Issue 311
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The finals of Masterchef: The Professionals concludes tonight and call us biased, but we're backing Stuart Deeley, head chef (until Saturday) at The Wilderness. This evening's episode was filmed months ago and Stu knows every part of everything that's about to unfold, but he wouldn't breathe a word of it to us, even when we torture-tickled him. Still, whether he's about to be crowned winner-winner-soy-cured-salmon-dinner, or he has to settle for runner-up, plans are afoot for 2020. Under duress, he told us about what he has in store, his experience on the show, and his favourite Brum restaurants. Eyes down.  
Stu on MasterChef
"I'm not one for the limelight. Really I'm not. The idea of even applying for the competition was massively out of my comfort zone — what if I mess up and look silly? But since having a little boy, I know I'll always challenge him to face the things that make him nervous. How can I push him in that direction, but sit back and let nerves stop me? So, I joined the thousands that applied for series 12, and when I made it through to the final 48, it felt amazing.

"Completing that first skills test was the most intense feeling I've ever had in my life — it's even more nerve-wracking than it looks. And you might think footage would be edited to make things more dramatic but the production team was very kind with how they cut the episode — I was so nervous I couldn't even put my apron on, but you won't see that bit in the scene.

"I've always struggled with self-confidence — when I'm slow to react and show emotion on the show, I think that's just me processing the whole incredible experience. Sometimes I struggle to believe this is all really happening but as the weeks have gone on I've been enjoying myself more and more. The positive feedback from judges and chefs we've been fortunate enough to work with has really helped. And if I had to pick one comment that felt the most special it would be when Marcus called me a craftsman after tasting my rabbit dish. Marcus Wareing telling a Birmingham boy he's a craftsman! That made me proud of myself and my home."
Stu on Birmingham
"Between filming, travel time and my role at The Wilderness, I went nearly six weeks without a single day off. But since filming finished, I've made it to Simpsons — where I worked for three years and during that time I met my partner, Tash who was front-of-house back then. Luke [Tipping, exec chef] and the team put on such a good meal for my birthday — Simpsons is the great institution when it comes to learning as a young chef in the Midlands; there really is no comparison.

"But on my days off you'd more usually find me eating a Dutch Piggy and frickles at The Meat Shack, or ploughing through a three meat roast at Peach Garden. If I had to pick a death row meal, I actually think that's what it would be — a quadruple portion of their Cantonese roast duck, belly pork and char siu pork combo with loads of rice. Don't get me wrong, I love fine dining and it fascinates me: currently I'm desperate to get to Gareth Ward's Ynyshir in Wales maybe even to do a stage [internship] in the new year there, but the street food scene — Digbeth Dining Club, for example — in Brum is brilliant, and that's where I'd choose to eat a lot of the time."
Stu on the Future
"Whatever offers come in following the finals, there is no place I'd live but Birmingham. I graduated from Halesowen College and worked in kitchens across the Midlands. My little boy and partner are here — this is our home. And I love how the region has grown and developed organically. People create and open things in Brum because it's the city where they live, not simply to satisfy a perceived money-making gap like in London.

"So, yeah, I can confirm my next project, opening in 2020, will be in Birmingham. I probably shouldn't say any more, but... we are looking at premises in the Jewellery Quarter, and when I say we, I'm really excited to confirm that Tash will be a big part of this new restaurant. When women leave the industry to have a baby, people tend to write them off. But Tash has been in the business longer than I have. And I think we're going to make a great team, championing the food we've grown up eating, in our hugely diverse home. And that's all you're getting today."
MasterChef: The Professionals, The Finals, concludes tonight (Thursday 19 December), 8pm, BBC Two.


A last-minute addition to every self-respecting Brummie's stocking this season is The Brum Cup (£10). Created by Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and designed by local artist, Oliver Burke, the eco-friendly, reusable vestibule gets you the holy trinity of goodness: environmental points, Brummie points and exclusive sort of coffee-based discounts. From 10% off at the likes of Tilt, Bar Opus and Quarter Horse to a discount of 20 of your hard-earned pence at Medicine Bakery, you'll be helping the planet and, presumably, your chances of getting a mortgage. Order your cup right here by 5pm today (Thursday) and it will be dispatched tomorrow, in time to beat St Nick. Or head over to BMAG's shop today from midday if your need is even more urgent. And in case you're somehow not already entirely convinced — look! the cup's even got our name on it. We have literally given it our seal of approval. 
Venue: Gino D'Acampo My Restaurant, 61-63 Temple Row, B2 5LS; website Choice: Lobster linguine (£23.50) Chooser: Waiter, Mimo

"How much is this?" is the most commonly asked question at Poundland. And at Gino D'Acampo's My Restaurant, it's "Is Gino here today?". Long story short, Gino actually was there. Right there. Giving us a friendly, bandana-clad back slap and all the smiles, filming a thing, for a thing. But this isn't a story about Gino, this is a story about Mimo, our waiter, who you'll find at the newest Temple Row opening more often than not. From Bari in Puglia, Mimo's enthusiasm for life, food and all things Italia had his entire section of the happy, buzzy restaurant more interested in their next plate or glass, than the restaurant's eponymous hero. The food itself played around about fourth fiddle to the service, atmosphere and rather excellent boozeage — perfectly cooked linguine with lobster was a high, while the lentils in our scallop starter (£11.75) had more flavour and interest than the shellfish itself. Parts of the focaccia (£4) were too dry to eat, while the tomato, olive and red pesto it came with had us asking for the recipe. The truffle-stuffed chocolate fondant (£6.50) had a great look of lusciousness to it but next to a show-stealer of a Borghetti (an espresso liqueur) on sippers just wasn't sweet enough to bring any taste-buddy bravado. You're already a person that either will or won't want to try Gino's newest spot. If you fall into the former category, just be sure to book seriously far ahead, and, get the question right: ask for Mimo.


Nineties football fans would do well to binge listen to podcast Quickly Kevin on which apologetic Eton alumnus, Ivo Graham, is a regular. Outside of that he's done every single one of telly's main comedy slots and, in March, he's bringing his Edinburgh Fringe Best Show nom, The Game Of Life, to the Glee. His last stand-up left things on a cliffhanger. His young person’s railcard had expired, he’d got engaged to his girlfriend, and they were gearing up to start trying for a baby. So let’s get this out of the way early: yes, he has managed to land a new railcard. £13

UNTIL 2020, YO

More than 150 review meals, shows, films, exhibitions, tastings and launches later, we're off to lie down in a cold, dark room. And maybe get a fat man dressed in red and white to feed us mulled things. Thank you to you, and to you, and even you for caring enough about your city to keep us clamouring to bring you Birmingham's best. Like our Christmas card of the year. Nuf respect to Brum's Louise Jones and her handmade wonderment (£1.50). Probably stoke pile 'em for next year? We're back on Jan 16.
It's a NYE takeover
Take the rare opportunity to reserve a table at Attic Brew Co this 31/01 (£100 for up to eight). The brewery and tap room is open until 1am with Toastie the Difference on sustenance and DJ Weird Fish on tunes. And hopefully aquariums.
You've heard of the ball drop. But a NYE petal drop is new even to us. Join Tattu, which is serving a sharing feast in three waves (£80), including the team's caramel soy beef fillet. The petal drop takes place at 00:00 with a DJ and all that. More
Island Bar's one of our favourite places to do the whole new year thing. Possibly something to do with rum. This year, the firey cocktail kings are putting on a Beach Party. They're on sand. You're on slurping. Early bird tickets (£7.50) available until December 22.
Magic Door's Cosmic Glitterball edition is where to head if you're planning on a really late one. The remaining tickets are from £18 but if you have anything against glitter, probably find a different party.
If there's a more festive spot in Brum than bow-wrapped The Edgbaston right now, we haven't seen it. Drink and be merry from 8pm right through to 2am. Dress code: twenties. Soundtrack: electro swing. Tickets: £40. Call to book: 0121 454 5212.

"Aww, mate! That’s the sort of thing I would dip my head in."

MasterChef judge, Gregg Wallace

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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Tom Cullen
PICTURES: Ivo Graham (YouTube, Live At The Apollo

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