For many cooks Christmas dinner is the most pressure-filled meal of the year. But The Grove’s sous chef Scott Barnard will be enjoying a well-earned rest after battling it out on this year’s MasterChef: The Professionals.

The 33-year-old, who works at Colette’s at the Rickmansworth hotel, made it through to this week’s finals and has been whipping up amazing dishes for judges Marcus Wareing, Monica Galetti and Gregg Wallace.

We caught up with him on Tuesday to find out more.

How did you become a chef?

Food was never a massive part of the family routine, being brought up in South East London pie and mash was a firm favourite. We moved to Maulden in Bedfordshire when I was 12 and I wasn’t very academic at school and wanted to do something that was hands on and practical. I have always enjoyed food and holidays as a kid to France, Spain and Italy – waking up and running down to get the fresh baguettes and croissants. As I got older I got more adventurous trying rabbit, horse and smelly cheese and then went to catering college at Barnfield in Luton. I came to Colette’s in November 2007. I love it and I have slowly moved up the ranks.

You must be used to cooking for VIPS?

We get the odd celeb in but we treat every customer the same and try and cook the best we can whether it’s Joe Bloggs or Kylie.

Why did you enter MasterChef?

I wanted to prove to myself that I can cook on a good level and I want to create an opportunity to cook my own food and run my own kitchen so I can express myself and develop my style.

Who has influenced your cooking?

To name a few: Adam Simmonds, Simon Rogan, Michael Wignall, and the obvious legends – Marcus, Michael Caines, Marco Pierre White and Gordon. Also my wife has been a huge influence. She has stuck by me and supported me through my career.

How did it feel to get to the finals?

I am really chuffed. When I entered I totally believed I could get to the final, but as soon as the competition started and I saw the calibre of chefs, and then me not starting too well… I knew this was going to be tough.

What has been the toughest moment?

The Critics round in the quarter final, because we had so little time to cook eight dishes at such a high level. Also the invention tests – cooking with no recipes is extremely hard and I’m not the brightest spark.

Any disasters?

My signature dish didn’t go as well as planned, they didn’t like the combination of truffles and ricotta. I won’t be cooking that ever again!

Best moment?

Listening to the feedback from the critics as we didn’t get to hear it on the day. And from the chefs, my heroes such as Michael Caines and Jocky, the comments were amazing.

What is it like cooking on camera?

It’s very difficult. The pressure when you walk through the doors, you can’t explain it, you sort of forget everything you know because you have got the three judges staring at you as well as a camera crew. You have cameras on you all the time and we were in the studio from 7am to 7pm so it was tough but an experience I will never forget.

Do you chat to the judges off camera?

No, they say you are through to the next round and then they are gone. It was quite strange at first and I thought ‘oh they are a bit rude’ but it is their job and they need to keep that distance.

Had you met the judges before?

I cooked for Marcus quite a few years ago but the first time I met him was when he asked me to fillet a fish. Russell Bateman my head chef worked under him and told me to avoid cooking offal as Marcus doesn’t like it. He is the scariest. You can really feel his presence and his eyes on you.

How was it cooking for Michelin-starred chefs?

It was really daunting. They are people you look up to, you buy their books, eat in their restaurants and want to be them one day and you want to impress them.

How did you find the no meat challenge (due to air Dec 23)?

Hard. My wife Dee is a vegetarian so I should have found it easier but you only have a short amount of time to think and I prefer to have time – dishes can take months to develop.

Apart from cooking skills what makes a great chef?

Passion and determination. It’s a tough industry – you are under pressure every day as you have one service to impress an entire restaurant who are paying a lot of money. A lot of chefs I was at college with are not chefs anymore because of the long hours, working every weekend, the money’s not that great until you become a head chef. But it is also a great industry to be in.

Does your family support you?

Yeah I had to take time off work for filming and go on my days off which was difficult as we have a little one but I had great support from my wife Dee and the mother-in-law and couldn’t have done it without them.

Will you be cooking this Christmas?

No we’re going to my sister-in-laws so I can put my feet up and have a gin and tonic and relax. I really hate turkey, I find it quite bland and prefer roast beef. I don’t like Christmas pudding either, raisins are my food hell, so I normally have a pavlova. I’m a bit of bah humbug when it comes to Christmas, especially with the food.

What’s your food heaven?

Chicken Caesar salad.

Do you cook at home?

Yeah but I try and keep it simple, pasta or lasagne and we try to eat out at least once a week – The Artichoke in Amersham is a cracking restaurant. The most inspiring restaurant around the M25 is Pennyhill Park with Michael Wignall. I don’t think I’ll ever get to that level as I have left it too late and not worked in Michelin kitchens. But I’m not chasing accolades, for me it is about cooking for the customer.

MasterChef: The Professionals airs tonight (Dec 23) and tomorrow (Dec 24) on BBC 2 at 8pm.

Previous episodes are on iPlayer.