Spice of success: Thai chef ‘thais’ the knot as first-ever MasterChef UK winner

Chariya Khattiyot made history last week by becoming the first Thai chef to win the prestigious MasterChef UK competition. Her innovative northern Thai dishes wowed the judges throughout the eight-week BBC One contest, ultimately triumphing over 44 other contestants.

The 40 year old Thai chef entered the competition to showcase the diverse flavours of northern Thai cuisine, which she is passionate about bringing to the UK while incorporating local ingredients. She said…

“Thai food is not just tom yam and pad Thai. It has so many flavours, layers and textures and is phenomenal. In many ways, my dishes are a fusion between Southeast Asian and Western food.”

Originally from Chiang Mai, Chariya now resides in Basingstoke, Hampshire, with her fiancé Adam, whom she met while studying in Japan. Prior to her MasterChef success, she spent seven years as a district manager for a national coffee shop chain and later founded her own coffee roasting company in 2016, reported Bangkok Post.

Chariya’s love for cooking can be traced back to her late grandfather, who raised and taught her to make the most of their resources and extract the best flavours from food. They grew their vegetables and cooked simple but delicious meals over an outdoor fire.

Spice of success: Thai chef 'thais' the knot as first-ever MasterChef UK winner | News by Thaiger
Pictures courtesy of Bangkok Post.

Her winning menu on June 1 included a Thai lotus tuille filled with coconut jelly, fried king prawns, and pomelo fruit salad flavoured with honey, palm sugar and coconut. The main course featured a traditional northern Thai “khantoke” platter of Wagyu sirloin steak in hang le sauce, minced lamb in a spicy tomato and shrimp paste, jackfruit and scallop salad served with sticky rice and scallop crisp crackers.

For dessert, Chariya presented a strawberries and cream creation with a strawberry jelly and vanilla cremeux ring, filled with macerated strawberries in strawberry liqueur, pistachio sponge, strawberry shards and a strawberry and Thai basil sauce.

MasterChef judge Gregg Wallace praised Chariya’s consistent excellence. He said…

“Since the first time you walked into this kitchen, it’s been dish upon dish of exciting, beautiful food. What I really admire about you is just how hard you work in pursuit of perfection — to really uncover new techniques, to find bigger and bigger flavour. Do you know who else has those qualities? Top professional chefs. You are the real deal. You’re an amazing cook.”

Fellow judge John Torode echoed Wallace’s sentiments, describing Chariya as “a proper master” whose food is “honest and from the heart,” as well as “exciting, unusual, beautiful and addictive.”

Chariya dedicated her victory to her late grandfather. She said…

“I’m so happy. This just proves that if you dream something and you work really hard and you never give up, you can get it. That’s what my grandad said to me — never give up. He would be so proud of me.”

She also expressed her ambition to open a restaurant in the UK, showcasing her northern Thai cuisine.

Chariya added…

“From a little girl who cooked in a kitchen with no walls, to lift that trophy is going to be a story I can tell to inspire girls who have a hard life. If you work hard, I’m sure you can achieve something.”

Spice of success: Thai chef 'thais' the knot as first-ever MasterChef UK winner | News by Thaiger
Chariya Khattiyot is the latest MasterChef Champion 2023 in the UK.

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.