Meet Anthony O’Shaughnessy, who is set to make his cooking debut on BBC One’s MasterChef tonight (Thursday, 8 March).
The 26-year-old from Gateshead, who is unable to divulge how far he goes in the cookery competition, says his job as a call operator within North East Ambulance Service’s Emergency Operations Centre in Hebburn, where he has worked for the last three years, helped him keep a level head during the stress of the challenges.
“They told me during filming that I seemed really calm but I explained that I’m used to this kind of pressure,” he said. “As a call operator, you need to keep a level head no matter what is happening on the other end of the phone. Often people are ringing at one of the frightening times of their lives so it’s important to stay calm to help keep them calm and ensure I can arrange the help they need.”
Having reached the last 30 in last year’s Great British Bake Off, and applying for MasterChef, Anthony was approached by the casting director to see whether he wanted to audition for the show.
“I was obviously disappointed not to get on the Bake Off but I guess getting as far as I did gave me that bit of extra confidence to think ‘why not?’. A few weeks later I was auditioning in Glasgow with a red pepper and walnut mezze dip. I then sort of forgot about it and strangely enough I received the phone call to say I’d been accepted while I was watching the advert for the Bake Off.
“It was pretty intense during filming, but I really enjoyed the experience and can’t wait for everyone to see how I got on – not being able to tell anyone has definitely been the hardest thing about it. I had to tell my mum I was on the show because I live with her but I couldn’t even tell her the detail! It will be a nice surprise for everyone.”
Anthony loves to cook for family and friends and finds recipe inspiration from travelling.
“I like naughty food – food that you probably shouldn’t but you know you want to! Cakes and pies and deep-friend treats and saucy puddings. Let’s be honest, people feel fantastic when they eat food that they really want to eat. I like seeing people feel good like that and I like feeding people that way!
“A lot of people seem to get their interest in cooking from their family but I never really grew up with cooking, my family don’t cook very much. I think I first took an interest in cooking when I moved away from home when I was 18. Suddenly I was buying my own shopping and eating what I liked.
“I’ve always been greedy, I love eating! I see cooking as a way of being able to create anything that I’d like to eat – it’s almost like a superpower.
“Cooking definitely helps me switch off after a busy shift. At home I usually just eat whatever I fancy that day but I do put a bit of thought into what I take to work, making sure you bring something you enjoy is a good reward on a long shift. I find the best thing for a packed lunch are soups and stews, usually things with carbohydrates and plenty of fat to keep me going on a long shift – it’s also a perfect excuse to eat something a bit naughty!”
Tune in to MasterChef tonight at 8pm on BBC One.