After scooping the coveted MasterChef: the Professionals title at the end of last year, many people might have expected Gary Maclean to quit his college job and open his own restaurant.

But the City of Glasgow College lecturer is adamant this won’t be the case. He is a staunch advocate for the UK’s education system and is more than happy staying where he is. “We should be championing our education system,” says the proud father -of-five. “I think sometimes in the UK education isn’t as highly regarded as it is in other countries. I think it’s because it’s free so people take it for granted. Throughout the competition, I had so much support from teachers at every level of education and I’m more than happy to be seen as a role model. I think people respect me because I’m sticking to my guns and staying in college.”

Life has changed quite a lot since his win was revealed but Gary – the first ever full-time college lecturer to win MasterChef: the Professionals – is taking it all in his stride. “The publicity has been much bigger than I expected and I’ve been getting 10 requests a day to do things. Winning was a bit strange – I had to keep it a secret until the final was aired and it didn’t feel real until then,” he explains. “It was like a freight train coming at you in the distance – and now it has well and truly hit!”

Gary’s students, however, treat him the same as ever. “We had five minutes of questions and answers about the show at the start of the first lesson then it was straight back into teaching!” he laughs.

Teaching is obviously his passion and he has no plans to stop any time soon. “Some people did expect me to leave to open my own restaurant but I know more about restaurants than 99.99% of people do! I’ve spent my whole career opening restaurants and there is a common misconception that if you put your name above the door it’s going to be a surefire way of making money. When I was younger, say 26, 27, it was my dream to have my own restaurant but I’m older and wiser now. It’s not everything it’s made out to be. It’s a lot of hard work and there is no easy ways of doing it.”

His role as an educator is a top priority and Gary, 45, can’t stress the importance of a college education enough. “These days our students get jobs all around the world, in the US, Dubai, Sydney and they get those jobs on the back of their college education,” he explains. “You simply can’t get the jobs without the qualifications.”

Gary encourages his students to enter competitions, like the Country Range Student Chef Challenge, to help them gain industry experience and publicity. The team from City of Glasgow College scooped Bronze in last year’s Challenge and, at the time we went to press, the college’s team was through to this year’s semi-finals. “We have a massive cohort of students but not everyone wants to do competitions,” he continues. “It’s definitely not crucial to your education but what it does give is the opportunity to shine and get one-to-one coaching. The Country Range Student Chef Challenge is definitely one of the ones you want to have in your trophy cabinet. It’s one of the biggest.”

For more information on the Country Range Student Chef Challenge visit

Applications for MasterChef: The Professionals, 2017 are now open:

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