Meet the MasterChef: The Professionals 2023 contestants

Published: 30 October 2023

Ieuan, James, Ola, Jeany (Image: BBC/Shine TV)

MasterChef: The Professionals returns to BBC One and BBC iPlayer this autumn for its 16th series, as 32 ambitious chefs from across the country battle to become the 2023 Champion.

Meet the first set of  contestants of the week, who’ll be cooking up a storm in the hopes of securing a spot in the next round!

Please note this information is accurate at the time of filming; certain aspects may have since changed but this represents the contributors as the competition starts.

The first heat of the week is on Monday 30 October, 9pm on BBC One and iPlayer. 



Woman wearing chefs shirt in front of MasterChef M

Jeany (Image: BBC/Shine TV)

Location: Belfast, born in Isle of Man

Chef Bio: Thirty-one-year-old Senior Sous Chef, Jeany, was born in the Isle of Man but grew up in Belfast, where she now works at a fine-dining themed restaurant. Jeany is one of six children and lives with her brother, down the road from her siblings and mum.

Current and Previous Experience: Jeany did an apprenticeship whilst completing her NVQ level 1 & 2. She then went on to work at The Merchant Hotel, Belfast, The Haslem Hotel, Lisburn, and now works at A Peculiar Tea in Belfast.

How did you get into cooking and what do you love about it?

“I struggle to remember where my love of food started. I’ve just always been fascinated with it. I remember spending time in the kitchen with my mum and getting cookbooks for Christmas presents. Both my grandmothers were great cooks. From an early age I was amazed by all the different ingredients.”

How would you describe your style of cooking and any influences on it?

“The place I work now is quite quirky and fun with its food and this has really pushed me out of my comfort zone. I love it and it’s had a big influence on my style. In my own cooking, I draw upon my travels and Irish roots, and love my food to look elegant.”

Why did you want to take part in MasterChef: The Professionals?

“My current brigade is an all-female team of eight chefs. It feels like a supportive place to be and now is a good time to really push myself with something like MasterChef: The Professionals. I’ll be terrified but I also know I have the people around me to be there through the good and (hopefully not) the bad.”

Outside of cooking what are your passions?

“I love anything outdoors, walking my dog, foraging, hiking with friends. I’d like to think I’m a bit of a social butterfly and enjoy hanging out with mates, going to gigs and things like that.”


Man wearing chefs shirt in front of MasterChef M

Ola (Image: BBC/Shine TV)

Location: Chatham, Kent. Originally from Nigeria

Chef Bio: Ola, 33, was born in Edo State, South Nigeria and moved to Abuja, the capital at 15. He moved to the UK 13 years ago to pursue his dream of becoming a chef. Since moving to the UK he has worked in fine-dining restaurants and sporting venues and is now with a large catering firm. Ola lives with his wife and two children in Chatham, Kent.

Current and Previous Experience: Ola’s first job as a chef was at the United Nations Restaurant in Nigeria. After moving to the UK, he worked at Clos Maggoire, Covent Garden, then the Compass Group, for whom he currently works as Head Chef at a member’s restaurant.

How did you get into cooking and what do you love about it?

“In Nigeria you are told you need to be a doctor or an accountant but I loved being in the kitchen from a young age. I first helped out in a proper kitchen when I was at school. I went to work on a farm for a couple of months and they let me help out in their kitchen. It’s been my passion ever since.”

How would you describe your style of cooking and any influences on it?

“I’ve never had any formal training but instead have learnt on the job. I started as a Kitchen Porter and have worked my way up. I love to learn from people around me – I’m like a sponge. My food is freeing and I cook with love. I hope I can showcase elegant food in the competition that highlights my Nigerian heritage.”

Why did you want to take part in MasterChef: The Professionals?

“Nothing is easy in life, you have to fight for it. I believe that with hard work and commitment anything is possible. There are no limitations. I want to try my best on MasterChef: The Professionals and show that I am here to learn too. No-one is the finished article and we’re here to grow as chefs, which is what I hope to do.”

Outside of cooking what are your passions?

“Spending time with my family is everything. I also love to sing and write songs, so you might see me singing along in the competition at points, it helps calm my nerves!”


Man wearing chefs shirt in front of MasterChef M

Ieuan (Image: BBC/Shine TV)

Location: Chippenham, Wiltshire. Originally from Newport, Wales.

Chef Bio: Born and bred in Newport, Wales, 26-year-old Ieuan has been a chef for over 10 years. Having worked his way up in high end pub restaurants, Ieuan has been at his current two AA rosette kitchen for over four years and is currently their sous chef. He currently lives with friends in Chippenham.

Current and Previous Experience: Trained at Crosskeys College and University College Birmingham, Ieuan went into kitchens at 16, gaining experience in such as at Matt Tebbutt’s The Foxhunter, Monmouthshire, and Pennyhill Park in Surrey, before becoming sous chef at The Castle Inn in Chippenham.

How did you get into cooking and what do you love about it?

“My parents both used to work really long hours, so I was cooking from a young age. I taught myself by watching TV shows. I always loved cooking and studied it at school so this was my obvious career path.”

How would you describe your style of cooking and any influences on it?

“I love pub food. Everyone is at the pub, you can have business meetings at a pub, family meetings at a pub, a couple drinks with your mates. So for the food, I’m trying to take it one step further. My style is Modern British. I love trying new things and I’m not afraid to go bold with big flavours.”

Why did you want to take part in MasterChef: The Professionals?

“I quite often use competitions as a way of seeing where I am. Can I handle something a bit different, as well as just adding some excitement to what I’m doing on a daily basis? All the competitions I’ve done so far have helped me to develop where I am and where I want to be. I’ve been a big fan of the MasterChef: The Professionals for years and this is the ultimate competition for me.”

Outside of cooking what are your passions?

“Chef life doesn’t leave much time for anything else a lot of the time. But I love foraging, swimming and watching Rugby – even if I can’t really play it anymore.”


Man wearing chefs shirt in front of MasterChef M

James (Image: BBC/Shine TV)

Location: North London

Chef Bio: Twenty-nine-year-old street food business owner James has been a chef for eight years, working in both Michelin kitchens and as a private chef. He grew up in in North London where he now lives with his artist girlfriend, Phoebe.

Current and Previous Experience: James studied Politics and Sociology at Loughborough University. After graduating he went to work as a chalet chef in the winter and then worked for a catering company in London during the summer. James then spent four years working in restaurants like Soho House and Alchemilla before founding a pop-up Art gallery and restaurant concept with his girlfriend and a street food business revolving around Hash Browns. He continues to work for private clients whilst running Hash Hut as CEO.

How did you get into cooking and what do you love about it?

“Food was a massive part of my life growing up. My mum loved a party and food was always a huge part of this. I was always really influenced by Scottish produce when I used to visit my grandparents up in the Highlands and a nose to tail attitude to cooking was instilled on me from a young age. When I went to university however, I cooked mainly chicken wings. Damn good ones though, that have made their way onto our street food menu today! I started cooking to be able to work anywhere and it soon became a real passion. I became fascinated in different cuisines and methods of cooking and always looked to immerse myself in it wherever I went. It also meant I never had to do the dishes which was always a bonus. The ‘I’ll cook you clean’ rule has always been my friend”.

How would you describe your style of cooking and any influences on it?

“I worked as a Chef de Partie in a Michelin star restaurant for two years and that was my grounding as a chef – the classics, the skills and the refinement. I got put on the Snack section to start with, and loved the punchy, flavour-filled bites that were created with such intricacy. After service I would cook up the leftover Hash Browns as snacks for the staff and we would top them with different sauces and garnishes before cleaning down – this sparked my idea to create a business out of Hash Brown.

I cook food I want to see on a plate. It’s fun and funky and isn’t taken too seriously. I want people to feel joy when they eat, which reflects the street food side of me but then also clean and technical which comes from my fine dining training. I want people to be interested and intrigued. There is nothing worse than a forgettable meal.”

Why did you want to take part in MasterChef: The Professionals?

“Since leaving the fine dining restaurant scene I’ve missed it. I crave that honest, and even harsh feedback. It makes you grow as a chef. Entering MasterChef: The Professionals gets me back into that world. Cooking has always appealed to me as a place where there is nowhere to hide, there are no excuses and no room for passing the blame. It’s raw and honest, and I really appreciate that.”

Outside of cooking what are your passions?

“My other passion outside of cooking is travelling and the food discovered whilst doing so. I’ve been lucky enough to live and work in South Africa working in the safari lodges and I’ve done my fair share of travelling including Asia, Costa Rica and Mexico. I always feel most at home in the mountains though, and skiing holds a special place in my heart and it’s where I met my girlfriend. I’ll get the surfboard out whenever I can as well – occasionally to odd looks from the lido lifeguards. Anything surrounding food I will always make time for. I feel that food, cuisine, and the cultures around it can tell you a thousand things about a place or a person, and that’s a really beautiful thing.”

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