A former winning contestant of MasterChef from Oldham who has two successful restaurants is set to judge hopeful participants in a guest appearance as the show celebrates 20 years.

Simon Wood, from Chadderton, was crowned the winner of MasterChef in 2015 - and has enjoyed cooking up success ever since.

He was appointed executive chef of the Oldham Event Centre, part of Oldham Athletic Football Club, shortly after winning where he worked on delivering fine dining events for the club and masterclasses.

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He then opened up a pop-up restaurant in his hometown, called The Boardroom, before welcoming the arrival of three of his own restaurants, WOOD Manchester, WOOD Chester and WOODKRAFT Cheltenham, though the pandemic presented the end of his Chester restaurant in 2020.

The Oldham Times: Simon Wood and Chariya Khattiyot talked about their experiences on the BBC One showSimon Wood and Chariya Khattiyot talked about their experiences on the BBC One show (Image: The One Show, BBC)

However, the 47-year-old has also been busy offering cooking classes and training some of Manchester’s fledgling chefs - and released his debut cookbook, At Home with Simon Wood - Fine Dining Made Simple, in 2016.

While Simon has already appeared as a guest judge on the 2020 series of MasterChef, he faces a return to the show once more this year for the show's 20th anniversary.

MasterChef looks to find the country's best amateur cooks with six hopefuls going head-to-head in a series of heats where they cook and present their best dishes to the judges.

In celebration of the major milestone, the judges who have been there from the start, John Torode and Gregg Wallace, joined BBC One presenters on The One Show's sofa on Tuesday (April 2).

The segment looked at how the show continues to be a "recipe for success" and asked the pair how it has gone on to influence people's attitudes to cooking.

John said: "I suppose if anything, it's the MasterChef contestants who have influenced the nation's way in which they cook.

"Because it's an extraordinary multi-cultural country now and what we're seeing is this amazing group of people who are really proud of their heritage coming into the MasterChef kitchen and showing it off to the rest of the country.

"That's opening up the world of food to so many other people.

"Food's just changed, it's amazing after 20 years."

The judge also praised the authenticity of the show, saying:  "We have fun, we actually live in it, indulge in it, we're not scripters.

"We make the decisions and it's an amazing privilege."

Gregg also said he has "brilliant memories" over the years and pinpointed one favourite moment when the chefs prepared food at the Maharaja Palace.

He explained: "We were cooking for a maharaja in the Maharaja Palace and I just stood there and thought, 'Where are we? What are we doing?'

"What an extraordinary moment."

The judges said it was "so intense" that the maharaja had his own chefs on stand-by in case the food wasn't good enough.

John added: "But thankfully the maharaja asked for seconds."

For the big birthday return, the show is welcoming past winners who have "made the competition and show what it is" - and who have gone on to make an impact in the industry - to the judging panel.

That includes Chariya Khattiyot, who became the 19th amateur cook to claim the coveted title in 2023, and Simon Wood.

While Chariya revealed she has plans on opening her first restaurant next month, she admitted it was "weird" being on the other side of the table as a judge for the show.

She explained: "I don't like to tell people what I think about their food because I know they've worked really hard.

"There is a lot of pressure. I always want to praise their effort, I don't want to say, that's not good, so that was a bit weird for me.

"I'd rather go into the kitchen and cook."

The Oldham Times: Simon said cooking for the judges was a 'nerve-wracking experience'Simon said cooking for the judges was a 'nerve-wracking experience' (Image: The One Show, BBC)

When asked about performing in a high-pressure situation in the competition, Simon said he sympathises with the contestants.

He added: "I remember my first day in that kitchen and what a nerve-wracking experience it was.

"Anyone who looks back will remember just how stressful that was for me.

"Going back the second year to judge is just as challenging as well.

"I'll never forget there was one day, it was John after I'd cooked for the first time, and John grabbed hold of both of my hands and he said you're going to have to stop it, you're going to have to stop shaking, or it's going to cost you.

"Eventually I got to where I needed to be and here we are now."

Simon also suggested the current climate means it is far from an easy time to open a new restaurant.

He said: "I've had my restaurant, it's been open seven years now, we've got one in Cheltenham, one in Manchester, and we work very hard at what we do.

"We're very passionate about it.

"It is for love."

Episode one of MasterChef's landmark 20th series returned to our screens earlier this week on Monday (April 1) and can be watched on BBC One and on iPlayer.

Got a story? Email me Olivia.bridge@newsquest.co.uk