Wood crowned MasterChef champion
Simon Wood was tonight crowned the country's best amateur cook as MasterChef Champion 2015.
The 38-year-old data manager from Oldham fought off fierce competition from fellow finalists Emma Spitzer and Tony Rodd to lift the coveted trophy on the BBC One show.
All three had to prepare three course meals to impress judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace at the end of the seven week competition.
Wallace, in his discussions with Torode as they decided the winner, said of Wood: "Simon is a class, class act."
Torode said: "He just keeps on getting better and better."
Wood, who has dreamed of being a chef since he was eight years old, told the judges: "I'm shaking inside, it's so surreal, you can't believe how happy I am. It's life changing, it's everything I wanted it to be, and more besides."
Wallace added: "Simon is brilliant, he's an incredible talent. He came in here with enormous ambition, he wanted to cook like a chef, and right now he is. I have no doubt in my mind that Simon is going to have a professional career in food."
Viewers have seen Wood cook a celebratory dinner in honour of Sir Winston Churchill, travel across Europe to Sweden and cook on open fires without gas and electricity, cook exceptional fish for two Michelin-starred chef Nathan Outlaw, and in the penultimate show, cook for the Chef's Table, which was this year presided over by Massimo Bottura, the three Michelin-starred chef of Osteria Francescana fame in Modena, Italy.
Wood's winning menu in the final consisted of: a starter of octopus, served with chorizo crisps, cannellini bean and chorizo salad, brunoise tomatoes and a sherry and smoked paprika vinaigrette; a main course of squab pigeon served two ways - roasted breast, and a pigeon leg bon-bon, stuffed with pigeon leg meat, chicken, mushroom duxelle and Armagnac, served with three types of heritage carrots, pommes parisienne, girolle and trumpet mushrooms, carrot puree, watercress puree and a cassis jus; with a dessert of lemon posset topped with citrus tutti-frutti, charred grapefruit and orange, a lime tuile, limoncello pistachio crumb, edible flowers, tarragon leaves and a lime air.
Wood's passion for cooking started when he won a competition to be anything for a day, and chose to be a chef.
He said: "I have been cooking since I could reach the top of the oven, and I always cooked at weekends with my grandma. When I was eight I won a competition where the prize was to have your dream job for the day and mine was to be a chef. Thirty years later who would have thought I would have the MasterChef trophy in my hands.
"I have four children and I became a dad at a young age which meant I needed to secure a job where I could financially provide for my children, so my dreams of being a chef were always on the back burner.
"Then after years of sitting watching and wanting to try, but never quite being brave enough or the time not being right I decided to stick my neck out and see if I had what it takes. I decided to enter to prove to myself I could compete with the best."
He is now planning his future in food. He said: "My dream is to make a living doing something that I love - cooking, and hopefully give people a great memory and experience along the way."
He is single and has four children, Liam, 20, Alex, 18, Cameron, 16, and Charlotte, seven.