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Home ยป MasterChef Finalist Terri: Why I Made Nan’s Dippy Eggs And Soldiers

MasterChef Finalist Terri: Why I Made Nan’s Dippy Eggs And Soldiers

Image source, Shine TV/BBC

Image caption, Terri Fearon, who grew up in Banbridge, was one of this year’s MasterChef finalists

By Eimear Flanagan


A MasterChef contestant who made it as far as the final four of the TV food show says she drew inspiration from her family’s home cooking in Northern Ireland.

Terri Fearon, originally from Banbridge in County Down, won a place in the final week with a posh version of her granny’s “dippy eggs and soldiers”.

But the 30-year-old accountant kept her family completely in the dark about her appearance on the show until the last possible moment.

“It was a very difficult secret to keep,” Terri tells BBC News NI.

“I absolutely love my family but the reason I didn’t tell them is because they can’t keep a secret.

“There’s hundreds of us – cousins and aunties and uncles – and everybody would tell somebody but say: ‘It’s a secret, don’t tell anyone.’

“And before you know it I think the whole town would know.”

Not pregnant but expecting TV

Terri stayed tight-lipped throughout filming and surprised her family just before the first episode was broadcast.

Image source, Shine TV/BBC

Image caption, Terri’s take on “dippy eggs and soldiers” helped to secure her place in the final

“They didn’t believe me. The first thing my Nan said actually when I told her – I said I had some news to share and she did the: ‘Oh, you’re pregnant?’

“I was like: ‘No, no, I’m not. I’m going to be on TV,'” she laughs.

“So it was quite a surreal moment. I did have to show her a picture of me with the MasterChef symbol in order for her to not think I was winding her up.”

Now in its 19th series, the TV contest pits some of the UK’s best home cooks against each other as they feel the heat in professional kitchens and their food is critiqued by top chefs.

Image source, Shine TV/BBC

Image caption, Terri Fearon, pictured (right) with the MasterChef presenters and her fellow finalists, made it to the final four

Terri, who moved to England in her mid-20s, thought about entering the competition for a couple of years before applying to the show.

“I’m one of those sofa critics who kind of sits at home and watches the TV and claims I’d make all these amazing things in an invention test,” she explains.

A playful dish

One of her most striking dishes was influenced by her County Down childhood.

When presenters John Torode and Gregg Wallace asked the semi-finalists to produce “something theatrical and fantastical,” the Banbridge woman opted for a twist on an old family favourite.

“When I was a kid, on a Saturday I’d go to my Nan’s house and she’d make me dippy eggs and soldiers for lunch,” she told the Masterchef hosts.

Having to prove she could do much more than boil an egg, Terri created tempered chocolate shells, filled with coconut mousse and a mango puree, representing the egg white and yoke.

The eggs were served on a breakfast tray with soldiers made from churros, an orange and mango cocktail and a solid chocolate spoon.

“It’s a dish that lends itself to the playfulness of seeing one thing and eating another,” she said.

Image source, Shine TV/BBC

Image caption, A staple, savoury meal became a sweet treat in the semi-final

A love of cooking spans the generations in Terri’s family.

Her late father worked as a chef and showed her how to make pancakes when she was a child.

He died in a car crash when she was eight years old and although she never got the chance to pick up many culinary skills from him she believes she inherited his passion for food.

“My last memories of him was him going off to work in his chef’s whites so I think it’s definitely had an influence on my love for food and how much I associate the kitchen with him,” she says.

“For me cooking is almost keeping that little bit of memory alive of my Dad – that’s how I see it.

“But also it’s something that I enjoy doing and it’s a big part of who I am.”

Image source, Fearon family

Image caption, Terri’s father died when she was eight years old

Even as a schoolgirl the budding chef was already challenging herself in the kitchen, objecting to the use of shop-bought sauce while being taught to cook spaghetti Bolognese.

“I was annoyed because I wanted to learn how to make a sauce from scratch and that was when I was 11,” she recalls.

Terri attended St Mary’s Primary School in Banbridge and then St Mary’s High School in Newry before studying at the University of Ulster.

The home economics department at her former high school watched her MasterChef journey with interest.

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“I was a big fan of home economics in St Mary’s actually, it was one of my favourite topics,” says Terri.

“I’ve had so much support from everybody back home, it’s been amazing.

“From all my family and friends; from teachers from primary school right through to university, I’ve had messages from people that have had some power in my life along the way.”

Culinary calamities

Her former maths teacher Denise Crawley is now the principal of St Mary’s High School, which posted a message on Facebook celebrating her success.

“Terri was a great student and a great girl,” remembers the headteacher.

“We’re very proud of her and her achievements on the show.”

Denise feels her former pupil stayed “super calm under pressure” during the series.

Despite her pasta crumbling into pieces during her audition, and kebabs burning during the final week of competition in Istanbul, she appeared to take culinary calamities in her stride.

Image source, Shine TV/BBC

Image caption, Terri Fearon kept her cool in the MasterChef kitchen

“People keep telling me this – I had no idea I was as calm or unflappable,” says Terri.

“I find the kitchen just a really relaxing environment to be in.”

Thanks in part to her maths teachers, Terri works as a systems management accountant for a manufacturing company.

She missed out on a place in Thursday grand final, with fellow contestants Anurag, Chariya and Omar left to cook for the title.

Although gutted not to have made it to the final three, Terri hopes one day to combine her head for figures with her love for food – and she still cannot quite believe she can call herself a MasterChef finalist.

“It doesn’t quite feel real, even though I’ve already lived it,” she says.

“The calibre of cooks on the show I think just gets better and better every year and I’ve just loved every minute.

“I’ve loved learning from from all the other contestants; getting tips from John and Gregg.

“The whole experience has been absolutely life-changing.”

The MasterChef final will be broadcast on BBC One and the BBC iPlayer at 20:00 BST on Thursday.

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