The Forum talks to Jane Devonshire

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Jane is hungry, it’s past two o’clock and she hasn’t
eaten since breakfast.
“It’s just been really busy today again, I’ve not had
time to eat!”
At that point a man in the café approaches and loudly announces how well she’s done winning MasterChef, there is an audible buzz of recognition in the café. Jane thanks him politely and retreats to a quiet part of the garden, such is her new life since winning the competition three months ago.
“It’s very strange and takes some time to adjust to it, at first I was totally rabbit in headlights but I cope much better now.”

Jane, her husband and four children live in Hampshire
not far from Alton
“I’m originally from London. Then we lived in Ascot but were not really happy so we decided to move out of London. Like many people we chose here in Hampshire because of the proximity to really good schools and a good community based life. We’ve been here for twelve years now and feel settled without a doubt, although I do need to go back to London every now and then!”
When not looking after her family and of course cooking, does Jane have a favourite place here?
“Walking in the woods near my home at any time of year but especially when the bluebells are out. The River Test where I’m learning to fly fish and I really love going over on the ferry to the Isle of Wight.”

Having watched Jane create the most delicious dishes on MasterChef I wonder what she enjoys cooking the most?
She laughs, “Do you know I think there’s nothing like a great Sunday roast. I’m fanatical about all food but especially really good English food. I always shop locally and where possible through independent suppliers to ensure excellent and, most importantly, seasonal food. It’s so important to have the family around the table together”.

If Jane was to have her fantasy dinner party, who would she invite and what would she choose to cook?
“Audrey Hepburn, Martin Luther King, Frank Sinatra, David Bowie and my Nan, she taught my mum to cook and I learnt from them both through a process of osmosis really. They cooked everything from fresh so for me it came naturally. I would cook the menu I did for the Master Chef final;
Winkles and parsley on toast served with pan-fried cockles and mussels, langoustine tempura, deep-fried caper berry and a saffron mayonnaise; a main course of an Indian inspired Sunday Roast including Braised Shoulder of Lamb marinated in yoghurt, cumin and garam masala, with cannon of lamb cooked in a red chilli, garlic and kaffir lime leaf puree, shallot bhajis, roasted cauliflower, pan-fried shallot, onion puree, deep-fried kaffir lime leaves and a lamb and masala gravy; and a dessert of Rhubarb and Custard – a vanilla panna cotta flavoured with rosemary, served with honeycomb, roasted rhubarb, a rhubarb and ginger granite and a burnt orange and lemon caramel.’’

If Jane were to cook for her culinary hero: who, what
and where?
“Ah Marcus Wareing – I’ve been lucky enough to eat at his restaurant and the food was just beautiful. We would sit on a roof top over looking Westminster Bridge, as for the food I think he would have to choose the menu!”

Does Jane see herself as a chef or a cook?
“Oh a cook most definitely. I have an absolute passion for really good food and I adore cooking but I’m not a professionally trained chef, I would never call myself that, the food they produce is just amazing, I would never put myself there.”

How did Jane find the whole Master Chef experience?
“I’ve always watched the program but never imagined I would be a contestant let alone win Master Chef! My son encouraged, well, pushed me into it really. It’s an amazing experience, people don’t realise it takes three months to film and you’re constantly shopping for really good quality food because you need to rehearse each dish more than once. But the Master Chef team supplies all the contestants with their amazing ingredients for the televised programs.

You don’t really see a great deal of Greg and John, they only appear for the judging, but as the competition progresses they become more involved and are just lovely and incredibly supportive. It becomes a very intense atmosphere once there are just three of you left but equally we became very close just like family not competitors, in fact they are all coming over for dinner soon.”

Jane is quoted as saying that all the years of being a mum means she can multitask easily.
“ Well it’s so true, all women have that ability and it’s not celebrated enough. We’re not just cooking the supper but checking homework, answering the phone, knowing the whereabouts of every thing for everybody. That multitasking
tool came in very handy when I cooked for on MasterChef for a large number– I wasn’t nervous at all!”

What is it like being Jane Devonshire since becoming winner of MasterChef 2016?
“I’m the same, I’m not about to change at my age! Just because I’m dealing with more I won’t let it alter me, I think the children find it harder than me really. But I have fabulous family and long-term friends who are very protective of me and who I trust implicitly. My kids keep me grounded they always made fun of the way my hair looked a mess all the time on Master Chef and they think it’s really weird seeing my picture on the front of the Sunday Telegraph!”

What is her mantra for life?
“I genuinely believe you have to look for the good things in life, finding a positive in certain situations is not always easy but there will always be a good side.”

What next for Jane?
“ To be honest I’m not quite sure! There are lots of exciting projects being discussed at the moment. I discovered I have 10,000 followers on Twitter; it’s a bit scary! The MasterChef team looks after me very well and I trust their judgment, so we’ll see.

I think if something like this happens to you then it’s important to give back, I’m going off to talk to Perins school soon and my own website is now live which amongst other things celebrates excellent local producers.”

Which three things could Jane not live without?
“Easy. Family, health and, of course, good food”.
Jane Devonshire may well have been thrust into the limelight but she remains unaffected and utterly lovely.
www.janedevonshire.com

WRITTEN BY GILL GRANT

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