The Masterchef finalist Jack Lucas has gone on from TV pin-up boy to carving out a career with a supermarket giant and starting his own fine dining business
Jack Lucas loves food, especially cooking it, but there are one or two items that you won’t find on his personal menu. “Marmite! Sorry, I can’t stand it. Great in sauces but not on anything else. And anchovies on their own. Ugh!” Just as well then that the Masterchef finalist from Solihull has a whole cook book or three of ingredients that he really loves. “Top for me has to be meat,” he says. “I have to admit that I’m a bit of a carnivore, so give me something like spring lamb which I’d cook a bit differently, smoked over hay. Fantastic!” If you’re into your TV foodie programmes you’ll remember Jack coming through from nowhere to get within a hollandaise sauce of winning the 2014 Masterchef title. In what was acknowledged as the strongest final in the show’s history, Jack was only beaten by the awesome oriental talent of the delightfully named Ping Coombes.
Still only 23, Jack looks back at that whole experience as the best thing that’s happened to him. “The exposure of being able to go into top restaurants here in the UK and around the world and work in their kitchens was just awesome. I’ve got such huge respect for the guys who do that professionally to that level for 15 hours or more a day. I’m not sure that’s quite the route I’d want to go down.” Currently Jack spends part of his time with a nice steady income thanks to a job in London working with food with supermarket giant Sainsbury. He also runs his own private dining business as well as being a regular attraction at food fairs and festivals around the country – recently he was a cook-off judge and did demonstrations at the Sunnyhull Festival in Mell Square. “Before I went onto Masterchef I was on an internship with Sainsbury,” he explains. “After the success on TV, I wanted to stay loyal to Sainsbury who had given me my first chance. So I carried on their graduates scheme and I’m involved in helping them source great produce, develop food campaigns and shoot online videos and create recipes for their product ranges. I’m really enjoying it, it’s really exciting and it works perfectly with the other things it allows me to do – like the fine dining and the festivals.”
Jack was born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent but the family moved to Dorridge when he was three. He attended the local junior school and then Solihull School before going to Exeter University where he studied geography, graduating with a First. He says he was inspired to start cooking by his mum and grandma, but came to it quite late. “I was around 16 before I really got into it. When I went to uni it became a bigger part of my life as I found myself with quite a bit of time to be able to experiment with food. I ended up doing loads of the cooking for people, and I watched and learned loads from cooking videos online. My hero was and is Gordon Ramsey!” Jack got the first inclination that maybe cooking could become a bit more than rustling up something in a student kitchen when one of his good mates from school asked him to come round and cook a special 18th birthday meal for him. You get the impression talking to Jack that the manic pro kitchen environment that is so well portrayed on TV will never appeal.
While he’s not shy of hard work, slaving over a hot stove is only part of the lifestyle mix that he’s aiming to achieve. “I want to sample lots of things and most of all enjoy food and working with it,” he explains. “I’m still in contact with quite a few of the pro chefs who appeared on the Masterchef series, so I’ll always have options. I love doing the private dining but the harsh reality is that it’s a business that’s not predictable or regular. I’ve got other things I want to do. Currently I’m writing a book which I’m thoroughly enjoying doing too.” Variety really is the spice of life for Jack who is willing to try anything to do with food – as long as it doesn’t involve Marmite and anchovies!