Monday, 18 March 2013

Masterchef, the final frontier...

1992... A journey back in time.

The tale of the Final, isn't about me, it isn't about the winner;
It's about the con-woman who competed.

martha... the winner Vanessa... me

The twelve programmes 
televised over the course of 3 months are recorded in two weeks.
One programme in the morning, one in the afternoon.

My first sight of Martha was as ships that pass in the night; I had just finished
my second round and won, she was just arriving to compete.
She staggered in with Harrods carrier bags fit to burst.
The thought flitted through my brain, how can she afford to shop at Harrods 
and stay within the thirty pound budget? 
Going home, I thought nothing more about it, not expecting to see her again.

Our next meeting was in the final.
I had made a last minute menu change, I was really pushed for time
thinking if I'm not careful I won't finish!
Across the studio, I remember Loyd asking her how she could stay
 within her budget serving foie gras?
She gave a plausible excuse, I was far too busy to think anymore about it.

Our judges were Richard Shepherd from Langhams and Clement Freud.  
I was very excited to meet the great man after having listened to him on
 Just a Minute on the radio.  
A wit and ranconteur, my excitement knew no bounds.

He was the most miserable old bugger you could ever wish to meet!
Boy was I disappointed; my eyes as well as my spuds were peeled that day.

I didn't win and in fairness, both Vanessa who won and Martha,
were better cooks than me.

Lots of doors open to the finalists, 
for me...
daytime television, radio, a Good Housekeeping cookery book,
hundreds of talks and demonstrations.

The finalists demonstrated at the Good Food Show
in Birmingham that year.
My next meeting with Martha was there.  After our
demonstrations we decided to wander around the show together.

I ought to tell you a little about Martha...
she and her family lived in a castle in the Highlands;
I thought Martha a strange bobby-sock-wearing American...
just that!
At each stand we visited she would produce her card,
at the sight of her address, out would come all the goodies.
Now usually on these occasions, you are lucky to get a tiny morsel
of something to try on a postage-size piece of bread or biscuit...
Not us, we got the full treatment, the champagne flowed.
By the end of the day, I was feeling decidedly squiffy

'Martha, how do you do it, I just don't get it?'

She replied...

'My husband says you must have everything in life you want!'

Through the haze I thought, sounds like a good idea to me!

'Linda, as we're all staying over tonight, why don't you join us for dinner,
we've booked a table at a good restaurant?'

Sadly as I'd made other arrangements I had to decline.

That was the last time I saw Martha.

Weeks later the news broke
'Masterchef Finalist wanted by Interpol'


Martha and family had left the country, having run up huge debts with all the local suppliers in Scotland.  The castle was rented, money owed there; plus in dead of night
the castle had been stripped of lots of the valuable antiques.

A moonlight flit!

Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather!
Suddenly I realised what I'd been witnessing at the show.
On production of her card, one look at the address had had the desired effect...
This woman is loaded, let's treat her well and get ourselves some good business.
What a clot, why didn't I go out to dinner with them?  I could then have jumped on the  money making bandwagon, selling my story to the Sun.

'Ive been in a den of thieves!'

Telling this story on one of my Masterchef talks, a woman came up afterwards and said

'You know Linda, you were lucky you did have another engagement that night.'


'Think about it... you all would have gone out for a slap-up meal and when it came to pay, mysteriously they would have forgotten to bring their money.

'Oh dear I've left my wallet in the safe at the hotel; 
can you pay Linda and I'll pay you back at when we meet at breakfast!'

Do you know, I think she had a point.  Martha had obviously sussed me out
as naive and trusting and I am, and happy to be so.

Interpol still looking for them?  I doubt it!
And Martha and family I'm sure are working their magic 
in other parts of the world.

Me... my life took off in so many ways...
happy in my honest state.


  1. lovely story, really enjoyed it while I drank my coffee.
    back to the grindstone now...

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Elaine... it all seems a lifetime away now.


  2. What a fantastic story! (Also interesting to hear about the "real" Clement Freud)
    By the way - if it had been a beautiful cook contest you would've won!

    1. Nilly to say I was disappointed was the understatement. After one of my 'Masterchef and Beyond' talks, a lady came up to me and said that she had heard him speak at a dinner at the Aldborough Festival. Afterwards she went up to his wife and said what a super man he was. Her reply 'Well you want to live with him!'

      Nilly I think you should have gone to Specsavers!


  3. wow what a fascinating life you have led Linda. Congratulations on reaching the final and what an incredible tale of Martha. I think you were right to decline as I am sure you would have been left with the bill. jaynex

    1. Yes Jayne, I have been blessed with a rich and full life; not all good mind! I've tried and succeeded in the main, to enjoy every second. A lucky girl.


  4. I love that story! And I add my congratulations for reaching the final - what a talented cook you must be. Agree also with Jayne, I think you might well have been left with the bill if you'd accepted her dinner invitation. BTW I also met Clement Fried some years earlier when I was working in food and drink PR and agree, he was a miserable bastard.

    1. After the final Martha asked him for his autograph...
      'I don't give autographs!' he harrumphed.
      A couple of years later, I went to hear him speak at a theatre in Sevenoaks. 'An evening with Clement Freud'. Just to see if I could learn some tips re. public speaking.

      The funny thing was, during the interval he was more than happy to sign his book. Made me smile, because I had bought my copy for 20p in a charity shop. He was selling his at the full price and folk were queueing for the privilege. Needless to say I didn't!


    2. Haha - just noticed my truly Freudian slip with his name! So funny about your charity shop bargain book.

      Actually I've remembered that after he finished the photo-shoot for some food product I was the PR for, he graciously allowed me to have my pic taken with him and was quite charming. I think his 'miserable' style was part of a public persona he had developed and he had to keep in character while performing.

  5. Brilliant story ... she must have had nerves of steel!