A Carlisle dad has talked of his phenomenal experience after reaching the semi-finals of this year's Masterchef series.

It was confirmed last month by the News & Star that Tom Johnston, a 41-year-old sales manager, would appear on the new series.

An avid watcher of the BBC show, which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary, Tom was very emotional when he got the call to say he'd be competing.

He said: "I genuinely teared up. I couldn't believe I was actually going to go on the show. They were happy tears."

News and Star: Tom will be tuning into Masterchef again next yearTom will be tuning into Masterchef again next year (Image: Shine TV/BBC)

Tom excelled on the show reaching the semi-finals after impressing judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode with his flavourful dishes, which included pan seared scallops, rib eye beef and curry flavoured battered cod.

He said: "It was nothing like I'd ever been through. It was phenomenal from the first day of going in. I was a bit starstruck seeing Gregg and John in the flesh and standing in that kitchen. It was overwhelming, but in a good way. I just thought 'I can't believe I am here doing this.' It was such a surreal experience, but brilliant. I loved every single second of it."

Tom also paid tribute to the longevity of the show, and said it was 'extra special' to appear in its 20th year.

He added: "Being on the 20th anniversary show made it even more special. I was very pleased with the beef wellington inspired canapés that got me into the semi-final. When I cooked for former winners, Michelin star chefs and the guy who created the show at the 20th anniversary dinner - that was the moment for me, that was the highlight."

News and Star: Tom with Tom Cenci, head chef at Nessa, SohoTom with Tom Cenci, head chef at Nessa, Soho (Image: Shine TV/BBC)

Despite his success on the show, Tom loves his current job and has no firm plans to pursue a career in cooking.

He was happy to accept congratulations, rather than commiserations, after reaching the semi-final stage. 

He concluded: "For not one moment, have I felt sadness after it. I'm so proud of what I've done. I can officially call myself a Masterchef semi-finalist." 

The grand final will air on Wednesday May 22.