Sarah Rankin is using her time in the spotlight to shout about Scottish food.
The Inverness-born MasterChef finalist rose to the top showcasing some of the finest ingredients from Scotland’s larder.
Now living in Kinross, she has spilled the beans on John and Gregg, drinks with Pookie, and starring in the biggest cooking competition in the UK.
“It’s one of the best experiences of my life,” she says, “I’m so grateful that I got the opportunity.
"In lockdown, like a lot of people, I had a bit of a reassessment of what’s going on in my life.
"Up until that point I think I’d been afraid of failure and I thought I’m not going to not do things because I’m afraid of failure anymore.
"My main goal was: don’t get sent home first. Then, as you go through the competition you think ‘this might be achievable’.”
Walking onto the set, she said, was just like it appears on TV.
"It’s such an iconic set, and there’s John and Gregg – it’s mind blowing! Then it’s all business. There’s no TV magic, when the time’s up the time’s up.
"They do ask you questions when you are just about to chop your finger off. The camera crew seem to have a radar for when something’s going wrong. But nobody’s trying to make you look silly, they just want to see how you cook."
Sarah was a strong contender throughout the challenges, impressing the judges with her classic Scottish dishes.
The 47-year-old made it to the final four, but fell at the last hurdle with a dish inspired by haggis, neeps and tatties.
"I was devastated honestly,” she said, “That was the worst time to go out. It was so close, it was within touching distance.”
Missing out on cooking with Gordon Ramsay, which was the next challenge, was tough, she said.
"But the experience I loved the most was the pro kitchen. I just loved the buzz of that, the speed, how fast it was.
"I loved working with Glynn Purnell to do the Royal British Legion cook. I loved that experience. That really pushed me and I learned so much.”
‘I really wanted to show that Scottish food isn’t just deep fried things’
Her favourite creation in the competition was her seafood dish during the ‘inspiration’ round.
She said: “The consomme was just a few minutes away from clarifying, but I really wanted to show that Scottish food isn’t just deep fried things.
"Not that I don’t love that. Just that it can also be classy and stylish and healthy and beautiful, and it’s on our doorstep.”
Throughout the show, Sarah wanted to showcase the cooking she loves.
"I thought, I’m not going to try and be something I’m not. Food for me is about love. It’s about feeding people and making them happy.
"That’s what I do at home, so that’s what I tried to do there. I only ever cooked stuff I knew I loved.”
Her passion for cooking runs in the family. “My mum’s a great cook, we were always around scratched food, it was always home cooked everything. I think that comes from being a family who are into food.”
‘Not being able to taste each others’ food was awful’
The show’s iconic judging duo, John Torode and Gregg Wallace, were “great” to work with, says Sarah.
"They were exactly like how they are on TV. They were really helpful and helped you feel at ease.
"But they are judging you. They have tasted everything, there’s nothing they haven’t seen – unless you are Pookie! – so you just need to put something in front of them that they are going to enjoy.”
Speaking of Pookie, this year’s most adventurous contestant and fellow finalist, Sarah says the pair are very close.
“She’s fantastic,” Sarah says, “We went for drinks a number of times. The stuff she does is bonkers. She’s totally self-taught.”
"We are all so close, we talk to each other every day. You forge strong bonds with people. You are having this very odd shared experience that you can’t tell anybody about. They made it very special.
"The only thing I think was a regret was we filmed when there were Covid restrictions in place. When someone’s having a bad day, you can’t hug them.
"Sometimes I wish someone could have given me a hug. And not being able to taste each others’ food was awful.”
The MasterChef final aired on May 5, with Eddie Scott, Pookie, and Radha Ru in the final three. It was an emotional episode, and a close contest, but ultimately ex-marine pilot Eddie took the coveted trophy.
"The final was amazing, it was fabulous to see them,” said Sarah, “I’m so pleased for Eddie, he just absolutely smashed it. They all did.
“I’ve never met anyone so cool under pressure and his food knowledge is amazing.”
It’s not just the champions, many MasterChef finalists go on to do great things in the culinary world. For Sarah, in the future she wants to write about food and will be moving into food with her marketing business.
"I’m going to be shouting about Scottish food and Scottish producers, there are so many amazing food producers in Scotland and I want to promote that as much as I can.”
She’s also working with local anti-poverty charity Broke Not Broken in Kinross, growing food for food bank parcels.
"I think food poverty and access to affordable healthy food is a real issue,” she says, “I would really like to do some good with my profile if I can.”
- Sarah Rankin is joining the Foodies Festival in Edinburgh’s Inverleith Park , and in Glasgow Rouken Glen Garden Centre in August 2022.
She is on Instagram @sarahrankincooks