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6th September 2019

Cooking doesn’t get tougher than this!

Having worked in our industry kitchens for over 35 years, CH&CO’s Gary McKechnie thought he’d pretty much experienced it all. However that changed when he was taken out of his comfort zone and put in front of a camera in the role of Head Chef for an episode of Celebrity MasterChef at ZSL London Zoo.

This was a Celebrity MasterChef challenge that saw four celebrities – Joey Essex, Neil ‘Razor’ Ruddock, Oti Mabuse and Dame Zandra Rhodes – cook lunch for over 100 Zookeepers at ZSL London Zoo.

Gary’s TV debut aired on Wednesday 4 September and here’s a snapshot of his day in the Celebrity MasterChef kitchen.

“The day began at 8am when I met up with the production team in our kitchen at ZSL London Zoo.  It was then that I found out who the celebrities were, what they had to do and what my role was.

“With everything in place, the celebrities entered the kitchen for the first time, full of nerves and enthusiasm. I greeted them with a counter full of different larder produce and fresh ingredients. Both teams had a set amount of time to come up with their main courses and desserts. They had some great ideas and with a little input here and there from me, decided to cook Spiced Meatballs, Vegetarian Thai curry, Vegetable Stew, Baked Apple and Bread & Butter Pudding.

“We all know how busy a kitchen can be but, imagine doing what we do each day having just been placed in an alien environment and with no training. I was really impressed with how the teams rose to the challenge and kept smiling throughout.

“Throughout the challenge, time was not on our side. However, by nothing short of a miracle, the celebrities got the food out on time and served up some great dishes to the eagerly awaiting zookeepers.

“It was a superb experience from start to finish and something I’d love to do again if the opportunity comes up. I take my hat off to all the contestants for experiencing the pressures of our world, and with such good humour.”

Take a look at the episode on BBC iPlayer