A talented dad is tasting success on MasterChef.
Stay-at-home dad, Simon Spooner, who lives in Ketton, has booked himself a place in the last 16 of the hit BBC show, and he will next be on TV screens across the country on Sunday.
So far, Simon has impressed judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace in the popular cookery contestant with his ambitious dishes.
Just 56 amateur cooks made it through to compete over four weeks of heats screened on television. Simon has beat off stiff competition to reach the final 16 with dishes such as confit sea trout with crispy skin, fennel puree, beetroot crisps and a whipped goat’s cheese mousse.
Already Simon has faced gruelling challenges, including cooking pie and mash for tough food critic Grace Dent, who said she “didn’t expect to like something as much as that so early on” in the competition.
Father-of-two Simon said his best performance came in the last round where he cooked-up a mouth-watering Sichuan steak tartare for the main course.
Simon, 34, said: “It is an amazing experience .
“The first time I went on the show, my nerves got the better of me and I scraped through the first round - since then I have got better and better.”
Simon, 34, has had a burning passion for cooking from a young age and has taken inspiration from his mother and grandmother who he said are both excellent cooks.
He said: “I have always loved food and cooking. It has been a big part of my life since I was very little but it has become more of a passion for me.
“Entering MasterChef was always something I thought about doing but it never seemed the right time. It seemed like if I didn’t do it now I would never do it.”
And Simon has been overwhelmed by the support he’s received from Gregg and John who have described his food as “great”.
He said: “They are really supportive, they only want people to do well.
“Gregg is always on hand to put you at ease. John can tell you anything about a dish.”
The former partner in a London based recruitment firm has been juggling looking after his two children, who are aged three and four, with cooking everyday to prepare for the show.
He said: “The amount of practice you have to do for each week is huge - you have to make it perfect. After I put the kids to bed I am cooking until 1am sometimes.”
But keeping busy in the kitchen has meant Simon and his partner, Nicola, a HR firm boss, have been enjoying mealtimes - but Nicola has been kept firmly out of the kitchen while Simon rustles up dishes worthy of John and Gregg’s approval.
He said: “She is enjoying all the food - our midweek meals are a lot better than we used to do. She gets a bit frustrated sometimes because she is a good cook too.”
During knockout week, the 16 contestants are divided into two teams of eight, where over the course of shows airing next week they will be whittled down to just five ahead of semi-finals week. Three will make it to the final week when one will receive the coveted trophy and the title of MasterChef winner 2018.
n You can next see Simon in action on MasterChef on BBC One at 8pm on Sunday.