There’s no doubt that Jane Devonshire successfully fought off fierce competition to win this year’s highly competitive edition of MasterChef in May. She explains: “I think to begin with I played it safe, but I soon realised if I was to do well I had to be more adventurous. My pheasant with pickled apple and chestnuts that I cooked for my showstopper in knockout week is a lovely dish, but I think people started to notice me when I cooked the Lobster with sweetcorn and chilli panacotta with popcorn during the semi finals on the series.”
The former stay-at-home mum had initially given up work when Harry, her third child was born, however in the end it was her fourth and youngest son Ben who found the MasterChef application on the internet and helped her fill in the form. Jane explains:
“My children primarily nagged me for a long time to enter and, when I was accepted, I was absolutely amazed – it was the last thing I ever expected. I was very excited and absolutely terrified in equal measures!”
Anyone who watched the latest series will recall Jane’s incredible skill and aptitude with challenging ingredients. It was this that made her such an inspiration to every budding chef.
Jane says: “I really love getting to grips with new ingredients and am not squeamish, but standouts on the series were the huge octopus in the first Professional kitchen round; I had to cook three! Filleting seven cod onboard HMS Northumberland in semi-final week, and the sea urchins I faced in the final week with Michael O’Hare at Bristol Old Vic, were pretty challenging too.”
Jane also remembers how she struggled with the Trout Scotch Egg in the Family Favourites round, which she ‘cooks all the time at home’, and she adds: Taking part in the show hasn’t been her only challenge as Jane found she had contracted breast cancer in 2007. After checking herself and finding a lump, she had an operation, went through chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Jane says: “My family and friends kept me going. I am very lucky to have a fabulous support system. I discovered secondary cancer in my liver a few months before my 5-year milestone. It was devastating news and hard to process but you can’t give up, you just have to fight.”
Now, following a full recovery, Jane feels that her illness has no relevance to her cooking ability so it didn’t enter her head to let the show know when she applied to take part. She adds:
“Sadly having cancer in no way makes me special, and that’s a tragedy.
Winning MasterChef is what’s special. But if it can give hope to even just one person in my situation then I am very glad. I would say to anyone don’t give up, it’s so very hard but if you can get through it’s the most special and amazing thing ever.
When Jane won the series she describes it as the most incredible feeling of disbelief but joy and adds: ”I genuinely worked very hard on the show to improve but I knew how very good the others were, and honestly never expected to win. It’s changed my life dramatically.
I am now working full time in the food industry and not a week has gone by without me doing something I have never done before, or ever envisaged doing. It has been an incredible experience and I am very grateful to MasterChef.”
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