The winner of MasterChef 2008 is....

The three finalists of the BBC's MasterChef 2008 wait anxiously for the winner to be proclaimed...


And the winner is James Nathan, an ex-barrister.


This was his final winning 3 course menu. The starter was smoked mozzarella ravioli with cherry tomato sauce and basil cream:


The main was tea infused venison with roast potatoes, pickled red cabbage and rich port sauce:


And his dessert was chocolate and orange sponge pudding.


There's no denying that James deserved to win. He was the most consistent contestant in most of the final week challenges, and the semi-final week challenges too. He's undoubtedly a very good cook, and he has a good chance to fulfill his stated goal of opening his own restaurant. For that matter, so does Jonny Stevenson, the banker slash single father from Belfast, who makes simple, hearty, crowd-pleasing type of food that I'd be happy to eat any day of the week.

But around Chez Just Hungry the contestant that excited us the most by far was the youngest MasterChef contestant ever, 18 year old Emily Ludolf. Our nickname for her was "Hester Blumenthal". In a nutshell, she's a budding molecular-gastronomist type of chef, but unlike Marcel from Top Chef 2, who was clearly copying the ideas of his mentors for the most part, Emily was entirely original. She made us sit up and take notice when she made a chocolate dessert that she called a 'mud pie' - inspired by, she said, mud pies she used to make in the garden. It was a chocolate mousse with raspberries and sugared tarragon leaves. She also made amazing things like a rhubarb soup.


Then, in the semi-final rounds that aired last week, she made this dish which she called "bacon and eggs", which was actually chorizo, ricotta and soft egg ravioli with crisp parma ham and pea shoot coulis. It made three very jaded newspaper food critics exclaim "WOW".


These were Emily's final three dishes, starting with "Tagiatelle" of beetroot juice and smoked salmon with apple, mint and horseradish:


The main she made was rabbit saddle and languoustine mousseline with carrot, lemongrass and ginger purée. I think this dish let her down, as beautiful as it is. Rabbit and langoustine together? It also has a pear and water chestnut salad. (I am assuming she used regular Western pears. Maybe Asian pears might have worked better.) Nevertheless I'd love to taste it.


Her dessert was similar in concept to her earlier mud pie, a chocolate and paprika sorbet with marshmallows, truffle and pine nut sugar and passion fruit syrup. It was, she said, inspired by memories of toasting marshmallows and such on a campfire.


I am fascinated by what this young 18 (now 19) year old girl will do in the upcoming years. It seems she's now at university enduring student food. She says she wants to combine English skills with her 'hobby' - "perhaps by becoming a food critic". Nooooooooooooooooooo. The world does not need yet another food critic or 'tv food personality'. I really hope Emily pursues her cooking career seriously and becomes a brilliant multistarred chef. Then she can use her earned celebrity chef status to write books or whatever she likes.

So, another terrific series of MasterChef, the show that puts every other cooking competition TV show anywhere to shame, is done. I can't wait for the next one next year, and seeing how the 2008 finalists progress with the pursuit of their dreams.

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This year's Masterchef has kept me on the edge of my seat. The wonderful thing about this years competition was that more people were getting into this cooking malarky. I was the only person all fired up about it last year and the semi final episode this year had us all guessing. James was the right choice with his amazing skills although my heart really wanted Emily to win. I can't wait to see what happens to her in 5 years, maybe she will be the younger chef ever to have won a Michelin star?

Wasn't it wonderful? I loved Emily, I am most upset to read she wants to be a food critic! I am glad she didn't win to be honest as it could have pushed her in a direction that would mean she would have missed out on Uni.

I loved how excited she is about food. Yay Emily! :D

I confess that I timed my research trip to the UK so that I would see as much of Masterchef as possible (don't tell my spousal equivalent!). I was delighted to see James win, but Emily didn't charm me at all. Plus she kept slipping in and out of a Jamie Oliver accent, which drove me round the bend.

I don't have a kitchen here -- just a fridge and a kettle -- but I go to the Borough Market every saturday to pick up meats, cheeses, etc. for the week (although I prefer to think of it as the Burro Market).

This week I saw Sheridan right in front of me! It says something about British tv that my first instinct was "Oh, there's a girl I know," rather than "Gosh, a tv personality!"

I was in Spain when the final of this show was aired (no electricity - but we did have gas and water - it was bliss!)
so I never saw the finals.
Thanks for the result and your delightful commentary.
I hope YOU don't slide cooking to the back burner to become a food critic. :D

Totally agree with you - Emily was the real star! Such originality, such flair - just amazing...

I mean Emily and Jonny were fun to have on the show and were always smilin which made it happy. But the gay James was so gay drove my crazy that he won. I suppose he was the most concistent in his food but he was so GAY!!!

Putting aside the oddity of the word 'gay' (or 'ghey') being used as some sort of insult nowadays, iirc James is married with in the literal sense I guess he isn't.

Dude, your comment is the quintessence of gayness. Well done!

Hi James, Jonny and Emily (Little Em),

My name is Tracy (45yrs) living in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. I have watched the entire episodes of Masterchef 2008 with great interest.

To enter a competition of such standards clearly shows the confidence you had in yourselves. To reach the finals is a phenomenal achievement and in my book you are all masterchef's.

Congratulations to all three of you and an extra congratulation to you James for winning the title of Masterchef.

This past competition was by far the best i have ever viewed!!

May all three of you go from strength to strength and i wish you every success in your new careers.

Kind regards


Damn, i prefered emily. Here in Belgium we also have the english masterchef, but it are now the semi-finals. I couldn't wait to search in the internet who won.

"It's ...Maahstah-chef."
From the moment I hear those breathy opening syllables, I'm hooked. I cannot move or speak--I am rooted to the spot. The interval between episodes is to me an excruciating agony! Outside of Mahstah Chef, I have no other life. If I can manage to tear myself away from the screen long enough to procreate, my first two children will be caled Pasty and Toad.

LOL! I'm going to miss the finale next week (is it next week?) since it's the day we move out...but well..I don't think I will be crying. Pasty and Toad are getting just a mite annoying...

I've just stumbled across Emily Ludolf's cooking blog 'Edible Ink' at - it seems she's still rustling up some amazingly creative recipes!

Wow, that's awesome! Thanks for letting me know Yanny!