Masterchef 2019 semi-finalist talks about her experience on the show and believes female chefs can pursue their dreams

  • Panisha Patel was semi-finalist of Masterchef 2019 while continuing her career in nursing for NHS
  • Only 18.5% of chefs in the UK are women 
  • Panisha believes women should not be afraid to pursue their dreams

Masterchef semi-finalist of 2019 Panisha Patel got her nursing degree in Manchester but soon discovered her love of food.

While staying at university accommodation with five other students, they would take turns in cooking one day-a-week. 

She said: “Instead of listening to the lecturer I would be sat there planning my meal. We had a budget of £10 and that’s when I got more and more adventurous, which really kickstarted it for me.”

From cooking for friends to entering Masterchef, Panisha said cooking for two Michelin starred chef Michel Roux Jr was her highlight of the show.

She said: “I was genuinely speechless, at one point I started crying and John Torode thought I was crying because I was unhappy.”

She said: “It’s a time of your life that you can’t relate to anything else and the intensity and the friendships you build in the competition are like no other. 

“At the time I couldn’t tell anyone what I’d been doing, I was still working in the hospitals.

“Having to secretly take the train down to London without anyone knowing was tough.”

Panisha still works full time as a nurse, but says even this did not prepare her for the stress of a professional kitchen. 

She said: “I’ve worked in A&E but my time in the professional kitchen was more stressful than any day I’ve ever worked in the hospital. It was so scary.

“I’m still working in the hospital, I love nursing as much as I love food, it’s like a 50/50.”

There are more than 250,000 professional chefs in the UK, but only 18.5 per cent of them (around 46,000) of these are women, according to the latest ONS figures.

Panisha believes there are many incredible female chefs women can draw inspiration from, such as Nisha Katona MBE, who is the founder of popular Indian restaurants Mowgli, a role model of Panisha’s.

“She’s an example of a woman who’s made it in the food industry who does a lot of charity work and some work for BBC,” she said.

“She’s made it in the food industry and has done it her own way, she’s not followed anyone else’s path.”

Panisha also mentioned previous Masterchef contestants who have gone on to be successful in the world of food and not just in the kitchen. This included the winner of the 2019 completion, Irini Tzortzoglou, who has opted to sell her own cookbooks and doing so successfully. 

Panisha is currently pursuing a part-time chef role and starting a supper club this month after a successful soft launch. The four-course menu involves Panisha cooking Italian food, which happens to be her favourite cuisine. 

This will take place at Grindsmith Coffee Roasters in Manchester, 16 November at 7pm.