VIDEO: MasterChef champion is revealed as Irini Tzortzoglou, 61, from Crete, after the show’s first ever all-female final
Irini Tzortzoglou has been crowned this year’s MasterChef champion after the show’s very first all-female final.
The retiree, 61, became the fifteenth amateur cook to claim the coveted title when she beat fellow finalists Jilly McCord, 42, and Delia Maria Asser, 28, on Friday.
Irini was awarded the trophy by judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace after seven grueling weeks of culinary challenges and a close final cook-off.
The final task challenged chefs to produce a three-course meal for the two judges.
Irini’s winning menu was inspired by her childhood in Crete, Greece. She cooked up red mullet with squid risotto and confit tomatoes to start; griddled rosemary lamb chops with trahanas puree for a main course; and a fig and hazelnut baklava for dessert.
The champion chef, who now lives in Cartmel, Cumbria with her husband John, said: ‘I’m trembling, I’m floating on air, I don’t think my feet are touching the ground right now. What an experience, I just don’t have the words to say how thrilled and grateful I am.
‘I can finally say I believe in me; I believe it takes something tough at times, but that strength can surface, and when it does it can achieve wonders.’
John Torode declared the chef has ‘magic in her finger tips and a fire in her belly’ after the winner was announced.
He said: ‘Taking the food that she knows from the island of Crete and putting it into a modern context – that’s what Irini does and it’s stunning.
‘She has a magic in her finger tips and a fire in her belly. She wanted to make her grandchildren proud – she’s done that!’
And Gregg Wallace praised Irini’s ‘inspired’ used of Greek ingredients and flavours.
He said: ‘Irini’s little touches of Greek flavours and Greek ingredients are nothing short of inspired.
‘You can learn cooking technique, what you can’t put into somebody is absolute love and passion, and Irini is just bursting with it. It’s from the heart every time she cooks.’
He went on to praise her winning menu as ‘beautiful’, whereas John said she ‘introduced us to things we’ve never seen before.’
Ahead of John announcing the winner, a tearful Gregg said to the three finalists: ‘Watching you grow, watching you achieve your personal goals, I’ve found uplifting.
‘I think today was a proper celebration of culinary art done by people who are obviously completely in love with what they do. It’s joyous.’
Irini fought her way from 54 amateur cooks and was pushed to show the judges the skills, creative flair and perseverance needed to succeed at the highest level.
In an extremely demanding final week, MasterChef fans watched Irini cook a fine dining tasting menu for some of the team who took part in the Transglobe Expedition – the first and only longitude circumnavigation of the world.
The event celebrated the 40th anniversary, and diners included expedition leader, and the world’s greatest living explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes.
Irini has also been on a trip of a lifetime to Hong Kong to learn from dim sum master Chef Tak, at Lung King Heen at the Four Seasons – the first Chinese restaurant in the world to be awarded three Michelin stars.
She said: ‘I feel a totally different person from only three months ago; I feel I have grown massively. What MasterChef has given me is deep seated confidence.
‘It’s been a long road but I have enjoyed every second.’