MasterChef Robert Austin

From MasterChef to Supper Clubs

Robert decided to try out his luck at MasterChef in 2014.

In his words:

When people compliment you on your food, the big question is: Are they being honest or just being polite? I really wanted to find out.

After going far in the competition, Robert set up a successful series of Supper Clubs in Norwich and branched out into a commercial environment.


Can you give us a brief overview of your career as a chef?

Well I wouldn’t really call it a career. Although, I’d cooked from an early age, hosted dinner parties and had done the catering for family events it was purely on an amateur basis. When in 2013 myself and my ex-wife decided to split up, I thought this would be an opportunity to enter Master Chef. I really wanted to find out if I had any talent for cooking. When people compliment you on your food, the big question is: Are they being honest or just being polite? I really wanted to find out.

The Master Chef experience gave me the confidence to start doing supper clubs and eventually two years ago cooking in a commercial environment. 

I worked with some great chefs and some appalling chefs, but all the time learning and working on my kitchen skills. 

It was hard work, long anti-social  hours and poorly paid. In the end I decided that cooking other people’s food was not for me and now I’m in the process of refurbishing my new house in Blackpool and getting ready to start my own business up in the North West.

If you could recommend one cookbook for our followers to read during lock down, what would it be and why have you chosen it?

For me a great recipe book isn’t just about recreating the recipes within it, but more about the ideas, techniques and inspiration.“The French Laundry” by Thomas Keller is one of those books. Yes, it’s well written and the photography is definitely “food porn”, but more that, it really captures his philosophy, precision and approach to cooking.

Can you recommend one dish that people should be making more often at home that they aren’t?

An interesting question, but ultimately flawed. Everyone has different tastes, motivations, resources and also the type and number of people that they cook for. The important thing is that people move away from poor quality pre-packaged processed food and start to cook from fresh. It’s likely to taste better and be healthier.

Well before lockdown, Cooking New Stories was planning a French themed supper club with you. Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for the “Oh La La” menu? What had you envisioned? 

Initially, “Oh, La La” started as theme for one of my Supper Clubs in Norwich based around classic French dishes where people were encouraged dress for dinner in a classic Gallic fashion. A little later I was introduced to Daniela and we talked about doing a project together. I mentioned the supper club and we discussed how we could make the event a more immersive experience, involving live gypsy jazz, classic chansons and some live burlesque to bring in the spirit of The Moulin Rouge.  A couple of months ago Daniela found a lovely venue that would suit the event close to Spitalfields in London, but unfortunately a few weeks later we went into lock down. It will happen at some point and it will be a wonderful event – stay tuned!

With so much more time to spend in our kitchens during lock down, people are looking to expand their cooking skills. What chef’s skill do you think people can learn at home that will most benefit their home-cooking?

Actually I not sure if this counts as a skill, but it’s equally important in a home as it is in restaurant kitchen and it makes the whole cooking process less stressful and more relaxed.  What I’m talking about is the concept of  “Mise En Place” roughly translated as “everything in it’s place”. What this simply means is that at the point at which you start to cook, everything is where it should be and within easy reach. So, if you’re baking it could be as simple as having all  your ingredients weighed out before you start and all your tins, utensils and equipment readily at hand.