‘One of the best days of my life’: Dubliner in BBC MasterChef final four
Alison O’Reilly jets to South Africa for the next round in the TV cooking show
Alison O’Reilly is in the final four as BBC MasterChef heads to Cape Town
When BBC MasterChef presenters John Torode and Gregg Wallace say to finalists in the TV show, “The next time we see you, it will be in Cape Town”, what they means is - go home now, find your passport, pack, and get to the airport.
That’s what happened to 30-year-old Dubliner Alison O’Reilly, who has now reached the final four in the competition, from more than 25,000 applicants.
“We went home and had to be at the airport the following afternoon. They gave us ‘potential’ days when we might be required, in advance. But, of course, we didn’t know what might be happening on those days. We were only told where we were going when they announced the final four,” O’Reilly told The Irish Times.
The show was filmed at the end of last year, and O’Reilly sealed her passage to South Africa in the episode screened on Monday night, when the contestants cooked lunch for the US ambassador to the UK and his five guests, mentored by Cornwall chef Paul Ainsworth.
They then returned to the MasterChef kitchen for a test of their “creativity, flair and imagination” in which they had to cook a dish inspired by something or someone that inspired them.
O’Reilly, a London-based marketing consultant, chose the work of Roald Dahl and in particular Fantastic Mr Fox, as her inspiration. “I found this brief really fun and loved playing with the concept and turning it into a dish. I’ve never really had the opportunity to express myself with food in this way and it was just such a wonderful experience.”
O’Reilly’s duck breast with duck liver doughnut, smoked potato, carrot and apple puree, cashew crumb and coriander oil, rendered judge John Torode momentarily speechless. “I am stunned ... I mean really, and it’s not very often in a competition I get like this. That is fantastic, it’s ace. Good on ya, Alison.”
With those words of praise, O’Reilly’s emotions got the better of her, for the first time in the competition. There were tears.
“It was an emotional day for me, in a very good way. I don’t think being a finalist had really sunk in yet and when I got such amazing feedback from John and Gregg, I think I was just really overwhelmed.
“I was really nervous about how I would do in that round, knowing how few of us there were and that every step of the competition was getting harder and harder. So I just felt a huge sense of relief and gratitude when I heard how much they liked my dish.
“Then finding out I was in the final four and would be leaving for South Africa the very next day was like a dream, so surreal and so exciting. I still can’t believe it really, it was one of the best days of my life.”
Music teacher Giovanna Ryan, sound engineer Steve Kielty and doctor Saliha Mahmood-Ahmed join O’Reilly in the next stage of the competition. But for 22-year-old pr executive Lorna Robertson, it was the end of the MasterChef journey.
On Wednesday, the final four will be seen cooking a South African braai, or barbecue, in 40-degree heat. They will also take over a lunch service at Cape Town restaurant The Test Kitchen, and cook for leading figures in Cape Town’s cultural and food communities at Beau Constantia Winery.
MasterChef, BBC One, May 10th, 8pm