MASTERCHEF: THE PROFESSIONALS 2016 WINNER REVEALED
Gary is the tenth winner to be awarded the prestigious title, and becomes part of Professional MasterChef history, along with outstanding past champions: Derek Johnstone; Steve Groves; Claire Lara; Ash Mair, joint winners Keri Moss and Anton Piotrowski; Steven Edwards; Jamie Scott and last year's winner, Mark Stinchcombe.
Taking on 47 other professional chefs in the pursuit of gastronomic glory, Gary battled through seven weeks of fierce competition and extra-ordinary cooking in the culinary challenges. He was judged the winner by two Michelin-starred chef Marcus Wareing, renowned chef Monica Galetti and MasterChef's seasoned judge, Gregg Wallace.
Reacting to his win, Gary said: “What an amazing journey. This is the biggest competition any chef can put themselves through and to be standing here at the end is incredible.
"I've hit emotions that I never knew I had, all in 30 seconds of each other. Words can't describe it. I never thought I would win, ever. My wife and kids are going to go absolutely nuts"
Monica Galetti added: "Gary has been such a pleasure to watch rediscover himself as a chef. He's a chef who always cooks from the heart and you can feel the emotion that goes into his cookery."
Marcus Wareing spoke about the 2016 champion: "Gary has soaked up every little bit of this competition. He's lived the MasterChef dream. He's a major talent, he's grown incredibly well, and he's a gentleman of the kitchen."
Gregg Wallace remarked: "That man has forged his own style of cookery while he's been here on MasterChef. It's modern, it's of the moment and I think it's fantastic."
On Gary's time in the competition, Gregg Wallace said: "Gary stood out. When other people were shaking he seemed completely and utterly happy. His story is incredible. There is a teacher who has become pupil and embraced every single lesson and is having the time of his culinary life."
The gruelling final week saw Gary up against exceptionally tough competition in fellow finalists Elly Wentworth, 24, and Matt Healy, 33. Gary fought to prove his passion, grit, imagination and technical ability beyond that of his competitors throughout increasingly demanding tasks, which pushed all their culinary skills to their upmost limits.
The challenges included: designing and preparing a Michelin-standard dish for 28 Michelin-starred heavyweights of modern gastronomy from around the world. He also travelled to Oslo, Norway, to cook at Maaemo, one of the world's most exciting and innovative restaurants, to learn from the ground-breaking young star of Nordic gastronomy, three Michelin-starred chef Esben Holmboe Bang.
The experience with Chef Esben was a turning point for Gary, who said: "The second I walked into the kitchen it just clicked."
Marcus Wareing also commented: "For a chef lecturer to step into a three Michelin-star kitchen and feel so at home is quite unique."
The ultimate, final task was to create an exceptional three-course meal for judges Marcus Wareing, Monica Galetti and Gregg Wallace, in three hours. Gary's winning menu started with white wine-steamed Razor Clams served with a garnish of asparagus, Jerusalem artichoke discs and crispy ham, on bed of a diced fennel, courgette, and carrot in a white wine sauce, finished with a lemon gel. The main was Smoked and Roasted Loin of Highland Roe Deer accompanied by celeriac three ways – crisped, puréed and diced – roasted Scottish whisky-washed carrots, crispy kale, gooseberry chutney and nasturtium leaves, finished with Arran mustard sauce. Dessert was a Chocolate Pistachio Ganache on a sablé Breton biscuit, with raspberry gel, topped with a pistachio croquant wafer, garnished with fresh raspberries, mint and dehydrated raspberries, served with a vanilla ice cream.
Marcus Wareing commented that Gary's starter "could come from any three Michelin-starred restaurant in Europe." He added: "It's the best razor clam dish I've ever eaten."
Gary wrote his winning menu looking out of the window on the finalists' trip to Norway, and wanted to transport the judges to the West coast of Scotland through his dishes. Following the judges' feedback, Gary said: "I'm absolutely gobsmacked. I'm really over the moon"
Gary grew up in Glasgow and first got into cooking at school when he found he excelled in Home Economics. He says: "When I became a chef it wasn't a popular choice as it is now and probably not a great career choice. In the mid-80s, food was changing radically with people like the Rouxs and Anton Mossimann. I was very lucky to get a job in a good hotel I was 15 and the chef was embracing the new style of food. Twenty-nine years later, having worked throughout the industry, I still love what I do.
"I am very proud to be a chef and am lucky to have worked for the best restaurants in Glasgow, in Glasgow Museums and hospitality groups, as well as part-time lecturing for 13 years" he adds. "I took up a full-time position as Chef Lecturer, where I originally trained, at the City of Glasgow College six years ago, and became Senior Chef Lecturer last year.
"Being a chef lecturer is an amazing job. Teaching the next generation of chefs is a lot of responsibility."
About his passion for cooking, Gary: "I love cooking in every sense, everything from butchery to patisserie, but my biggest buzz is teaching and guiding students into a successful career in the industry."
On his MasterChef experience, Gary says: "I decided to enter because I absolutely love the competition. The main reason I applied was that every year, my kids and students asked why I haven't done it. Getting to the finals is the hardest test a chef can put themselves through and I don't think people realise how long a journey it is, but my wife and kids have been with me every single step of the way, so it's been brilliant."
"Winning MasterChef: The Professionals is totally unbelievable! The whole experience was remarkable and enjoyable from start to finish. I have met some amazing people, both in front of and behind the camera. The support I have received from family and friends has been humbling.
"Hopefully, taking part has shown that if I can still chase my dreams I can inspire students to start chasing theirs."
Speaking about his plans for the future, Gary comments: "My main objective is to continue with my career in education and winning MasterChef: The Professionals is going to provide me with a unique platform that hopefully will open the door to some very interesting opportunities. I would love to use my experience in the competition to help enhance the profile of culinary education.
"If I was to dream, the perfect project alongside teaching, it would be doing more TV. I absolutely loved the environment and the team work it takes to pull something like this together. I have so much respect for the people that worked on the show. It's very similar bond between the team that you would find in a very good kitchen amazing to be part of."
Gary lives in Glasgow with his wife, Sharon, who he met in college when they were 17. They have five children – Cameron, 20, Ewan, 16, Laura, 14, Finlay, 4 and Harris, 3.