From disaster chef to masterchefBy Sally Bryant
October 23, 2012
Or how Kirsty went from kitchen zero to culinary hero in just three months.
Sally Bryant reports
Kirsty Pulsakowska’s culinary skills were legendary in her family – she has been known to burn a salad and once made a steak and kidney pie from steak-flavoured crisps and kidney beans.
But a chance trawl around the internet for a cake recipe led to the discovery of a new competition. Kirsty’s mum answered the call for ‘disaster chefs’ – and after making superhuman progress through the rounds, the 24-year-old is now the Kenwood Chef 2012, with prizes worth more than £4,000.
Trying to make one of Britain’s favourite pies from crisps and beans may horrify other cooks, but to pre-competition Kirsty it was very logical.
She explained: “I had a huge phobia of raw meat and, because of that, my family challenged me to make a steak and kidney pie. I used gravy and puff pastry as well as the beans and crisps. After a while it was smelling nice and looking good, but it was awful!”
Dinner was way, way beyond her, but the office worker from Elm Road in Earley could bake. She and her mum, Lorraine, were looking for a cake recipe on the internet when they found details of the new ‘From Disaster Chef to Kenwood Chef’ competition.
With a mum’s sense of humour, Lorraine entered her daughter with a 250-word description of her failings over the cooker – and the ugly duckling to swan-type transformation began.
Kirsty made the shortlist of 12 finalists and from then it was all hands to the hob. A fantastic mixer and a camera to film results arrived, followed by weekly hampers of ingredients and recipes.
Suddenly, the little family joke was rather more serious...
Kirsty said: “It has ruled my life for the past three months! I was trying to make everything perfect but it took me seven hours to make a quiche or seven hours to make a Victoria sponge. I thought I’d have a go at making the icing and it all went wrong.”
After her gruelling baptism by bain marie, Kirsty and her newly-found skills were called to the Kenwood head office in Havant with the other finalists, including Gemma Blake, who is also from Reading.
“We went into a big room to meet each other, but it was as if we knew each other already because we had been reading the blogs over the weeks.
“It had been kept a big secret what we had to do, then we found out we had to do three dishes in an hour, which hyped up the nerves a bit more! We had to make asparagus soup, a mini quiche and chocolate fondant. The most difficult was the asparagus soup – things kept going wrong!
“I blended the asparagus with the onions, which I shouldn’t have done, then the fondant was still in the oven, then I started to burn the onions and had to start again... but it was a fantastic experience. I know my family will want to thank Kenwood for turning me from kitchen zero to culinary hero in just three months.”
The judges who thought Kirsty was ahead of the rest were Silent Witness actress – and self-confessed disaster chef – Emilia Fox, Kenwood’s development chef Martin Johns, chef Ben Ebbrell from the SORTED online food hub, and Lawrence Murphy, head chef and director of the Fat Olives restaurant in Emsworth.
Emilia said: “All 12 chefs have learnt a wide variety of new cooking skills and recipes and feel so much more kitchen confident. In just three months, with a little help from Kenwood’s experts, we’ve all gone from making food that’s pretty much the pits to something that might be served at The Ritz.”
Kirsty’s prizes include an advanced cookery course, which she can’t wait to tackle, and a kitchen makeover, which she promised to her dad Ricky when she picked up the oven glove to accept the challenge.
“He is a very good chef, very confident in the kitchen. He can cook for 28 at Christmas! He wouldn’t eat anything I cooked, but then I made a leek and mushroom pie during the competition and he ate that, and finished it off for dinner the next day.
“He ate my quiche as well – the real test for me is if Dad eats my food. I am so excited to start learning more. I am baking cakes at the moment – strike while the iron is hot!”