With the 2018 final imminent, judge John Torode talks about what it takes to be a winner, his favourite challenges and the moment a finalist attempted to lay an egg!

After seven gruelling weeks hunched over hobs, and rustling up amazing creations including swans made of coconut and crazy concoctions of beetroot sorbet and smoked chicken, hearty pies to please the critics and oozy puddings to make judge Gregg weep tears of joy, the 56 amateur cooks will soon be whittled down to just three.

As the grand  final looms, the remaining contestants are cooking for their lives but only one will be crowned MasterChef champ and follow in the footsteps of last year’s winner, doctor Saliha.

As the eight remaining contestants – Nisha, Nwamin, Moonira, Kenny, Gregg, George, Alex and David-   go head to head, who will wow judges John Torode and Gregg  Wallace the most and walk away with the coveted title?

With the grand final looming, judge John talks exclusively to  TV Times about  creative cook-offs, heartache and what it takes to be crowned MasterChef champ 2018…

TV Times: Tell us about some of the challenges facing the finalists…

John Torode: They cook with some amazing chefs including Ashley Palmer-Watts and also Tommy Banks, who was the youngest chef to ever get a Michelin star. He takes the most simple of ideas and puts his own spin on it, like an apple tart that takes over four hours to create and is made with fermented apples. And he does an extraordinary thing with a piece of beetroot that he cooks in beef fat for three hours that  gives it the texture and flavour of a steak.

They also travel to Peru and recreate popular dishes for a group of fisherman. It was a huge culture shock for them  but they learnt so much and really did themselves proud.

TVT: Who has really surprised you and been a bit of a dark horse?

JT: “I think a lot of people will be surprised by who makes the final three! That’s pretty surprising! What’s really stood out this year is the sheer range of contestants from all different walks of life and with very different influences. Because of that we’ve ended up with this incredible mixture of food.”

TVT: With the intense pressure of the very final cook-off, were there any mishaps or disasters?

JT: “Only broken hearts which is sadly, always the way. The toughest is when the final four become three and one person leaves just before the very last challenge. It’s devastating.”

TVT: How does this year’s final compare to previous ones?

JT: “I think you’re in for an extraordinary experience when during the final, someone decides to lay an egg. I’m not being cryptic. That’s how creative things get; someone actually tries to lay an egg!”

TVT: Which challenges have you enjoyed from this series?

JT: “I think the pie challenge set by food critic Jay Rayner was one of the most inspired we’ve had. Everyone thinks about the pie as being so humble but that challenge proved it can be elevated into something so exciting, extraordinary and wonderful. I’m telling you, those pies were bloody great!”

TVT: Besides talent, flair and skill what do you think makes a MasterChef winner?

JT: “It’s someone who opens their heart and puts their life on a plate. Their journey on MasterChef, their own personality, their influences, it’s all there and delivered with love. That’s a great cook.”

TVT: This is the 14th series you’ve done of MasterChef. What do you love about it?

JT: “What I love about this whole thing is that it’s now pretty cool to be a cook. When I was a kid and said I wanted to be a chef everyone looked at me as if I was some kind of ill-educated weirdo. Thirty years ago  it was thought of as one of those professions where people were tucked away in a dark corner, peeling spuds and not doing very much. These days cooking is something that people understand and revere!”

TVT: Were you and fellow judge, Gregg Wallace, united in your decision of who was crowned champion?

JT: “Very much so. We often have debates along the way about who to put through to the next round but when it comes to the final winner we rarely disagree. For all the finalists, their lives are going to change forever. How exactly, depends on them.”

Don’t miss the MasterChef final on Friday 13th April, BBC 1 @8:30pm