By Annette Chrysostomou
Leonidas Kattou, a chef who grew up with a love of food he got from his Cypriot parents has passed the quarter finals for the UK’s MasterChef professional competition and is going to compete in the Knockout Week of the popular contest.
Leonidas is a sous-chef at Birmingham’s Michelin-starred Simpson restaurant in Birmingham where he has been employed for eight years, working his way up from being an apprentice.
His passion for food started long before that. Growing up in Coventry, he used to help out in his parent’s fish and chip shop in his teens.
Fotini and Charalambos Kattou who went to the UK from Lefkara raised four children, and two them now run fish and chip shops, while only one decided on something different, to become a hairdresser.
“I have always been around family and food, as far as I remember,” Leonidas told the Cyprus Mail. “I also come to Cyprus to visit often which always revolves around food. This year I have been there for three weeks in the summer, visiting family in Lefkara, Larnaca and Limassol.”
Sometimes, he added, preparing traditional Cypriot food can be challenging, such as when he attempted to adapt it for a charity last year, for which he raised GBP 11,000 for refugees cooking near the restaurant where he works.
“I think of Cypriot food as rustic and family oriented and it took some skills and knowledge to turn it into high-class cooking,” he remembers.
For now, he has some other issues to deal with. Having passed the quarter finals of the MasterChef’s competition, he is in for a stressful experience. When asked what is different from other contests – he came second in the ‘Young chef of the year’ competition in 2015 – Leonidas said this one is more challenging.
“There are many high-class chefs and there are cameras as you are on TV. This can be nerve-racking and you have to keep calm and push yourself,” he said, adding that the food critics are also of a high calibre.
The contest started with a Heat episode where 48 chefs in teams of six compete with their best signature dish, then the best move on to the quarter finals. The next episode in which Leonidas can be seen competing takes place this week.
Knockout Week on MasterChef: The Professionals is on air Wednesday 6 and Thursday 7 of December at 8pm on BBC 2.