The Basingstoke-based coffee roaster is full of beans after being announced as the winner of the coveted MasterChef trophy. She shares her vision for a Hampshire restaurant, and why she thinks she was finally named as this year’s champion chef.

Basingstoke-based Chariya romped to victory with her three-course meal inspired by her childhood in Northern Thailand, dazzling judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace to become this year’s MasterChef Champion. And her feet still haven’t hit the ground: ‘I’m still on a complete high… I’ve not come down yet! It’s still unreal. An amazing experience, an amazing feeling – I am over the moon!’ she says.

‘It’s only been a few weeks, so I haven’t got used to it yet. Especially when I go to the local Sainsbury’s and people recognise me and congratulate me! I’ve never known anything like it.

‘I recently did a demo at a food festival and people were queuing outside of the tent because they couldn’t get in – it was just amazing. Afterwards they were asking for photos and shaking my hand – I felt like a celebrity!’

Great British Life: Chariya remained cool and calm and because of that, enjoyed every minute of the competition. Image: Shine TV/BBCChariya remained cool and calm and because of that, enjoyed every minute of the competition. Image: Shine TV/BBC

Her epic cooking experience certainly hasn’t deterred her from the kitchen either: ‘I’ve still been cooking every day since MasterChef, sometimes twice a day,’ she says. As well as working on recipes for food demos, I’m also working on a cookery book: completely new South Asian recipes with easily accessible local ingredients, that you don’t have to go to an Asian supermarket for.’

After sharing a personal experience of getting stung for a (£9) green papaya for a Som Tum salad recipe, Chariya suggests: ‘So, instead of green papaya you could substitute it with a grated turnip for what, 50p? It may not be authentic, but it will give you the crunch you need.’

Besides the whirlwind of exciting projects off the back of Chariya’s win, one thing we’re all desperate to know is if a restaurant is on the cards? ‘Absolutely!’ she enthuses, ‘long term, my dream is to open a restaurant – and eventually multiple restaurants - where I can showcase the food of my homeland in Northern Thailand – and hopefully work towards earning a Michelin star.’

I want to show the world that Northern Thai food is amazing because it really is. I just love to see people's faces light up when they eat my food.’

Great British Life: Chariya's Northen thai food led to her being crowned champion. Image: Shine TV/BBCChariya's Northen thai food led to her being crowned champion. Image: Shine TV/BBC

Keen for her restaurant to be a whole experience, Chariya says: ‘I don’t want people to just go in and eat at a restaurant, I want to wow them with everything, so they think “I remember that”!’

Chariya has a team busy hunting out the perfect premises and she has already decided it will be in Hampshire. ‘It’s such a lovely area and there’s no point in me travelling too far for work each day. I have a few places in mind… I also have quite a particular idea of what sort of building I want, as I really want to have a garden. I’m not sure it will be inside a city centre, probably slightly out of town, but not too far.’

Chariya spent her own childhood growing up in Chang Mai in the mountainous north of Thailand – known for its hill tribes, lush rainforests, elephant sanctuaries and over 300 Buddhist temples. ‘Everyone I’ve spoken to has been to Thailand,’ she tells me. ‘But no one has been to Chang Mai! They’ve been to the islands - Phi Phi and Phuket - but never to the north. No one really knows about Northern Thai food, so my mission is to showcase it.’

While Central Thailand and the islands only have two seasons: monsoon and summer, the north is much cooler, Chariya explains: ‘In the winter it drops to around 15 degrees, so we often cook over a fire. We cook sticky rice on wooden skewers over a charcoal fire until they go crispy (known as Khao Chi) a bit like you would toast marshmallows here. The smell is incredible - it’s such a strong childhood memory. I’d love to replicate something like that at my restaurant, maybe with a fondue.’

A popular MasterChef contestant, Chariya always remained upbeat, despite the competition.

‘I was just myself in there. And honestly, I really enjoyed every minute – I loved being there that’s why I didn’t feel the stress or pressure. I think you could see that in my food too.’

When asked how she found the infamous judges, Chariya replies: ‘Gregg and John are really kind human beings; they want us to do well. They’re like teachers; they can be strict, and they give feedback, both positive and negative, but they want you to grow and do well. I’m a person who really loves feedback as I want to be better. I like criticism because I can learn from it and get better. I think that gave me an advantage because I listen and learn, and every time I go back, I’m better than the previous week. Some people couldn’t really take the criticism but, for me, I just love it!’

Asked if she found her competition tough, Chariya replies: ‘Oh my god, yes, they were the best. I can’t believe how high the standard was. The food looked like it came out of a restaurant – they looked like professionals. The standard was really high.”

That didn’t stop Chariya seeing off 44 contestants and beating the remaining finalists, Anurag Aggarwal and Omar Foster to take the much-coveted title, however. Her winning menu started with a Thai lotus tuille filled with coconut jelly, fried king prawns and pomelo fruit salad flavoured with honey, palm sugar and coconut, which Gregg described as ‘fabulous and packing a very big punch’.

For her main course, Chariya served a traditional northern Thai 'khantoke' sharing platter of Wagyu sirloin steak in hung lay curry sauce, minced lamb in a spicy tomato and shrimp paste, jackfruit and scallop salad, sticky rice, and scallop crisp crackers.

'I could eat that all day long,' Torode enthused after sampling the dish.

Chariya finished with her take on strawberries and cream - a strawberry jelly and vanilla cremeux ring filled with macerated strawberries in strawberry liqueur, pistachio sponge, strawberry shards, and a strawberry and Thai basil sauce. The dish was a nod to both the UK and a love of strawberries from her childhood in Thailand, where she would feast on them once a year with her grandfather.

‘Chariya's food has always been honest and from the heart. It's always exciting, it's always unusual and it's always been beautiful and addictive,’ says John Torode. ‘And not just punchy, exciting Thai flavours that we saw at the start, but also exceptional, innovative, and exciting technique all the way through. A proper master.’

Co-host Gregg Wallace adds: 'Chariya is outstanding and one of the best MasterChef contestants I can remember. She has delighted and amazed me in equal measure. Some of her creations are absolutely beautiful - almost with an artist's touch. She is one of the most creative, skilful cooks I've seen on MasterChef for a long, long time.'

One of Chariya’s highlights from the show was meeting her idol, chef and Masterchef: The Professionals host, Monica Galetti. ‘Oh, my lord! I couldn’t believe it. I had no idea she would be the judge as she was standing in for Gregg as he was unwell,’ she remembers.

‘When John announced it was Monika, I thought I was going to faint! My face must have been red like a tomato. I couldn’t believe she was there and standing right next to me and my favourite bit was when she gave me a hug’ she laughs, still giddy from the experience.

Away from her MasterChef stardom, Chariya is the owner of Coffee Cherry in Alton. ‘I’ve been crazy busy since the final, so I have a manager that runs the shop and takes care of things for me.

‘Coffee roasting is a very similar idea to cooking,’ she explains, ‘basically I cook and blend the raw coffee. I mix it together because sometimes the single-origin coffee doesn’t have the flavour you want, so I create it myself. Two of my coffees that I blended have won Great Taste Awards: Alton Blend in 2022 and Celestial Blend – that we use for the espresso in the shop – in 2021.’

From coffee to coveting the famous MasterChef trophy, it’s clear we’ve not seen the last of Chariya’s delicious cuisine…watch this space.