Irish chef Anna Haugh on being ‘firm but fair’ as the latest MasterChef judge

Irish Chef Anna Haugh On Being ‘Firm But Fair’ As The Latest Masterchef Judge
Irish chef and restaurateur Anna Haugh has joined the judging panel on MasterChef: The Professionals. Photo: BBC
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By Rachael Davis, PA Entertainment Features Writer

MasterChef: The Professionals is coming back to BBC One, as professional chefs hoping to make the big time line up to show the judges what they, and their dishes, are made of.

This series sees the departure of judge Monica Galetti, who had been involved in the show since 2009, while fan-favourites Gregg Wallace and Marcus Wareing return alongside Irish chef and restaurateur Anna Haugh to put the contestants through their paces.


We catch up with Wareing and Haugh in the run-up to the new series launch to get the low-down on what’s to come, including the sort of judge Haugh will be, the parts of MasterChef: The Professionals they’d most fear taking part in, and the number one dish a contestant could put in front of them.

Marcus Wareing, Anna Haugh and Gregg Wallace (BBC/PA)

Anna, we’re so excited to see you on MasterChef: The Professionals this series. How was it joining the show? Did anyone give you any tips?


“Gregg and Marcus welcomed me into the fold. I took on board everything they said.”

“They really watched me do things, and if I was stumbling or struggling, they cheered me on, they gave me more self-confidence to just keep going,” Haugh says.

“I really felt kind of mentored, in particular by Marcus, where I just felt that he wanted me to feel comfortable and confident in the chef that I am. And I mean, I told Marcus personally this, that I feel indebted to him. And to Gregg, Gregg gave me loads of great advice.

“I felt really lucky. It was a brilliant show to be part of.”


What kind of judge do you think you are? 

“I think in general, with my chefs in my kitchen, I try to be firm but fair.

“You know, humans make mistakes all the time, so as a chef, that’s kind of part of your job. If it comes down to laziness, or if somebody is dishonest in an action, that disappoints me, so you know, I think I’m firm but fair in a way that is good for a young chef or a growing chef.”

“Anything to do with food, I love. And if something’s a little bit tricky and hard to do, it kind of makes it even more exciting,” says Haugh.


“I think everything about our industry is a challenge. And I think the chefs who feel that and jump at the challenges, they’re the next stars of our industry. You’ve got to be able to enjoy something if it’s stretched you a bit. That’s what a good chef is all about. Enjoying the stretch.”

Wareing adds: “Every time I go on MasterChef and we make the show, I find it quite extraordinary, the process and what all our cooks go through, how it stretches their imaginations, pushes them into different areas.

“There’s no easy road into MasterChef, the road from walking through the door to lifting the trophy, it’s a journey for all of the chefs and they all have different experiences within there.

“So to answer your question, what bit would I not like to do? All of it. It’s all terrifying! I’d never enter MasterChef: The Professionals! It’s too difficult.”


Marcus Wareing, Gregg Wallace and Anna Haugh (BBC/PA)

Why do you think MasterChef: The Professionals is such a good opportunity for growing chefs?

“You’ve got to have a mindset to walk through those doors: you’ve got to be a real true 100% professional cook,” says Wareing.

“When you walk through those doors, you’ve got to be committed to what’s about to happen on the journey of MasterChef, and there’s no competition like it. It’s 15 years of pros and it just gets better and better. And we’re still finding new talent.

“It baffles me every year, we get 30-odd chefs walk through the door, from all different places, from all different cultures, and they just blow you away with their stories and the emotion that they go through.”

He adds: “You start to really see a chef express themselves on the MasterChef studio floor – they don’t do it in their own kitchens because they’re not in the position to be able to do that. But when they get on the floor of MasterChef, it’s just like this explosion of their thinking.”

Anna, has being involved in MasterChef made you think differently about your own work as a chef? 

“I think the show’s made me even more proud of our industry. You’re looking at the next talent as that’s blossoming – it reinforces why I joined hospitality, because there’s something really special about the people and what they do to change our industry,” says Haugh.

“As I’m looking at these chefs with their own personal experiences and their own ideas of what they think food should be, it gives you a real feeling of just pride.”

Marcus Wareing, Gregg Wallace and Anna Haugh (BBC/PA)

We know that Gregg is the dessert guy – which dishes do you love being put in front of you? 

Haugh says: “I love when stuff looks like it’s been well thought through, when there’s a good plan. When you see good skill, a passionate chef with ideas, that’s the food I love.

“So I don’t always enjoy eating a lot of sweet things. But sometimes somebody’s dish, even if it’s a dessert, can just blow you away. I love to see food that makes sense. Not just pretty, not just sounding good, but food that feels like it has a heartbeat.”

Wareing adds: “I think some of the best dishes that get put in front of you are the dishes that are from a memory of the chef. Something that means something to them, whether that’s a loved one or something that your mum or your gran used to cook, and the chef would create a version of that.

“When you go right back to the soul of somebody, and you get back to the family elements of who they are, that’s when you start to see a different chef evolve in front of you because they are, for the first time in their life, creating something that’s very close and dear to them.

“Those are the best dishes that I think come out of the MasterChef chefs in the kitchen. Sensational.”

MasterChef: The Professionals returns to BBC One on Wednesday, November 2nd

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