THE Lisburn man who has made it through to the semi-finals of TV's Masterchef has hit back at claims he is a cheat.

Last week a tabloid newspaper reported that Jonny Stevenson, 32, was not an amateur chef and has been working in local restaurant Ed's Bar and Grill - contrary to the BBC2 culinary show's rules which stress contestants must be amateurs and not professionals.

However, the dad of two put the record straight explaining that he has not broken any rules and the show's producers are aware of his part-time job.

Jonny commented: "I started the job about the same time I applied to Masterchef after seeing an advertisement in the Star. I had to sign a contract once the televisied stages were coming up and the BBC are fully aware that I work two nights a week in the bar and grill. I have two young children and the job suits me."

A BBC spokesperson said that the programme's producers knew of the local man's job.

"Mr Stevenson works five hour shifts, two nights a week in a bar and grill and did so through the initial stages of filming. His job does not involve cooking from scratch. This is entirely in keeping with the rules of MasterChef. Both production and fellow contestants were aware of his part-time job and it does not put him in a beneficial position ahead of other contestants."

Jonny, a single father of two young children, previously worked as a team manager in a bank. Talking about his passion for food, he said that his interest started around three years ago when he ate in Marco Pierre White's restaurant.

Jonny said; "After that experience I started researching French cuisine and reading classic cookery books. My dream is to one day open up a French style bistro, maybe in Lisburn.

"The Masterchef experience has been brilliant and I hope it will reinforce my food dream and what I can achieve in the future. I haven't anything to hide and I hope the viewers enjoy the next show that I feature in on February 18."

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