“I never imagined I would be the winner as I never really thought I was that good at cooking,” says Colin Luke, reflecting on his new status as Orkney Amateur Master Chef champion. “It just goes to show that with a little confidence and lot of practice anyone can do it.”
Colin Luke in action at the 2017 Orkney Amateur Master Chef event Although modest about his achievement, Colin’s menu for this biennial contest – staged by Orkney Food and Drink – certainly wowed judges on the night, edging out strong competition in the form of Caroline Critchlow, Callum MacInnes and Aaron Moar.
“I started practicing about two weeks prior to the competition,” explains Colin, who prepared Cullen Skink soup as a starter, cheese stuffed fillet steak with sweet potato mash for a main, and chocolate surprise for dessert.
“Initially I cooked each course until I was happy with how it looked and tasted. I only tried doing the whole thing together once. It went fine, but took a lot longer than the time we were allocated for each course. In fact, I still hadn't done anything about the pudding presentation until the actual night, so it was kind of made up on the spot. Thankfully it worked!
Colin, a senior water treatment operator with Scottish Water, enjoys cooking as a hobby, preparing most of the meals at home and experimenting with new recipes. He’s clearly been doing something right, as it was his wife, Carmen, who entered him into the Orkney Master Chef contest.
“She entered me without telling me,” reveals 37-year-old Colin, who initially wasn’t too enthusiastic about taking part. “There were a few quiet days in our household after she told me what she'd done, as l wasn't best pleased! In the end, the whole thing was an experience I won't forget. It was enjoyable and something I will recommend to others.”
For many who consider taking part in the Orkney Master Chef contest, it’s the thought of cooking in front of a live audience that puts them off. But for Colin, this added pressure didn’t impact too much on his winning performance.
“I don't really suffer from nerves so I just blocked out the audience and got on with the task in hand,” he says. “As for pressure, the only time that was a problem was when we got told there were only five minutes to go on the starter and the tatties were still as hard as golf balls.
“I seemed to have luck on my side that night though as most things went to plan. The only thing that was nearly a hiccup was when I put my main course tatties in a pot without water, accidentally switched them on and nearly burnt them.”
His tatties saved, Colin went on to secure a win that’s made his family proud. He’s also rightly allowed himself a small pat on the back.
“Initially it was a complete shock to actually be the winner, but now that it has sunk in, I guess I feel very proud of myself for what I achieved,” he says. “As for my workmates, I've already had quite a few requests to cook the Christmas staff meal this year. That shows how much attention they pay as I'm actually on standby for the staff do and there's no way you can get a swap at that time of year.”
Although Colin has no firm plans to take his award-winning cooking further, he does say he’d be “well up” for further opportunities to showcase his skills, if they came along.
One thing he claims he won’t be doing, however, is signing up for the TV MasterChef show, as the former Orkney contest winner, Kerry Leask, has done.
“Absolutely, definitely, no way!” he declares. “But then again, you never know. It all depends on what my wife enters me into next, probably without telling me!”
Take a look at our special interactive review of the night, including photos of some of the action and all of the courses.