Five things you need to know about BBC Young MasterChef’s new judge Big Has

The foodies among you may well have clocked the second series of the BBC’s Young MasterChef show, where nine young budding chefs were aiming to show off their culinary skills to win the coveted title.

Chef, author and YouTube food star Hasan Semay, or Big Has as he is more commonly known, joined the show as a judge for this series, teaming up with Michelin-trained social media sensation Poppy O’Toole to oversee proceedings and guide the fresh young talents through their cooking tasks.

Of Turkish Cypriot descent through his father and a whopping 6 ft 6 inches tall, Big Has’ larger than life personality and laid back style helped him to connect with the young cooks and inspire them to aim high, while entertaining viewers at home.

So, who exactly is Big Has? Here are five essential facts about the BBC’s newest celebrity chef. 

  1. A graduate of Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen

Hasan started his professional cooking career on Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen apprenticeship programme, where he learnt his trade working in the star’s non-for-profit restaurant in Old Street, which specialised in training young unemployed people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The apprenticeship programme saw Hasan undergo 13 months of intensive training, where he and others at the restaurant cooked for paying customers. After graduating in 2013, Hasan worked for a decade in high-end kitchens all over London, further honing his skills.

Being a graduate of Fifteen has helped open doors for the North London chef, while his mentor Jamie Oliver remains one of Hasan’s biggest cheerleaders, regularly commenting on Big Has’ videos and describing him as “an utter legend”.

  1. A jack of all trades…destined to be a star

Prior to working at Fifteen, Hasan held down a number of odd jobs, including as a trainee plumber and as a security guard for two years at the Hayward Gallery on the Southbank.

Growing up with a great food culture at home thanks to his parents and keen to emulate TV chefs, Hasan was encouraged by his mum to apply to Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen programme. She helped him complete the application, which he submitted when he was aged just 20. He ended up beating hundreds of other applicants to secure his place on Fifteen in 2011.

Big Has on BBC’s Young Masterchef S2,  Jan 2024. Photo © BBC/Shine TV


Since then, Hasan has worked in some of the capital’s top restaurants, hosted supper clubs, and launched his own hit social media cooking show. He has also appeared on television shows including Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch, The Big Breakfast, and Celeb Cooking School.

In recent years, he has become a regular contributor to the Guardian Feast magazine and in April 2021, the 20th Anniversary edition of Observer Food Monthly predicted big things for Big Has by highlighting him as one of the ‘next big things’ to watch in the food industry.

  1. Has’s dad Kamil on Sunday Sessions

During Covid, Has switched his focus to social media, creating Sunday Sessions for YouTube, which saw him cooking a variety of tasty dishes every other week in his Edmonton back garden. He quickly acquired a massive following, as people from all backgrounds sought to follow his recipes that ranged from chicken curry to grilled scallops and shish kebab Cypriot style.

Filmed in the summer of 2021 and attracting one of the highest ever views for Sunday Sessions, the shish kebab episode (no. 19) featuring Has and his dad Kamil Semay has been described as “gold” by one viewer, as the pair exchange hilarious father-son banter, occasionally in Turkish, while recreating this family classic BBQ dinner.

Kamil bey – a textile cutter in women’s fashion – shows off his fine skills cutting the lamb, while supervising his son’s preparations and verifying Has’ shish kebab tips are correct. We also learn about Has’ dad move to London from Cyprus in 1979, how he met his mum dressed as John Travolta in a nightclub, and that Has is one of three Semay children, along with his siblings Arif and Alev.

  1. Home and Away cookbooks

Has’s debut cookbook ‘Home’ came out on Pavilion Books in June 2022 and went became a Sunday Times Bestseller.

‘Big Has Home: Recipes from North London to North Cyprus’, to give the book its full title, packs in a wide range of culinary styles, from Turkish Cypriot BBQs to Italian and Caribbean influences.

At the start of the book and among the recipes, Hasan offers insights into his life growing up in Edmonton, his family, and his love of food. He dedicates pages on key ingredients and also on How to Light a BBQ – a handy guide for those where barbecuing / outdoor cooking is not part of their family DNA.

Food recipes are then split into the following chapters: Small Plates, Cypriot Dishes, The Grill, Italy and Something to Finish.

Under Cypriot, Hasan presents his take on family favourites, such as Bezelye, Bamya, Badades Koftesi, Taze Fasulye, Mantı, Barbun, and Cypriot BBQ special Şeftali Kebab.

Look out for Hasan’s follow-up book, the aptly titled Away, which is due out this autumn.

  1. Getir, Spurs and “Fast Flavours”

Last year, Big Has collaborated with rapid grocery delivery service Getir. The Turkish brand is one of Tottenham Hotspur’s main sponsors, so the chef came in to help the club’s first team produce a host of quick dishes using ingredients delivered by Getir.

One episode features a cook-off between Son Heung-min and Japhet Tanganga versus Ben Davies and Fraser Forster. Hasan supervised the players, and it’s fair to say few had any cooking flair, but the clip is full of comedy moments, not least when it comes to tasting what they’ve cooked.

Being on Young MasterChef

Big Has’s culinary journey continues as a judge on Young MasterChef. He returned to our television screens in January for the reality show’s second season, calling it “a major honour to be involved in a show as prestigious as MasterChef.”

Describing his experience of the show, Hasan said: “Seeing the contestants’ eagerness to learn and show off their backgrounds through food is something that I’m all about.

“I really enjoyed being a guest on the last series. Like food, you’ve got to leave people with a good taste of who you are, and luckily the producers bought what I was ‘cooking’!”

For those yet to see the second series, Big Has says viewers “can expect laughs, a couple shockers, good food – or scran depending where you’re from – big energy from our contestants, a couple famous faces and an amazing final.”

You can watch all five episodes of Young MasterChef Series 2 featuring Big Has as judge on the BBC iPlayer.


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Main image, top, of British Turkish Cypriot Hasan ‘Big Has’ Semay on BBC’s Young Masterchef S2, Jan. 2024. Photo © BBC/Shine TV