Costa MasterChef - Dani Bowler tells his story
Life after MasterChef told in his own words. Dani Bowler returned to the Costa Blanca this week and gives us an insider's view of the show and what lies ahead for him - and for CBNews readers too!
After my time on MasterChef - after letting it all sink in - I had to go back to my everyday life as a manager for Wetherspoons, still not able to tell anyone until it was aired on the BBC.
Trying to get back to normal life was hard and I found I couldn't concentrate at work. After my experience I realised I wanted to work with food, so on my days off I would travel down to Essex and gain experience at the two-star rosette Roslin hotel and restaurant, but after a few months I decided to leave my job in London and move back to Spain to live with my girlfriend.
Not wanting to take on a full time job and waiting for MasterChef to be aired I went about gaining more experience in Spanish kitchens, learning how to cook traditional Spanish food at restaurants like Rosas in San Juan who I believe make the best paella I have tasted.
I also got the chance to meet the chefs at top restaurants in Alicante like Nou Manoli and Monestrell.
When MasterChef was finally aired, I was amazed at the messages and comments I received on Twitter and Facebook and old school friends and teachers from the Lady Elizabeth School gave me great support along the way.
At last when MasterChef was advertised on the TV and I popped up on the trailer, I could finally tell all my friends I was on the show after months of having to keep it a secret. What a relief!
Getting through the first stages and making it to the quarter finals was just amazing and doors started to open. For example, when my girlfriend took me to a Michelin star restaurant on the Costa Blanca for a treat and I got to meet the owner/head chef and he asked if I would like to work with them, that was amazing and we are still in contact.
At the same time a couple from Australia who I knew from a few years back made contact and asked if would I like to fly over and project- manage the opening of a Spanish restaurant in Whitsundays which is next to the Great Barrier Reef.
As by then I had made it to the quarterfinals and my next episode wasn't to be aired for a while on the BBC I decided to go.
Getting to visit Singapore, Sydney and swim with tropical fish out in the Great Barrier Reef along the way was as amazing as my work with the new restaurant putting my Spanish knowledge into the wine and food menu and shopping around with different suppliers and teaching the chefs how to make a traditional paella and teaching the staff all about Ribera del Duero and Rioja wines.
I was in my element being able to pass on the knowledge I had acquired working in the hospitality industry over the years. Like any restaurant opening it was stressful but I got to work with some great individuals and look forward to returning there soon, I even made the Whitsunday's News, which was great.
Altogether going to Australia was an incredible experience, as only a few months back it was just a country on a map to me and now I have project- managed a Spanish restaurant and visited the reef!
… and more
Returning to Europe from my time on the other side of the world, my girlfriend María - now my fiancée - and I travelled to Italy and the island of Sardinia where we spent the week visiting fishing villages, vineyards and real traditional Italian restaurants.
On one occasion I was talking to the owner of the restaurant about my experience on MasterChef and I was invited to meet the chefs in the kitchen who showed me all the different types of pasta they made. I was so in my element and just wanted to get involved!
It is amazing how much MasterChef is recognised and respected and while I was in London a few weeks after flying back from Australia I went to the Savoy Grill for lunch. I knew that a past MasterChef contestant was working there so I asked if he was around but it was his day off. However, after lunch I was taken on a tour around the kitchen and got to meet the head chef and his team Such an incredible honour, and all this from being on MasterChef.
Some recipes that carried me through the heats
My own favourite dish on the show had to be the 'lamb cutlets, celeriac purée with a port and Rioja jus' and the comments I received from the critic William Sitwell were one of my personal highlights.
Another dish I cooked was 'fillet of sea bass, truffle mash and a mussel and saffron sauce' - this also got amazing comments as my Calling Card and the first dish that I cooked on the show.
'Rabbit and snail paella' went down a treat cooking for Tim An- derson, Natalie Coleman and Tim Kinnaird who where MasterChef winners and a past finalist.
In the Invention Test I cooked 'pork tenderloin with a fig and Serrano ham glacé' and ' trio of pheasant cooked three ways' and serving it to two-star Michelin chef Marcus Waring was another highlight and honour on the show.
For the Palate Test we had to replicate John Torode's 'red jungle curry'
I have kept in contact with the other contestants and made some really good friends. You don't see them as rivals while you are on the show as we all understand what everyone is going through and we became very close. Watching the final this week I was delighted for Ping who won the title: she is a talented cook and deserved to win! And looking forward… I am currently living on the Costa Blanca with María and still haven't decided what's in my future - I am carefully considering all the opportunities I have been offered.
I have been 'enjoying the ride' and taking advantage of every moment cooking as a private cook and catering in people's homes along the coast. I will be publishing some of my recipes in the Costa Blanca News next week so, don't miss it.
You can get in contact with me at email@example.com
I would like to thank my mum and dad, my sisters and my fiancée and everyone for all their support and their kind messages over the last few months.
My journey has been incredible and an experience money can't buy. I remember years ago I would watch MasterChef and dream about being a contestant. I can't ignore the nerves, emotions, and stress I went through over the months but I can say is it was worth every minute and hopefully it's just the start!