Manchester’s contender for Masterchef The Professionals chats punk parsnips, subversive cooking and mandolins

Exclusive by David Aspinall

Move over Heston Blumenthal, Manchester’s very own inked-up, mandolin-playing, molecular chef is in town… and he’s armed with punk parsnips!

Abode chef Adam Leavy exited the hugely popular BBC2 show Masterchef: The Professionals earlier this week at the last-eight stage.

Now he’s back oop north on a permanent basis he’s back to the day job of crafting exquisite dishes and looking for his next culinary challenge.

Adam took time out from cooking up a storm in the kitchen to chat with MM about his ‘unbelievable’ experiences cooking for culinary colossuses Michel Roux Jr. and Monica

“Emotionally I was all over the place,” admits the 28-year-old.

“I never really expected to get on the show in the first place so it was still sort of a surprise to me to be cooking for Michel and Monica. I’d gone from watching the show for the last four or five years to actually being on the show, it was like a dream/nightmare!”

It’s clear that Adam is a determined character who strives to always achieve something more.

In the case of deciding to apply for Masterchef there was no faux soul searching – he merely found the application form online and decided to give it a go.

He explained: “A lot of people go on it saying they have something to prove  and take it massively seriously, but at first for me it was just a case of seeing whether I had the ability to get on to the show and perform at this level.”

But it wasn’t all fame and foie gras as Adam had to put in a lot of time behind the scenes just to make it to the famous BBC studios.

“I was finishing a day’s work, getting a train down to London in the morning, filming all day, coming back, getting in at midnight, going again the next day and then going into work every day for a month,” he said.

He certainly stood out from other competitors with his brightly-coloured tattoos and risky molecular dishes.

“Maybe it wasn’t the perfect platform to take such risks,” he concedes.

“My major regret is the semi-final dish which got me knocked out because that was something I had practiced a lot.

“We were filming on the Monday and on my days off I practiced it and it worked.”

He believes this risk taking is subconsciously built into him – a by-product of his former days as a punk band guitarist.

“I think there’s definitely a hint of ‘look at me you’ve never seen anything like this before but I hope you like it,’” he admitted.

“I wouldn’t like to say a sense of anarchy makes its way into my food but a hint of subversion is in there, trying to create something new, raising eyebrows.”

This rebellious streak is reflected in some of his recent dishes, including  a twist on Heston Blumenthal’s meat fruits.

Here the meat parfait made to look like an orange by wrapping it in orange jelly and poking an orange stick out of the top.

But Adam’s take involved taking what he calls ‘carnivorous food’, bone marrow, and fashioning it into parsnip shapes.

He explained: “I wanted to do something that looks like a meat dish but is vegetarian next to a vegetarian dish that looks like meat – I just wanted to create that unbalance.”

This Blackley lad has certainly come a long way from his first taste of cheffing at the age of 20 chopping vegetables at the Royal Exchange on St. Anne’s Square.

He had been a waiter for a couple of months, something he admits he wasn’t very good at, but this proved to be his big break.

While at the theatre he took college courses and in his four years there moved up to chef de partie after gaining all of his certificates.

He has now settled at Abode, where he has been a chef de partie for a year, but believes that after nearly seven years of being a chef his drive and passion has only intensified.

“Sometimes I will wake up at four in the morning with an idea and just write it all down and then on my day off get up all dead excited and get the ingredients,” he revealed.

“I create dishes at home all the time and put them on Instagram and I’ve got my own scrapbook of stuff I’ve done.

“I think that’s how I’ve got the job here showing them what I am able to do.”

He hopes this drive will help him fulfil his ultimate goal – to own his own restaurant.

Ideally he would like a place just outside of Manchester city centre, and cites Prestwich’s Aumbry as the ideal model.

He said: “They’ve shown you don’t need to be in the city centre to make a name for yourself.

“I always said I wanted to have my own restaurant by the time I was 30, but now I’m 28 I feel I’m pushing it a little bit, so I’ve put it back until I’m 35!”

The main problem he envisages is finding investment but perhaps his appearance on the show will have caught a few potential investors’ eyes.

His run on the show has certainly gained him a few new fans and people have even stopped him in the street asking for autographs.

“A party of five came in (to Michael Caines) who had been watching Masterchef and wanted to see my tattoos,” he smiled.

“There was this little kid who was star-struck that he’d been watching it and I came over with the food and sat with them for about half an hour.”

So what does this experimental chef do on his rare days off? What any punk worth his salt does…goes gigging with his mandolin.

He decided to play such a niche instrument because, like in his cooking, once he has an idea to do something he likes to follow it through.

“I saw it and thought ‘I really want to play one of them’ so I just bought one,” he confirmed.

“I Like to set my mind to something and just do it, so that’s what I did with that.”

Despite only first picking up the instrument seven months ago he has been regularly attending open mic nights around Manchester, and has had a really good response from audiences so far.

But foodies fear not, if he had to make the decision between his beloved cooking and entertaining audiences in pubs and clubs he knows where his heart lies.

“I’d never leave the cooking life,” he admitted.

“I’d do the best that I possibly could do to do both at the same time but I think the food would win in the end no matter what.”

When we questioned him about who he thinks is going to win it seemed to be a no-brainer.

“I think Adam Hanlin deserves to win as he’s a really great chef.”

Food pictures courtesy of Adam Leavy via Twitter, with thanks

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