Irini Tzortzoglou is the wonderfully charming winner of MasterChef 2019. Throughout the competition she successfully used a variety of traditional Greek ingredients in dishes which consistently impressed the judges as well as guest chefs such as Raymond Blanc and Michel Roux Jr. In the competition final, her take on classic Greek dishes which she elevated to a new level in her uniquely playful style won over judges, John Torode & Gregg Wallace and she was crowned the popular winner.
Irini was born in a small village on the island of Crete and was the youngest of three. Her early memories of life are of scarcity of luxuries but an abundance of fresh, home-cooked food in a loving home full of people. Treats were rare and usually home-made, delicious and created with produce the family grew, were given or sourced. Being raised in a culturally mixed environment – Irini’s mother originated from Crete and her father from Anatolia – Irini was blessed with different but equally valuable life lessons and principles. Hospitality, responsibility and pride on
When she was 20, Irini started working in her uncle’s hotel in Crete where she met her first husband who was English, and they moved to London in 1980. Whilst working for the National Greek Bank of Greece she studied for professional qualifications, and later completed a History of Art Degree. Her artistic flair was reflected in the way in which her Masterchef-winning dishes were presented.
In 2010, Irini moved to the small village of Cartmel in Cumbria with her now husband, John, where life could not be more different to London. Cartmel is similar to Crete, in that there is great appreciation of food, cooking and entertainment. The focus is on quality and freshness of produce – themes reminiscent of Irini’s upbringing.
In 2018 Irini decided to enter MasterChef, driven by the hope to inspire both old and young (such as her grandchildren). She loved every single minute of the competition, including those of fear, anxiety, pressure and the occasional personal disappointment although these were greatly outweighed by the sense of achievement and the joy of having her food appreciated by others. Greek food has always had its fans amongst the millions who have visited the country over the years with appealing strong flavours, the freshness of the ingredients and the simplicity of their preparation. Irini firmly agrees that the ingredients are king and respects the traditional methods of their treatment, but she has developed a much more refined approach and style of presentation.
Irini currently works with potters in both Crete and the UK creating dishes inspired by Minoan pottery and with graphic designers on the creation of fabrics inspired by Greek plant life. She is very involved in the local community – belonging to the Cartmel in Bloom group and Cartmel Village Society.