We have watched his journey, we have witnessed the glint in the judges’ eyes when they taste his food, and he was our bet for being crowned the champion of Masterchef the Professionals 2019. We were right!
But Stuart Deeley is not going to have much time to celebrate his MasterChef success. The new winner of the 2019 series of MasterChef: The Professionals will be neck deep in Christmas service at Birmingham’s The Wilderness.
And once he completes his final service this Saturday, he has the small business of a new restaurant opening to attend to – after deciding to go it alone with his long-term partner, Tash.
“We’re up to our ears,” he says. “It’s mental. It’s December madness. We’re full on every service. It’s not that big of a deal because we’re only 25 seats. But the problem is that we do 12 courses. It’s a lot of work.”
MasterChef has been a transformative experience for him. Given his pedigree of Michelin-starred restaurants, it’s been life-improving, rather than life-changing. Deeley is a man who’ll get to where he’s going – MasterChef will just make the journey a little quicker.
He enjoyed cooking for Marcus Wareing and the other judges and was glad to present a showcase of Birmingham cuisine.
“My intention from the start was to be true to myself and to be true to my own style. My style is about being a Brummie. It’s about the food I grew up with. Birmingham has so many different cultures and cuisines in one small place. I’ve been fortunate enough to eat my way around the world without leaving my home city. Birmingham is such a great place to be. London is so big and so vast that people can get lost in it, Birmingham almost has a village-feel. Brummies love Brummies and that’s it.”
The exposure has come at just the right time, given that Stuart will, in Spring 2020, open his new restaurant. He’s found it slightly surreal and extremely humbling to be recognised while out doing the weekly shop.
“I loved cooking for Marcus and the judges. I definitely feel that Marcus saw something in me before the judges did. I had quite a shaky start and that was done to not having enough confidence. But after a certain point – the pop-up round where I did faggots – that was where I started to believe I could do it and I started going for it.
“I can’t thank people enough for their support. It’s at the point where I’m going to IKEA and I’m being stopped four times while I’m walking round. It’s weird and it’s humbling. All I do is cook. I’m not out fighting wars or saving lives, I just cook. It’s a surreal feeling.”
Deeley has been well-supported by the Second City’s Michelin-starred cooks. He worked formerly at Simpsons, under Andreas Antona and Luke Tipping, having started his career as a pot wash for Glynn Purnell.
“Glynn’s the pioneer for TV chefs from Birmingham. Brad does a bit and it’s great to have those people supporting me. I know all of the guys in town and they’re all excellent. I can’t thank them enough.”
Deeley is 28 and his partner, Tash, a restaurant manager, is 29. His calling to gastronomy, however, came many, many years ago.
“I was 13 when I knew I wanted to do this. I just kind of kept telling my mom and dad. They thought I’d change my mind. But when I was 15 my work experience came up from school and they sent me to Jonathan’s, off the Hagley Road. I remember as clear as day the sous chef sitting outside on a motorbike and walking into the kitchen. They were all shouting and swearing, listening to heavy music, and I knew I could be at home there. And that’s been it, I’ve never looked back.”
Having captured the MasterChef crown and put many of his dishes on the menu at The Wilderness in recent times, he’s looking forward to opening his own place in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter early in the new year. Deeley’s star is rising. It’s time for him to fly.