Nikita Pathakji has been named the winner of MasterChef: The Professionals 2022.
The Derby-born junior sous chef, 25, said she had never considered a career in food because her family is so “academic”, but decided to follow her passion instead of studying chemistry at university.
Pathakji travelled around Asia for nine months, falling in love with the local flavours and styles of the region, which inspired her dishes throughout the MasterChef competition.
She told the PA news agency: “I think I just tried to cook the food I love to eat and stay true to my style of cooking. I was competing against two incredible chefs, so I really pushed myself to do the best I could do, but in the end you never know how things will go on the day.
“For the final, I really wanted to practise as much as I could and I managed four full, timed run-throughs. As I was working full-time still, two of these happened on the same day, which also happened to be the hottest day of the year.”
“My family always wanted me to do it, especially mum. So I entered partly just to get her off my case,” she said.
“I decided this was the year because I’m now in a restaurant environment where I’m very comfortable and confident, but that’s dangerous. It was time to push myself that much further.
“I didn’t let myself dream of getting to this point when I entered. I’ve given everything to this. Sleepless nights is an understatement.”
Her winning menu started with sea bass cured in a citrus dressing with a smoked aubergine puree and a side of aubergine crisps, which was praised by Wareing who said: “This sings what you’re all about.”
This was followed by a take on her favourite dish from Thailand, Khao Soi, which judge Haugh described as “remarkable”, and a cardamom and custard tart with a honey and lemon sorbet for dessert.
“As soon as Nikita walked into the kitchen I could see she had class,” she said.
Wareing said: “She’s a chef that has grown right in front of our eyes. Her food has been sublime and she’s always come up with an amazing twist.”
Working as a chef de partie at the time of filming, Pathakji is now a junior sous chef at Michelin-starred restaurant Kitchen W8 in London.
She added: “Next I’d love to do pop-ups and festivals to cook for as many people as physically possible.
“It would be brilliant to work alongside the other MasterChef finalists to do bespoke menus and events. My long-term goal is to be a chef-owner of a successful restaurant where I get to cook my food every day.
“I’d want to foster a great working environment, much like my current workplace. Championing women in the industry, as well as creating a good work life balance, is so important to me.”