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Birmingham background of Masterchef winner Dhruv Baker

MasterChef winner Dhruv Baker took the title after rustling up such sublime delights as saffron and ginger poached lobster tail and venison with a fenugreek crust.

Dhruv Baker

MasterChef winner Dhruv Baker took the title after rustling up such sublime delights as saffron and ginger poached lobster tail and venison with a fenugreek crust.

But it’s not all fine dining for the Birmingham graduate, who now reveals his secret love of burgers, baltis and Ikea hot dogs.

The MasterChef judges said he had “the palate of an angel”. But that palate was trained on Birmingham eateries like the greasy spoon Mr Egg.

Dhruv took a degree in Business and Spanish at Birmingham University and lived in Tiverton Road, Selly Oak. By coincidence, he discovered he lived just five doors away from fellow MasterChef finalist Tim Kinnaird, albeit in different years.

“He was a medical student there three years before me, and lived in almost the same place,” says Dhruv, 34.

“It was weird when we discovered the connection. All the food we ate in Brum obviously inspired us to cook!

“But I use a lot of spices in my food and there is fantastic Indian food in Birmingham.

“When I was a student we couldn’t afford fine dining. The Dilshad curry house in Selly Oak was our absolute favourite, along with Mr Egg and the local burger van.

“If we were feeling very flash we went to Shimla Pinks on Broad Street.

“One of my guilty pleasures is eating badly, there’s nothing wrong with that occasionally. The only way my wife can tempt me to Ikea is by promising me one of their hot dogs afterwards.”

Dhruv, who has a 20-month-old son Arun with his wife Aileen, was born in Mexico to an Indian mother and an English father and partly grew up in India.

He had been coming to Birmingham long before he studied there, as his mother’s sister, Gita, lives in the city with his cousin.

“We spent a lot of time in Birmingham so I knew it better than London when I was young. It’s a home away from home for me,” says Dhruv, who is returning to the city in June to appear at the MasterChef Experience at the NEC’s Good Food Show.

It is a relief for him to finally be able to talk about his future plans. He only told his immediate family that he was entering MasterChef – and only his wife knew he had won.

After having his cooking lavishly praised by some of the world’s best chefs and celebrating with Champagne, he then had to go back to work as a sales director for a media company as if nothing had happened.

“I had a great job, but it wasn’t where my heart lay,” he says. “I’ve left now and am planning to open my own restaurant. I have lots of ideas but I haven’t decided yet where it will be. It’s good to be able to talk about it at last, six months on. Friends have been ringing up, stunned to see me on TV, as they had no idea.

“It’s strange to have people recognise me. My trips to the supermarket are quite exciting now, as people want to know what’s in my trolley!”

This year’s MasterChef was the most gruelling yet, with the three finalists undergoing a series of tough challenges.

They had to cook in 35 degree heat for a Maharajah and his family in a palace atop the hills of Jodhpur. They ran their own restaurant for the evening for paying customers. And finally they had to cook for possibly the world’s greatest living chef, the legendary Alain Ducasse, at The Dorchester.

It took seven hours just to create one dish each, using up to 50 different processes, to serve Alain and five of his protégées, who between them hold 30 Michelin stars.

Dhruv had to recreate Alain’s signature starter of roast chicken and lobster medallions with pasta, cream sauce and sweetbreads, but it was all worth it when Alain told him: “Congratulations, that is a serious dish.”

Dhruv says: “Cooking for some of the most respected chefs in the industry, my food heroes, the pressure was terrifying. It was incredibly challenging but immensely rewarding.”

Dhruv is spending more time in the kitchen than ever as he plans the food he’ll be serving in his restaurant, which will spotlight his fusion style of mixing British and Indian food.

One of his dishes which wowed the MasterChef judges was a twist on fish and chips – fennel seed and chilli battered fish and fenugreek chips.

Chef John Torode said: “Dhruv has a talent that very few people will ever have, and that is to cook the most amazing fusion food I’ve ever tasted.”

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