The MasterChef finalist talks about the highs and the lows of being on MasterChef and what his plans are for the future.

When Andrew Kojima, a 32 year old research analyst from London, applied for MasterChef 2012, he was determined to prove himself as a cook. Accepted over 20,000 other applicants, he went onto become a MasterChef finalist alongside Shelina Permalloo and Tom Rennolds. After a fierce culinary battle in which Andrew mixed strawberries with a lobster and pork belly starter, Shelina took the MasterChef title, but the experience, he says, was nevertheless invaluable. We caught up with Andrew to find out more about the highs and the lows of being on MasterChef and what his plans are for the future.

I applied for MasterChef… in the same year that our first child, Hector, was born and my father was diagnosed with cancer. These two personal events forced me to take a now or never approach. Cooking was always something I'd loved and I was amazed at the opportunities that MasterChef gave amateur cooks.

I didn't actively choose a career in the City… I fell onto the graduate recruitment conveyor belt at university. I did make a decision after four years to leave investment banking and remould my career in investment - still in finance but more academic and a far more civilised work life balance.

I'm the eldest of four children… so my mother was always keen to have an extra pair of hands in the kitchen! Cooking seemed to go hand in hand with enjoying food and eating socially. It was at university that people first started commenting that I was a good cook. Cooking was what I enjoyed doing at the weekends and friends and family fuelled my hobby by buying recipe books and kitchen gadgets. I'd always been fascinated by chefs and professional kitchens and MasterChef really opens that up to viewers like me.

Once I had applied… I was desperate to get on and have a chance to prove myself to John Torode and Gregg Wallace. I did think that if I made the first cut (from the 20,000 applicants), I stood a good chance of raising my game once I had the chance to cook, but the auditions were totally intimidating - I was surrounded by about 80 people who had incredible knowledge and were cooking amazing sounding dishes.

During the show, the dish that I was most proud of was… my Spanish hake dish in which I took classic Spanish colours (red, yellow and black) and imitated the artist Joan Miro. I was also pleased that I was able to bounce back from an invention test disaster for Tom Kitchin, to prove that there is a place for whisky and honey in a savoury dish when I cooked grouse for Michel Roux Junior.

The dish that I was least proud of… was in our second studio invention test. I cooked oatmeal crusted red mullet with pearl barley risotto and whisky pickled girolles. I also added a razor clam ceviche which I sweetened with honey. Gregg Wallace described it as a "Sweet, floral, oaty fish biscuit."

My best moment of the series was… cooking for Michel Roux Junior the first time - I have such admiration for what he and his family have done in the restaurant industry and it was absolutely brilliant to return home from filming and tell my wife that he had loved my dishes, even though I couldn't tell anyone else. Cooking at a three star restaurant was also a major highlight - the idea of an amateur being thrust into that level of cuisine is complete bonkers and I still can't quite believe it happened to me.

There were some moments in Thailand… that I stared defeat in the face because we were thrown so far in the deep end. I hated not being totally on top of things. Although it was relatively early on, I was devastated that we lost the Jane Austen challenge in Bath, partly because I knew there was a great prize on offer (cooking with Jason Atherton) and partly because I felt a great sense of responsibility because I had volunteered to be team leader.

During the series I learnt a number of valuable things… The first was not to put up psychological barriers to jobs like making pastry because you think it will be messy or time consuming. The second, and most gratifying, thing I learned was how to cook with eggs - being allergic to them I have always avoided cooking with them, but I didn't want the judges to sense that it was a weakness so I forced myself to embrace it (and get my wife to be the taster!)

Being on MasterChef was… surreal. You are transported away from your day to day life to a Jim'll Fix-it land for foodies and enthusiastic cooks. I would come home and tell my wife, but it was difficult to convey the experience that I was having. From that perspective, it was nice to see it on TV, as a way of pinching myself that it really did happen!

I wasn't prepared for… how much time it took to film. We spent a lot of time waiting around, doing walking shots and interviews - the actual cooking was about the only thing that we didn't or couldn't re-do.

I coped with the pressure by… swotting as best I could! If it was an invention test or unknown challenge, I tried to prepare for all eventualities. If it was a recipe that we had submitted before, I practised and made lists. Waiting to go in was quite stressful, I tended to get into my own little zone and try to block out other people.

Although all of the cooking was challenging… the hardest part of being on MasterChef was not being able to tell people about the amazing experience you were having.

John Torode and Gregg Wallace are… much the same behind the scenes as they were in front; they were full of advice, gave us pats on the back and nudges in the right direction.

Of course, I wish I had won… but Shelina triumphed because she had more conviction in her food and executed it to perfection. Only after the competition did I get to taste just how amazing her cooking is.

I wouldn't have gone for strawberries in the final… if I didn't believe in it but I accept not everyone likes it. For me, both pork belly and lobster are rich, high cholesterol foods that need balancing with something zingy and I wanted to go for something that was different to apple, lemon or apricots. However, in cooking, you need to please the crowds and that's something for me to work on.

I have loved… the positive reaction to MasterChef and being surrounded by people who love food and the restaurant industry, but most of all, it is nice to have validated what I now see as my vocation.

In ten years time… I see myself teaching my children to cook - that, for me, is tradition.

Emily Jenkinson

23 April 2012