Now that it has finally become cool, TV is full of food. In countries all over the world, media executives have put their heads together to find new and sadistic ways to pit cooks against each other in a different dog-eats-dog blood orgy every week. The rest of us can’t get enough.
With every new show, it follows that the world gets another food champion. While many of these contestants continue their new careers and commit to a life of cooking, a select few find themselves launched into the foodie stratosphere. Spawning empires and legacies that go far beyond a single series of television, these contestants prove that there can be more to cooking than a few hours spent in front of the telly. Here are the most successful food show winners of all time.
1. Poh Ling Yeow
If there’s one country that adores a cooking show, it’s Australia. “MasterChef” is consistently ranked as one of the highest viewed programmes in Australian households, and contestants often go on to achieve cult status. The best known is undoubtedly Poh Ling Yeow, who finished as runner up in the 2009 series. The Malaysian born artist, actress and chef has gone on to host two TV shows, as well as launch her gourmet food stall, “JamFace by Poh”.
2. Siphokazi Mdlankomo
“MasterChef” is one of the few food shows that can boast a truly global fan base, which means that the audience are able to witness success stories from across the world. The South African version of the show saw former domestic worker Siphokazi Mdlankomo be crowned champion and her life change forever. She now hosts her own cooking show and has had her cookbook published by Nelson Mandela’s personal chef.
3. Nadiya Hussain
Since 2010, “The Great British Bake Off” has been a staple of the British summer, becoming as indispensable as strawberries and cream or not winning Wimbledon. Undoubtedly the most successful contestant in the show’s history was 2015 winner Nadiya Hussain, who amazed audiences with a range of dazzling bakes and overly demonstrative facial expressions. She has gone on to publish several books and host no fewer than five further TV shows.
4. Thomasina Miers
When “MasterChef” burst back onto British screens after a three year hiatus, viewers and contestants weren’t quite sure what to expect. What they got was the start of a new Mexican street food revolution. After winning the debut 2005 series, Thomasina Miers went on to found Wahaca, one of the UK’s most successful Mexican food chains. Today, the franchise has over 25 branches across the country.
5. Stephanie Izard
It’s not just members of the public who can have their lives transformed by a successful TV appearance. Stephanie Izard was the owner and head chef of a small Chicago eatery before she entered season four of Bravo’s cooking show Top Chef. She walked away as the series’ first female winner and has since gone on to open three further award winning restaurants and pen a best-selling cookbook.
6. Steve Groves
For some food lovers, success doesn’t look like a massive paycheck or an enormous book deal. All some chefs want is the chance to work with their idols. This is exactly what happened to “MasterChef: The Professionals” winner Steve Groves. When he entered the contest, his sole mission was to win the opportunity to work alongside judge and world renowned restaurateur Michel Roux Jr. That chance came when, after winning the competition, he was offered a position at Roux Jr’s legendary three-Michelin star eatery Le Gavroche.
Reality TV is all too often little more than a flash in the pan. Too many contestants are forgotten in the blink of an eye, however talented they may be. But, as these success stories prove, it doesn’t all have to be doom and gloom when the cameras stop rolling.