Masterchef: The Professionals champion Nikita Pathakji has told how her apprenticeship at Westminster Kingsway College gave her the skills and experience for culinary success.

Nikita, 25, from Clapham, became the second former apprentice from the college to win the grand final of the BBC TV series following Alex Webb’s triumph in the competition in 2020.

She said: “This is incredible. I can’t put it into words. This surpasses every achievement of my life. I don’t know how I’m going to top this. This is it, this is the peak, I think I’ve reached it!”

Her winning menu featured a starter of seabass cured in citrus dressing with smoked aubergine and spiced red pepper purées, followed by a main of crispy chicken thighs, tortellini filled with chicken, mushrooms and coriander topped with a coconut curry sauce, and for dessert a cardamom custard tart with poached apricots and a honey tuile.

Masterchef presenter Gregg Wallace said: “Nikita opened up the larder of the world and brought us dish after stunning dish after stunning dish.”

Michelin-star chef Marcus Wareing said “She’s a chef that has grown right in front of our eyes. Her food has been sublime,” while fellow judge, chef and restauranteur Anna Haugh, added: “Nikita is on the road to creating a very unique cuisine. And that is why she’s our champion.”

Nikita, who works as a Junior Sous Chef at Michelin-star restaurant Kitchen W8 in Kensington, trained at the college’s School for Hospitality and Culinary Arts in Victoria from 2016-19.

She undertook Level 2 and Level 3 apprenticeships, sponsored by The Worshipful Company of Cooks, at The Lanesborough in Knightsbridge and Claude Bosi at Bibendum in Kensington.

Nikita said: “My apprenticeship at Westminster Kingsway was a fantastic way to gain important foundational knowledge and skills, which compounded with real experience working in restaurant kitchens, set me up with both the skills and qualifications I needed to work in top Michelin-starred restaurants.

“I’m so glad I started my career on this apprenticeship. The guidance and extra support that made the job a little less daunting when I first started out.”

Nikita grew up in Derby and lived in India with her family for two years from the age of nine. As a child she would prepare meals with her mum, which inspired her love of Asian cooking.

After her apprenticeship at WestKing, she travelled for nine months around South East Asia, which further deepened her passion and appreciation for the region’s flavours and culinary styles.

Sharon Barry, Head of School for Hospitality and Culinary Arts Apprenticeships, said: “Nikita was a dedicated, passionate and highly motivated learner during her time at WestKing. It comes as no surprise that she has continued to grow and thrive within her culinary career.

“Winning Masterchef: The Professionals is a fantastic achievement, and we are all incredibly proud of her. She is a huge inspiration to all our current learners who has shown anything is possible if you believe in yourself and follow your dreams.”

Find out more and apply for Hospitality and Culinary Arts courses here and apprenticeships here.

A former apprentice at Westminster Kingsway College has been crowned Masterchef: The Professionals 2020 champion. 

Alex Webb, 25, who trained at the college from 2013-15, described the moment as “a day all my chef dreams have come true” after becoming the 14th winner of the BBC One series. 

He said: “It is the best feeling I have ever had in my life. To walk away with the trophy is incredible. I am so proud.” 

Alex took on 31 fellow professional chefs in the quest for gastronomic glory, cooking his way through six increasingly intense weeks of culinary challenges and producing outstanding dishes along the way. 

He impressed Michelin-starred Marcus Wareing, renowned chef Monica Galetti and MasterChef’s seasoned judge Gregg Wallace from the start, with his elegant dishes bringing a little bit of style and theatre to the competition.

Alex also received high praise from critics and top UK chefs during the competition, including at the Chef’s Table where Anna Haugh described his dish as “perfect in every single way” while Aktar Islam called it “incredible”.

Marcus said: “Today was Alex’s finest day. We have seen a young chef come of age. He is a brilliant young chef, I love his thirst for knowledge, and he has cooked beyond his years. MasterChef is about the next generation and for me as a chef I see Alex as the future.” 

Monica describes Alex’s food as having “a cheeky sense of humour in it” and his youth comes through in his cooking, while Gregg also referred to his “sense of fun” and that he “hits notes of brilliance” when it comes to fine dining. 

Alex likes to create traditional French dishes and put his own twist and sense of fun on them. He outshone his competitors in the challenges that included creating and delivering a Michelin-standard dish for eight international culinary experts and then cooking a dish dedicated to someone special. 

For his final menu, Alex produced a scallop starter with artichoke and pear tartare followed by a main of pan-seared trout with parsnip, and a mussel and caviar cream sauce and mini fish pie sauce, followed by a white chocolate and passionfruit dome with a prosecco sorbet. 

Talking about his experience on the show, Alex said: “I decided to enter MasterChef because I wanted to see how far I could go. Winning is something I will always be very proud of. I really wanted it and all the blood, sweat and tears and sleepless nights have paid off.” 

Alex was born and bred in Essex and is Head Chef at Square One restaurant in Dunmow where he started washing pots when he was 15. He trained at Westminster Kingsway College and has been hugely influenced by fellow Essex chef and WestKing alum Jamie Oliver, as well as his current boss Spencer Hewitt.

Speaking about his next steps, Alex said: “I want to enjoy the moment and make the most of all the opportunities which may be out there.  

“I have lots of ideas for a book and I really enjoyed the experience of being in front of the camera, so would like to look into any chances there may be to do more of this.  

“I will continue to work in the restaurant I do now, and I would like to keep learning and pushing myself. Then, hopefully one day, I will be able to achieve my big dream of owning my own restaurant.”

Many congratulations Alex, from everyone here at Westminster Kingsway College!

We have trained thousands of chefs over the years and are one of the UK’s finest colleges for the culinary arts. If you want to follow in Alex’s footsteps and maybe cook your way to greatness, look no further. Click here for our Hospitality and Culinary Arts courses and apprenticeships.

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