Julie Friend was one of the first winners of BBC MasterChef back in 1997. Here she tells us a little about what she’s been up to and her connection with myself and TOFS



“I moved from London to Kent a few years back and first met Ben at his pop-up supper clubs at TOFS. It seemed to be the only venue locally, that had got that London vibe I still craved, although since then, the whole town has developed a real food culture about it. The minute I witnessed the style and flavours of Ben’s food, I knew we’d get along. Like me he wants to have fun whilst working, so spending time in the kitchen with him is always upbeat, although he has the best poker face too, so permanently catches me out with little ‘pranks’ (I’ll get you one day Sulston). Ben is all about the flavour and quality of locally sourced, seasonal ingredients – an ethos I love.

          My food career has taken a winding journey since winning MasterChef back in 1997. I have taught cookery, run my own delis and catering business, been a private chef to TV stars and MP’s, and helped small food businesses set up – a real eclectic mix. Now I spend my time on food writing (for Kent Life and Italia Magazine), product development, chef work and supper clubs.   Occasionally you’ll find me at TOFS covering Ben while he takes a well deserved holiday and also at my supper clubs in his old Sulston’s site.   I started the series of Cookbook Supper clubs, as I realised, I had this huge collection of books from which I rarely made the actual recipes. As a chef you tend to use them for reference or inspiration but I wanted to start making the exact dishes and sharing my experiences with others who may also be fans of the author/chef or who may just want to try something new.   The evenings are relaxed and informal and I not only cook for the guests but also discuss cooking tips and share foodie stories and adventures with them. It’s like one big dinner party except you leave us to do the washing up!   I am so grateful for the friendship and connections I have made with Ben and of course, Sam, through TOFS and am excited for what we can do together in the future – Ben and I are hatching plans for a real ‘smoke and mirrors’ Heston Blumenthal extravaganza….so watch this space!”