Meet the team behind MasterChef: The Professionals finalist

Meet the team behind MasterChef: The Professionals finalist

MasterChef: The Professionals finalist Exose Lopo-Ndinga returned to his former college this week after finishing in the top three out of 48 competitors.

The youngest cook to make the finals, wowed judges with skills perfected from professional chef and pastry courses at Trafford College.

From the pastry expertise involved in his Chocolate & Orange Mille Feuille Puff Pastry to the butchery skills required for Chicken Five Ways on the show, the seeds of the 22-year-old’s success were sown by tutors Mark Apsley-Hooper and Paul Taylor.

Patisserie and confectionery expert, Mark, pursued a successful career as head pastry chef at five star hotels across Europe, cooking for VIPs from Princess Anne to tennis star John McEnroe, before joining Trafford College 26 years ago.

Mark said: “Exose reaching the final three of MasterChef: The Professionals is on a par with my student getting gold at Salon Culinaire 25 years ago, against professional chefs from across the world. That was the point when I went wow, I have really landed in teaching.

“Exose was as keen as mustard, polite, honest, cheeky and hard working. Chocolate and sugar work is most exciting because it’s hard. You have to have a lot of imagination and flair, and Exose had the drive and creativity to make it work.”

Exose’s passion for cooking made him a top pick for several student competitions while he was at Trafford College. To compete in Association Culinaire Francaise (ACF) North West Commis Chef of the Year, Exose practised his dish eight times, with tutor Paul Taylor supporting his development of flavours and presentation.

Paul came in the top three in the UK of Gordon Ramsay’s first Scholar Competition in 2001 as a student at Trafford College, working in Manchester and a Michelin-starred restaurant in Jersey before growing his own business aged 21 into three restaurants, for which he recruited several Trafford College apprentices.

Paul said: “I had never really realised it, but I had always been a teacher. From running a business with 30 members of staff, I was essentially teaching younger ones all the time.

“Exose was a really passionate student and technically very good. Mentoring for competitions involves a lot of time and effort to make it happen. We do it because we want our students to be successful.”

Pictured: L-R Tutor Paul Taylor, Andy Lawson, MasterChef finalist Exose and tutor Mark Apsley-Hooper.