This time last year Worthing’s Kenny Tutt had taken leave from his job as a bank manager and was settling into BBC cookery competition MasterChef.
The seven-week show takes amateur chefs, has them cook in a high-pressure kitchen environment and sees culinary professionals deliver their ruthless verdicts.
Kenny rose to the top, was crowned MasterChef Champion 2018 and is ending a whirlwind year by opening his first restaurant, PITCH, in his beloved home town.
“I thought about it long and hard,” said Kenny, who has just handed in his notice after 19 years at the bank.
“There’s more people in Brighton, even London, but Worthing is my home town.
“I’ve got a lot of time for the place – it’s a beautiful little seaside town that sometimes gets overlooked.”
Read more about Kenny’s plans for PITCH here: MasterChef champion to open his first restaurant in Worthing town centre
PITCH will move into Worthing town centre’s Warwick Street in May, taking over the building that used to be home to Nonna’s Kitchen.
Kenny said the ‘lively, pedestrianised foody destination’ was the perfect location for his first foray into the hospitality business.
Taking inspiration from his market trader parents, from whom he inherited his passion for food, he said PITCH will have a market feel with a touch of luxury.
“It will have really good, genuine food,” he said.
“I want to make sure people don’t feel short changed by tiny portions. It will take good, classic British dishes like ham, egg and chips or jam roly polies, and make them the best they can be while still keeping the heart.
“There’ll also be great seafood – oysters, fish – from local suppliers and quality cream teas for lunch.
“I want it to be somewhere people can relax and feel comfortable in an atmosphere that still feels special, without that stiff upper lip attitude.”
Kenny, who still lives in Worthing, will run the kitchen as executive chef, supported by a head chef.
He said opening a restaurant was always at the back of his mind when he entered MasterChef, but he became hooked after working with some of the best chefs, in the best kitchens, in the world.
“I’ve got this opportunity, this great thing,” he said.
“I would never want to wake up and go ‘what if?’. Hospitality is a tough industry, but I like to challenge myself.”
Work has been going on behind the scenes for months, but Kenny said he plans to start work on the premises next week, when the windows will be whitewashed to maintain secrecy before the grand unveiling in May.
The reaction to yesterday’s announcement on the Herald and Gazette’s Facebook pages has been almost universally positive – a sure sign that the public are excited to see what Kenny has in store.
He said: “I am just so happy to be doing it in my home town. I’ve already had an amazing reaction and I have been truly humbled by the support I’ve received.”