Here at MK Community Hub, we were very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to talk exclusively to current Masterchef contestant Sofia Gallo, on her journey to the ever popular BBC One show MasterChef.
Sofia Gallo runs her own online cookery school in Milton Keynes called 'In Cucina con Sofia' (in the kitchen with Sofia) which she launched in the first lockdown.
Sofia told us, ''It all began in the first lockdown. Our family have a villa in Italy and usually we would visit the Villa and welcome guests, but because this unfortunately couldn't happen, I wanted to find a way that we could still all enjoy food together but from a distance. I started off by making recipe cards so that my family and friends could enjoy some Italian food in the comfort of their own homes. From the recipe cards, I moved on to making video content which I shared online and this then quickly turned in to virtual lessons.''
Things progressed extremely fast for Sofia as her virtual classes were attracting attendees from right across the globe.
Sofia said with a smile, ‘’It’s been great because I have been able to go everywhere around the world and everybody around the world has been able to join me in my kitchen. This is how my business name came about!''
The conversation led to how the covid pandemic has effected Sofia and it was clear to see that although have been tough, Sofia has been able to adapt and create something positive from the challenges she faced.
''I was on hold last year, like most people. I had to reset and figure out a path because my job as a wedding co-ordinator wasn't viable. I had to re-invent myself and that's where it all began.''
The conversation quickly led to a real highlight of lockdown for Sofia, BBC One's infamous MasterChef. The programme where judges famously critique budding chefs food for a chance to be crowned champion of the MasterChef kitchen. The judging panel are certainly not afraid in holding back their true thoughts when things don't go quite right in the kitchen so maybe this is why it took Sofia 4 years of persuasion from her friend to apply!
''‘My friend told me for 4 consecutive years to apply so I eventually did!’' laughed Sofia.
Sofia explained that the process to win a place on the show is tough and it's quite a long process. It was only when she got the call to say she had been successful that the reality hit.
‘’The application is done in many stages which is quite a long process. I had to create a signature dish to present, a challenge using specific ingredients and also an interview with producers. There were thousands of applicants in total and I was one of the forty successful applicants. When they contacted me and said they wanted me to move on in the selection process I was pretty shocked to be fair. I panicked and thought wow, now I have to live up to what I was preaching in my application,'' Sofia Laughed.
We asked Sofia what she hopes to achieve from being on the show.
''My goal is actually being able to teach as many people to cook at home as I can. I am all for re-introducing home economics back in to schools and education as I believe children should be given the opportunity to learn how to cook even the basics from a young age. I absolutely love sharing my skills and my love for food with as many people as I can. It's amazing what you can do with just a few ingredients but it's simplifying it for those who maybe aren't confident in the kitchen. Everybody has the ability within them it's sometimes just unlocking the confidence to actually do it.''
''I would love to open a classic Italian eatery with classes on the side but my ultimate goal is to win the lottery, buy a Georgian house, create a retreat and invite people to come and stay so that they can learn to cook with me whilst taking a break from the busy world that we live in.''
Sofia couldn't give too much away about how she performed on the show but she did give an insight to her experience behind the scenes.
''Going to the MasterChef Kitchen for the first time was absolutely surreal. Not many people can say that they have been there in person and it's strange seeing it on my tv now. The people involved, well, I was so impressed. If anybody is out there thinking they may want to apply, go for it, it’s an amazing experience and you are very well looked after.’’
''The judges were fair. They are exactly how you see them on the TV. You don’t see the judges until you you open the door and there they are standing there infront of your very eyes! I can't lie, I got a little starstruck, it's so weird to see them in person after seeing them on TV! It's hard to imagine they are real people.
We asked Sofia if the judges speak to contestants outside of the kitchen.
''They only interact with you as you are cooking but other than that you don’t see them. They are there to judge our food so that is what they focus on. As you see it on TV is exactly how it is in reality.''
Sofia was also keen to stress how cooking can be a hugely therapeutic benefit to people as there is more to cooking than just about making the food.
''There is more to cooking than just making and eating the food. There is a process and structure which is great for the mind. You don’t think of anything else whilst you cook. This is why I believe so many people used their spare time in lockdown to start trying out new foods and different ways of cooking. It's a great distraction and you can learn so much about yourself aswell as the foods we are so lucky to have.''
With this in mind, Sofia has teamed up with local charity Mind BLMK, a mental wellbeing charity in Milton Keynes, to host a cook along event.
Local Minds Italian Cook-along with Sofia, local and current MasterChef Participant! There will be two virtual cook-along sessions, the first cook-a-long is being held on Thursday 18 March and the second is on Thursday 25 March both at 6:30pm. Click here for full details
As the interview came to a close we asked Sofia what she has learnt from the past years experience of lockdown aswell as her journey on to Masterchef.
'’If we had to take a lesson from the last year, we should try to hold back a little bit and cherish more of our time. We should enjoy more of what we have and if I can help anybody do this through cooking, then I will be hugely satisfied.’’
Tune in to BBC One's MasterChef programme this evening to see how Milton Keynes' own Sofia Gallo gets on in her journey to be crowned MasterChef champion 2021
Good luck Sofia, Milton Keynes is behind you!