Keziah Whittaker

📷 : BBC / Shine TV

With BBC airing the first series of Young MasterChef earlier this year, Keziah Whittaker was one of the 15 contestants who were judged by Poppy O’Toole and Kerth Gumbs, and Keziah went on to be announced as the first winner of Young MasterChef. Since winning the BBC series, Keziah is hoping to, this year, host her own events and release her own products, having originally got into cooking through her family. Finding out about Keziah’s time on Young MasterChef, she tells us about her experience as a contestant on the first series of the show, being announced as the winner and what she hopes 2023 brings her.

In January, you were announced as the first winner of BBC’s Young MasterChef, how did you find the experience being a contestant on the show?

The whole experience was so surreal, till this day it still does not feel real. I enjoyed the whole process, I made sure to take in every single emotion that I felt, whether it be fear, excitement, sadness, happiness, I took it all in because it is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences and I will forever be grateful for it.

Was there anything that encouraged you to apply for the series and how did you feel finding out you’d be a contestant?

I think when I initially applied, I thought ‘what’s the worst that can happen? I probably won’t even get onto the actual show so I might as well’. I applied for Junior MasterChef when I was little and obviously did not get onto the show so I thought that would be the case this time round. When I got the call to say that I am going to be on the show, I just cried because i knew that it was god bringing me to the next chapter in my life and that this is my time.

Did you have a favourite episode or challenge to work on and what do you feel you’ve learnt from your time on Young MasterChef?

My favourite episode from the show has to be the supermarket challenge, I felt my most comfortable in that challenge and although I appreciate all of the challenges that I faced on the show, it was great to be 90% confident in that challenge. I was confident in that challenge the most because I live alone as a student so I know how to budget and create amazing meals with whatever I have. I think confidence and determination are the two biggest takeaways from my time on MasterChef. When I felt confident, I did much better. The moment I started doubting myself, it showed, and even if I was not sure and certain, I always stayed determined and the judges definitely noticed that.

📷 : BBC/Shine Ltd

What was it like filming alongside your fellow contestants and being judged by Poppy O’Toole and Kerth Gumbs?

It was great filming with the other contestants and being judged by Poppy and Kerth. All of the contestants are so different and live such different lives and cook differently so there was always such interesting conversations on set. We would always share tips and advice and help each other out a lot, it was really, really nice. Poppy and Kerth are also lovely as well, they help so much and even though the whole situation could be intimidating, they made me feel super comfortable.

What did you enjoy most about being part of the first series of Young MasterChef and how was it seeing the viewers’ response to the show?

The thing that I enjoyed the most, especially when I watched the show back, was that I stayed true to myself and I never really see people who are like me on TV. I represented my heritage the best that I could and made myself and my family proud in the process. The response I’ve received from the show has been so overwhelming, it’s been nothing but positivity and it makes me really emotional at times because I still find it hard to digest what has actually happened.

What was it like reaching the Final and then being announced as the winner of Young MasterChef – Series 1?

It was crazy reaching the Final and then winning. I didn’t even know how much I wanted it until I reached the kitchen and with each challenge after that I just wanted to win more and more. I was so emotional and grateful but, in terms of winning, I’m still looking for the words to describe that feeling.

What advice would you give someone applying for a future series of Young MasterChef?

BELIEVE IN YOURSELF and don’t overthink it, the main thing is to have fun and embrace the whole process and then everything else will fall into place. Just be sure to take it all in because it is honestly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Where does your love of cooking come from and how did you get into it?

Everyone in my family can cook so I was surrounded by good food all my life. My grandad was the first person to teach me how to cook and I really started to enjoy it from there. My mum is also a caterer and I would go to every single catering booking with her before I moved away so naturally when I did end up moving out, I carried on cooking, experimenting, and then eventually documenting what I was doing for all my social platforms.

Do you have a favourite aspect of being a chef?

Yes, I feel like, as the winner of MasterChef, people have high expectations of me to open a restaurant straightaway, however, I am still young, I am only 21, I want to travel the world, learn from the world’s greatest cooks, release a cooking and cookware range, host events, and then eventually put all my knowledge and experience into my very own restaurant.

Are there any celebrity chefs that inspire you and your work?

Yes, I would love to work with Gordon Ramsay, Lorraine Pascale, Big Zuu and James Cochrane (again).

Can you tell us a couple of your favourite dishes to make/eat?

I like to make curried goat, Jerk Salmon and rasta pasta.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I love listening to music, watching movies and anything including art, such as painting and knitting.

Are there any talent competition shows you enjoy watching or do you have any other favourite TV shows to watch?

I love reality TV and Gogglebox, I think The Only Way is Essex and Gogglebox are probably my favourites. In terms of competition shows, I love The X Factor, Hunted, Bake Off and, of course, MasterChef.

What are you hoping 2023 brings for you?

For 2023, I am hoping to work with amazing people and brands, grow all of my social platforms, host my own events where I can cook for people, and hopefully also release my range of sauces and seasonings, anything else will be a blessing.

Follow Keziah on:

Instagram (Food)

Instagram (Personal)

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