Elly Wentworth may have narrowly missed out on winning 2016’s MasterChef: The Professionals, but over the last six weeks she’s very quickly become my feminist hero of the year.
I have a real weakness for foodie TV, from the trashy like Come Dine With Me and Dinner Date, to the higher brow like MasterChef and Great British Menu. There’s something strangely satisfying about watching fantastic chefs whip up culinary delights while you’re eating yet another bowl of uninspired pasta and pesto.
I have to admit that MasterChef: The Professionals has never been a particular favourite. Unlike the amateur version, the MasterChef: The Professionals tends to be quite male-dominated and macho, with lots of big egos. This series was no exception. Out of the 48 contestants who started the series, Elly was one of just six women. In almost every heat, men outnumbered women 5 to 1. Except, of course, in the two heats where there wasn’t a single female contestant.
When Elly made it through to finals week, I was really pleased for her. Not only had she defied the very slim odds of a woman even getting to the final, but she’d done so with the most spectacular skill, confidence, and grace. At just 24 years old, Elly has consistently triumphed against older, more experienced male competitors, and she’s done it with the kind of unshakeable self-confidence that we virtually never see from 20-something women on television.
“The raviolis have come out absolutely gorgeous”
Throughout the series Elly’s talking up of her own food has been refreshing, inspiring, and an absolute joy to behold. It’s the kind of self-assuredness we expect from mediocre white men, yet Elly has 100% earned the right to feel proud of herself. She’s an amazing chef, cooking amazing food, and she damn well knows it and isn’t afraid to say so!
Despite not getting the win she deserved, Elly’s MasterChef journey represents a much bigger victory. It feels like a real game-changer to see a young woman celebrated, and owning her successes, on primetime TV for being absolutely brilliant at what she does. And not only that, but doing so without being classically beautiful. Elly is short and curvy. Her chin, like mine, has a tendency to break out in spots when she’s under pressure – and she, like me, isn’t bothered about slapping loads of makeup on to cover it up. She’s simply there to do what she loves and excels at: create incredible food.
And then, of course, there’s her wonderful relationship with judge Monica Galetti. I adore Monica anyway, so I’ve just loved watching the dynamic of sisterhood and support develop between them. Monica’s clearly been rooting for Elly for weeks now, with every “that’s my girl”, encouraging grin, and empty plate. “I love her attitude, the gusto, the fight she has when she’s cooking.” Me too, Monica. She’s going far, that Elly Wentworth…