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A winning TV debut for local chef

PUBLISHED: 10:38 03 June 2008 | UPDATED: 07:27 01 August 2010

A BECCLES chef overcame his nerves on his TV debut to win last night's episode of Ready Steady Cook.

Franck Pontais, who lives in Beccles with his wife Judith, 30, and two-year-old son Jack, partnered Lesley Garrett on the programme and beat off competition from Gino D'Acampo and Sarah Brightman.

A BECCLES chef overcame his nerves on his TV debut to win last night's episode of Ready Steady Cook.

Franck Pontais, who lives in Beccles with his wife Judith, 30, and two-year-old son Jack, partnered Lesley Garrett on the programme and beat off competition from Gino D'Acampo and Sarah Brightman.

Frenchman Mr Pontais came to England when he was 22 to work at Harrods. Since then he has cooked for Andrew Lloyd Webber and catered for Stella McCartney's wedding.

He was asked to be on the BBC2 cookery show after his agent, who also represents Jean-Christophe Novelli, sent out publicity material for Franck's new book, Terrines and Verrines.

Mr Pontais said: “It ended up on the desk of the Ready Steady Cook people and they were interested.”

Two weeks after his screen test, he was in the studio. But the 36-year-old found his first experience as a celebrity chef a little strange.

He said: “It was very weird to start with because you are not used to it at all. I asked for a newspaper and they sent one of their guys out. He came back with 25 or 30.

“My wife was with me and we looked at each other and said 'what's going on here?'”

Mr Pontais got a lot of support during filming. “Ainsley Harriott squeezed my hand and gave me a big cuddle. Everybody was warm and everybody encourages you to do your best.”

Once he was in the kitchen, he felt at home. He said: “As soon as they open the bag you have 20 minutes. You just crack on with what you're doing.

“As soon as I had the bag emptied I thought 'I can do this'. You are in your own world again. It was great.”

His fillet of beef with wild mushrooms, and puff pastry tart with a chocolate orange ganache was voted the winner.

But the chef is reluctant to become a TV star if it takes him away from the kitchen.

“I have a business to run. If someone's interested and wants to do a TV programme about what we have been doing for the last 20 years, I will jump at it,” he said.

The Beccles-based couple, who run their own catering company in Halesworth, Food Creation, watched the programme last night at a pub in Snape, Suffolk, surrounded by friends and clients.

Their son, Jack, seems to be enjoying his dad's celebrity-status.

Mr Pontais said: “Last week we had a piece in the paper. He saw the pictures and he cuddled the newspaper - which was quite cute.”

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