Muddy meets… Olivia Burt
We caught up with the 'Masterchef: The Professionals' finalist for all the backstage goss from the show, her must-eat spots for post-lockdown, and her run-in with police in Paris. Blimey!
Foodies among you will recognise Olivia Burt for her star turn on Masterchef: The Professionals, and since making the finals of the show last year, Olivia’s been one busy lady. At 24 she’s now juggling her own pop-up restaurants and events (when they’re back up and running) while still managing to make it to her day job as sous-chef at Claridge’s – we caught her during the five minutes she wasn’t in the kitchen for a quick chinwag.
Let’s start with some quick-fire foodie questions! What’s your favourite meal?
It has to be a Sunday roast, doesn’t it? Beef is definitely my meat of choice.
And to drink?
I am a cucumber gin and tonic girl – sticking to the British theme! No particular gin or tonic, just bung them both in a glass.
What was the first thing you learnt to cook?
Probably muffins or something like that, and probably because I wanted to eat them! I’m one of four siblings, so I was always baking cakes and things for my brothers and sisters. As a child I had the worst sweet tooth – I actually still have it, but I’m trying to give it up!
Favourite ingredients to chuck in a recipe?
I do love flowers on my food, as you can probably see from my Masterchef dishes! But to be honest I think anything British – I work with 100% British ingredients, and definitely to the seasons. I speak to that more than specific items.
On the flip side – anything you hate?
Oysters. It’s just one of those things I hate – when I was younger, my dad forced me to eat them, and now I can’t stand them. I don’t mind prepping a plate of them at Claridge’s, but I would never eat them myself.
Okay, let’s get the Masterchef goss. What were the judges like?
They’re nice, but you don’t get to know them that well. There was a lot of stuff on social media like, ‘oh Olivia and Marcus (Wareing) have definitely met before!’ but the producers keep you quite separate as they don’t want you to potentially get to know a judge better and for that to influence anything.
Is it true that the food is cold by the time they get to taste it?
That is true! The photos shown on screen are taken as soon as it’s cooked, but then the dishes have to go back and by the time they get to the judges they’re cold. Apparently they’re still good though!
How did you get on with the other contestants?
I think it’s quite clear watching back who my two favourites were! I got on really well with Malin and Yann, they were super funny and we always had a massive laugh.
You mentioned social media – how did you find it during the show? Do you get many trolls?
I’ve actually been quite shocked at how positive it’s been! You’re prepped before the show on how to handle hate online – you’re advised not to interact with any negativity, and some people choose not to interact with social media at all during the airing. But generally it’s been positive. Obviously with anything you get one or two people saying nasty stuff, but you can’t think too deeply about it. And when it comes to Instagram, you can’t please everyone with what you post, so you just have to do your own thing.
You work at Claridge’s, so you must have some favourite restaurants in London?
I eat out a LOT – I try to go out for a nice meal once a week. It’s good to see what other people are up to! One of my go-tos is Trinity by Adam Byatt. Even though it’s a got a Michelin star, it’s very laid-back. It’s one of those places where you want to order everything off the menu – which doesn’t happen with me that much, because I’m a little bit fussy with food. BRAT is one of my favourites as well, and I love Bao for casual dining. Where I’m eating depends on who I’m eating with!
Who is your go-to eating buddy?
If I go somewhere super new or foodie, then I’ll usually go with other chef friends, but if I’m going to one of my favourites like Trinity or Frenchie then that’ll usually be with a girlfriend for a catch-up dinner.
What about your boyfriend? Is he a chef too?
Definitely not, he’s not in the food industry. I cooked with him recently and it was the first time he’d peeled a potato!
What are your must-have tools for the kitchen?
My knives. I have a lot of Japanese knives, and if I go to cook at a friend’s house then I’ll take one with me! I actually got stopped for carrying knives when I was living in Paris, which was embarrassing – I had to get my staff card out to prove I was a chef! I hadn’t been there that long and I had to explain to them why I was carrying around this bag full of knives and they did not get it at all. They let me know eventually though!
Speaking of Paris, was there anywhere there you particularly loved eating?
I used to live on Île Saint-Louis, which was a super cool, arty place to be, and you could just sit down anywhere and have a really good lunch and enjoy people-watching. I feel like you can get good food everywhere there – in London, if you pick places at random then it can be a bit hit and miss, but in Paris it’s all pretty reliable.
What was your favourite French dish to order?
Confit duck – it’s so delicious, but so bad for you!
Any advice for younger girls who want to break into the world of food?
It’s definitely still a boys’ club, so you have to be strong. The hospitality industry doesn’t make it easy for you, and it’s tempting after a bad day in the kitchen to throw in the towel, but nobody has 100% good days. I’ve had loads of bad days and made huge mistakes, but if you stick at it, it doesn’t take long to realise how much you love it. I have friends who work at a desk in an office every day, and it just drags, while my days go so fast I don’t even know where they’ve gone! It’s a good sign, it shows I’m really engrossed and enjoying it. You’re learning something new every day.