While most chefs who win Masterchef: The Professionals have plenty of opportunities lined up following their success, Alex Webb’s win in December 2020 was followed quickly by a third lockdown in England, and hospitality venues closing their doors.
The Essex-born chef departed from his role as head chef of Square 1 in Dunmow in January, but is now looking ahead to opening his own restaurant once Covid restrictions are lifted.
The chef impressed judges over the six-week contest with imaginative dishes - and now he hopes to bring that creative flair to his own venue.
NationalWorld caught up with Webb ahead of series 17 of Masterchef airing on 9 April, to find out more about his plans for the new eatery - and what he’s been up to since he took the prize at the end of last year.
“Food should be an experience”
Webb is clearly ambitious, having climbed the ladder from a pot-washer at 14, to become a critically acclaimed chef by the age of 25.
The classically trained chef worked his way through the ranks, from a commis role at The Savoy followed by stints at Helene Darroze at the Connaught, Roux at Parliament Square and Frog Hoxton.
Speaking about his hopes for his own restaurant, Webb said: “Obviously I would love to get a Michelin Star and that is my main aim,” however, he’s clear that he doesn’t want to open a traditional fine dining venue.
“Sometimes those [restaurants] can be quite stuffy and mine will be more of an experience, fun, like going to the theatre,” he said, reflecting on his Masterchef dishes.
“I think of my few dishes on Masterchef and I think of party poppers and fun and I want that aspect of dining in my restaurant.”
During one of his last shifts at Square 1, he served guests a dessert that was a nod to one of his dishes on the final of Masterchef – a tempered chocolate dome filled with passionfruit and white chocolate parfait, with a party popper of passionfruit powder and a prosecco ice cream.
“Before we closed before Christmas we did the party popper idea, it created such an amazing atmosphere because everyone had such a crappy year.
“I want to bring that fun and a smile on people’s faces when I have my own place,” he said. “I don’t want my restaurant to have that stuffy aspect, it won’t have a dress code, I want really cool artwork and it’s somewhere to have a really nice meal but also an experience, like going to the theatre. I want it to be something different.”
“You do get some Michelin star restaurants which are of course expensive, so I hope mine is more accessible but with the same standard of amazing food.”
When can we dine in his restaurant?
“I’m looking at the end of this year, beginning of next [year],” he explains, adding that the lockdown has raised questions about where the best location would be.
“I would love it in Essex or London, but it all depends on if the London scene returns with some normality.
“Is it going to come back booming or are people moving away from London and more towards the countryside? That’s the kind of questions I need to ask myself.”
“I think London will take a long while to get back into the swing of things, really being busy again.”
What inspires his dishes?
Given that he has always dreamed of opening his own restaurant, Webb pays attention to what other chefs are getting right - and wrong. “I take note of what is good and bad and remember that,” he says.
“Learn from every experience and take that with you. You learn in every role too, you never stop learning especially as a chef.
“I’ve had one chef show me one way of doing something then another chef shows me a different way.
“I never stop asking questions, even if they seem stupid.”
What else has Webb been working on?
With outdoor food festivals and mapping out the contents of a biographical recipe book he is working on, Webb’s plate is full.
In his book, he hopes to share the lessons and experiences that have added to his success.
“The idea is to include the beginning of my career and learning my trade, before telling more about the restaurants I have worked in and then my Masterchef experience - each aspect of the story will interlock with recipes from that stage in my life.”
You can also catch up with him throughout the summer, as he will be providing food demonstrations at Foodie Festivals in 12 locations around the UK.
While dates are yet to be confirmed, he confirmed that he will be attending three days in Edinburgh, as well as several days in Oxford, Chelmsford, Cambridge, Bournemouth, Bristol and London.
Alex Webb was speaking to NationalWorld, in partnership with CoffeeFriend.