The following is a heavily abridged version of my article, published in the Majorca Daily Bulletin on March 2nd, 2014, and based on an interview I did with Claire Hutchings – finalist in the 2011 series of ‘MasterChef: The Professionals’ – now working at Zaranda restaurant. Claire is also featured in the news section of the latest edition of the ‘abcMallorca Restaurant Guide 2014/15’.
From Moseley to Mallorca
The pretty petite blonde from the Birmingham suburb of Moseley has come a long way – literally – since she graced British TV screens over six weeks in autumn 2011. At 22, Claire Hutchings was one of the youngest contestants in the fourth series of the BBC’s MasterChef: The Professionals and the youngest (and only female) of the three finalists.
Three years on, Claire is living on Mallorca. Since April 2013 she’s been working at the Michelin-starred Zaranda restaurant, at the 5-star Castell Son Claret hotel, as assistant to award-winning chef Fernando Pérez Arellano.
“From the age of 13, my love of cooking really started to grow. At 16, I was working in Michelin-starred Simpson’s in Birmingham while studying Culinary Arts Management at the College of Food & Tourism. I went on to get a first-class degree, which made me very happy.
Success with pop-ups
“After MasterChef finished, I ran some pop-up restaurants. I didn’t think I was ready to have my own place – it’s a huge commitment . . . and I didn’t have the money for it. Pop-ups enabled me to showcase my food and travel around the country. I even went to France, doing a couple of days in the Dordogne region, which was incredible.
“I have a good bond with Michel Roux Jr. He’s a very warm person and, after so much time with him, we kept in touch after the show. I’d decided that I really wanted to be part of a family again in a kitchen – because it is like a family – and got in touch with him to ask where he’d recommend. I wanted to experience another culture and he suggested contacting Fernando.
“I came here first in February 2013 and there wasn’t even a kitchen. Fernando was showing me the plans and telling me it was going to open in two months. The selling point for me was arriving at the gates and seeing the hotel. How could I not come? It’s absolutely beautiful.
“It was really daunting moving here because I didn’t know Mallorca and couldn’t speak a word of Spanish. The day after doing a pop-up, I unpacked all my stuff from the car, then repacked it with all my personal things, left the UK and drove here.
“This is the best kitchen I’ve ever worked in: amazing equipment and large working space. It’s a great pleasure for chefs to work with good equipment. Fernando is tough, but he’s a very lovely person to work for. What’s exciting is that I’m not doing the same thing in the kitchen every day. I’ll be developing recipes with Fernando for the coming year, going on trips, and doing office work – which, with my degree, is brilliant. Every day is different and a challenge in its own way.
“On days off, I’m exploring Mallorca and eating my way around the island. I love the food and the local restaurants, like Es Verger in Alaró. The markets are incredible. I love the gambas and Cap Roig – Mallorca is probably the best place I’ve ever been for fish.
“I think I’d like to have my own place one day. I’ve always dreamt of owning a beautiful house and doing my own pop-up from there, growing all my own vegetables, and foraging. I’d love to have it on Mallorca.”