TV MasterChef quarter-finalist Matei Baran has told North East food bloggers to cut the chat and cook.
He said there seems to be more bloggers than chefs and has challenged them to show if they really know one end of a whisk from the other.
Even though Chef Matei’s new restaurant in Seaburn has opened to rave reviews, he is aware that ill-informed criticism by the “keyboard cooks” can have a devastating impact on other businesses.
“Sometimes they damage a restaurant’s reputation even though they don’t have a clue,” he said. “I wonder how they would react if they actually worked in a kitchen, cooked for guests and being told face-to-face whether or not they liked your food.”
To put this to the test, the chef – who starred in TV’s toughest professional kitchen contest in 2016 – is inviting one blogger a month to take part in a cook off at his #PoshStreetFood restaurant at STACK Seaburn. Members of the public will decide who wins after a blind tasting.
“On the few occasions I’ve seen bloggers actually cook, I’ve not been impressed,” said Matei. “Their white scrambled eggs didn’t look very white, their asparagus was far too green and their short rib was too short.”
The Romanian-born chef is no stranger to controversy. Two years ago the owners of the Little Chef brand threatened to take legal action against him after they discovered he was planning to call his children’s cook book “Big Chef Little Chef”.
They refused to back down even though all Little Chef roadside restaurants were closed and proceeds from the book’s sale were going to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. Matei’s young son was born with the life-limiting disease. The book went ahead with a last-minute change of name: “Big Chef, Mini Chef”.
As well as the #PoshStreetFood restaurant, which opened in October, Matei also runs a café at the Stepney Banks Stables in Newcastle. He moved to the UK from Romania in 2009 to complete his cooking education and has achieved his ambition of becoming a top chef. He has also devoted time to supporting local people.
Matei has created a highly successful project called Kitchen Therapy project which uses cooking and team-working to help adults and children develop their skills and self-confidence. Throughout lockdown Matei, in partnership with Middlesbrough Football Club’s foundation, made and delivered hundreds of meals to key workers as well as vulnerable people around Teesside.