sourcing food from his homeland while filming in London.

“There was one time I really wanted to use Pembrokeshire oysters so I got on the phone to them at 8pm and said I really need some oysters by tomorrow in London,” he recalled.

“They said there’s a restaurant in Borough that if you go there, they should have some – that’s literally how I was working, hand to mouth,” said Wynne.

“But there’s certain things we do in Wales brilliantly like cockles, oysters, lamb, chorizo and Welsh whisky – and they signposted me to dishes I could try or ingredients I could use in dishes.”

Image source, BBC /Shine TV

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Emmerdale star Amy Walsh, Opera singer Wynne Evans and Love Island’s Luca Bish were the 2023 Celebrity Masterchef finalists

Sustainability, freshness and quality are behind Wynne’s drive to use Welsh produce because it’s what he does at home.

But the relentless nature of the two-month filming schedule meant he needed a team of friends around who would go on late-night shopping hunts for ingredients while he was on his way home from the studio – so he was ready to practise the following day’s recipe that night.

“It’s a hectic schedule and this is probably what the viewers don’t realise, understandably so,” he recalled.

“So while I was on my way home from getting through one round, I’d ring up mates and say get yourself down to the supermarket and give them a shopping list for the next day’s recipe.

“But some things are pretty niche, like trying to find laverbread from Wales in the middle of London on a Wednesday night is quite hard.”

After returning home from getting through one round, he’d practise the next day’s recipe again and again in an attempt to get it right – which, also benefitted the homeless living around where he was staying near Stratford in east London.

“I was practising so much I was taking food to people on the street,” he said.

“I didn’t know what to do with the amount of food I was making. I was trying to cajole friends to come around, getting them to take stuff home because the cooking was constant – and you’re cooking the same thing over and over again.

“I was taking it to homeless people around where I was living and in the end they were saying ‘we’ve had enough of your cooking thanks!'”

Twenty celebrities started the battle to become 2023 Celebrity MasterChef champion.

Image source, BBC/Shine TV

Judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace were helped by guest panels to whittle it down to one Wynner. Catch up the series box set on BBC iPlayer.

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