Following the 6-week competition, which brought together 32 professionals competing, Daniel affirmed that “MasterChef is a once in a life time experience”.
Inspired by family
Daniel Marreiros was born in Portimão in the Algarve and explained that “my passion for cooking all started because of my grandmother, I was not into cooking in the very early days, it was the fact that I understood that cooking a meal was a form of bringing us all together and it was a form of switching off the world for a little bit. I started watching some cooking shows and they would put up the recipes up and then at the end I would ask my mother to get the ingredients”. Admitting that “what I cooked was probably absolutely horrible back then but my family always supported me.”
Daniel then went to cooking school in the Algarve after “realising that chefing would give me my independence and at cooking school I liked everything; the rush, the sound of the pans, the sense of urgency, get it right and get it quick, so it really went from there.”
Whilst at cooking school, “I got a job at O Leão de Porches in the Algarve and I worked with an English chef there and I learnt a lot as he has Michelin star background.” He developed quickly becoming head chef there at only 19 years of age, staying there for a few more years.
“The idea of going to London was fermenting inside me and one day I gave in my notice and booked a one-way ticket. I figured out that London is notorious for being a very hard place to cook in with its long hours so I knew that if I did not do that at that point in my life, I would probably just carry on and let the dream die which I did not want to do.”
In London he worked in various restaurants prior to embarking on MasterChef, most recently working as head chef at the Portuguese restaurant “Volta Do Mar” in Covent Garden in London which was awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand in 2021.
The MasterChef journey
He explained that he has always been a big fan of MasterChef “This is the show I admire the most and have probably watched every single season and somehow it actually happened. It was a privilege meeting Chef Marcus Wareing, Chef Monica Galetti and Gregg Wallace, who are people I carry a lot of respect for.”
When it came to the dishes on the show, Daniel explained how much of an influence the Algarve had.
“In terms of produce and quality of products, I am totally passionate about fish and seafood because I grew up next to the sea, I like going to the markets and I like to meet the fishermen who are having their beers in the morning.”
“Portugal is such a small country, yet all the regions have so many different types of food that are quite independent from each other and I always thought grabbing the traditional principle, and bringing your own flair into it and just applying a few more techniques with a bit more care and not turning away from what it actually is traditionally because the combination works but then just take a different approach to it.”
“One thing I did not want to do in the show was have dishes from somebody else, I just wanted to do exactly what I believed in and who I am. It is totally a reflection of where I grew up and how I grew up which was basically with seafood and fish. In the show I mainly cooked fish and I developed some of my grandfather’s favourite dishes after he passed away. All my food is very personal because I have to be emotionally involved with it and I think that shows.”
Highlight of the show
“The experience was absolutely incredible and, in the critics round, I cooked a gazpacho which was another one of my grandfather’s favourite dishes and I have been tweaking that gazpacho for years but is something I really like and we would have at home. It is not the traditional arjamolho, some say it’s from Portimão some say it’s from Silves but it is definitely a dish from the Algarve. Taking these dishes that are very important to me and getting such great feedback from top UK critics and the fact that people watching the show have been super supportive is a real blessing so I would say that has been a highlight.”
Additionally, “one of the best things to come from the show is the belief that I can cook what I believe in and showcase who I am. I think the show has given me the strength to believe and keep polishing my style and it made me want to invest in things I believe in.”
Plans for the future
“I want to showcase more of the Algarve and I am currently building my own brand which will focus on private dining events, pop-up restaurants and other culinary events in the UK as well as in Portugal and I also have festivals scheduled in the UK.”
“My website is under construction at the moment but in less than a month I will be able to advertise it to the world but ideally, I want to get really close to people. You know that grandmother feeling, I want to bring that to people, no arrogance, just cooking to the best of my ability in a welcoming way and just creating good moments for people.”
“In the long-term future, I see myself having my own restaurant and I would like it be in Portugal but if the right opportunity presented itself, it could be in the UK as well. I have the vision for it and I would like it be an open kitchen with no division so I will never stop pursuing that dream!”