Keelan Burton, who starred on MasterChef: The Professionals, spared jailed after caught drug-driving

Chef Keelan Burton who appeared on MasterChef: The Professionals is spared jail after he was caught drug-driving in his Mercedes and possessing cannabis with intent to supply

  • Keelan Burton, 28, was sentenced at Nottingham Crown Court this afternoon
  • The star chef, from Cinderhill, Nottingham, appeared on the BBC show in 2018
  • Speaking outside the court the father said that the incident ‘was a reality check’ 
  • Burton was caught drug-driving with a quarter-kilo of cannabis on May 9 2020 

A former MasterChef star has been spared jail after he was caught drug-driving his Mercedes and carrying just under a quarter-kilo of cannabis.

The top chef Keelan Burton, who appeared as a contestant on BBC‘s MasterChef: The Professionals in 2018, appeared in Nottingham Crown Court today where he was sentenced for possessing cannabis with the intent to supply.

The 28-year-old from Cinderhill, in Nottingham, pleaded guilty to the charges after police saw him accelerating away from their unmarked car on May 9 2020.

He was later stopped by an officer who found another man in the back of Burton’s car and a woman in the front passenger seat where there was a strong smell of cannabis in the vehicle.

Former MasterChef star Keelan Burton, 28, pictured outside Nottingham Crown Court today. Burton was sparred jail after he was caught drug-driving with just under a quarter-kilo of cannabis. He pleaded guilty to the charges of possessing cannabis with the intent to supply

Former MasterChef star Keelan Burton, 28, pictured outside Nottingham Crown Court today. Burton was sparred jail after he was caught drug-driving with just under a quarter-kilo of cannabis. He pleaded guilty to the charges of possessing cannabis with the intent to supply

Prosecutor Catherine Picardo said: ‘The two passengers, according to police, were acting suspiciously as though they were trying to hide something.

‘The defendant, at the time, was suggesting any drugs were nothing to do with him but, in fact, were to do with the male passenger in the rear.’

Burton then tested positive for drugs before he was fined and disqualified from driving.

In the car’s boot was a plastic bag containing cannabis valued at £2,486. Fingerprints from Burton’s left palm were found on the bag.

He was arrested and charged. At court today he pleaded guilty where he received an eight-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months and was slapped with a £500 cost order.

Speaking outside court today, the MasterChef said the incident ‘was a reality check’.

Speaking outside court today, the professional chef said the incident 'was a reality check'. He added that his drug use began following the break-up of his relationship with the mother of his two children and the loss of his job when the pandemic began in 2020

Speaking outside court today, the professional chef said the incident ‘was a reality check’. He added that his drug use began following the break-up of his relationship with the mother of his two children and the loss of his job when the pandemic began in 2020

He told Nottingham Live that he was experiencing problems in his personal life by the end of 2019 following the break-up of his relationship with the mother of his two children.

When the pandemic hit in 2020 he was then left unemployed, despite working in some of the best restaurants in the country. It was then his drug use began.

He said: ‘That’s when it all started to go a bit pear-shaped. Drugs make you feel great but also ruin your life.

‘In this trade, they ask for everything, take everything and give you nothing.’

When the award-winning chef’s phone was later analysed by officers, messages were found from people who wanted to buy and supply the drug.

Officers also found on the phone requests for a type of strain of cannabis called ‘lemon’ and also ‘purple buds’.

Another message showed a person asking for more details about how they could receive an ongoing supply.

Ms Picardo added: ‘The user of the phone, the defendant, offers one ounce for £165,’ added Ms Picardo.

‘Also, an orange strain of cannabis was offered, which would cost a bit more, £170.

‘But, in short, those were messages which were all strong evidence to support the case of supplying this Class B drug.’

Burton starred on BBC's MasterChef: The Professionals back in 2018. He is now a shareholder and executive chef at two popular restaurants, Sans Patrie and Ottimo, in Nottingham

Burton starred on BBC’s MasterChef: The Professionals back in 2018. He is now a shareholder and executive chef at two popular restaurants, Sans Patrie and Ottimo, in Nottingham

No further action was taken over the passengers in the car and the defendant said he bought a small number of drugs from one person.

In a second police interview, however, he largely answered ‘no comment’ before proceeding to plead guilty at the first opportunity at Nottingham Magistrates Court.

Burton has a previous conviction for drug-driving – a charge relating to the same incident – and a previous caution for possessing a Class A drug, which was not specified in court.

Judge Mark Watson ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the bag of cannabis and phone.

Benn Robinson, mitigating, said it was obvious from Burton’s record ‘he is not someone who has made a habit of crossing the line’ before adding that the chef was doing well in a relationship.

He added: ‘He was working as a chef and this took him all over the country, and he tells me he was an award-winning chef.’

Nottingham Crown Court (pictured) heard today that it was obvious from Burton's records that 'he is not someone who has made a habit of crossing the line' before adding that the chef was doing well in a new relationship

Nottingham Crown Court (pictured) heard today that it was obvious from Burton’s records that ‘he is not someone who has made a habit of crossing the line’ before adding that the chef was doing well in a new relationship

At the end of 2019, Burton’s relationship broke down which seemed to be the ‘catalyst’, said Mr Robinson, to some of the difficulties and other things went out of his control.

He struggled with access to his children, and, at the same time, he got in with a group of peers who were not ‘necessarily helpful to him’, added Mr Robinson. He was using cannabis to ‘take the edge of those events’.

His paid work stopped and the pandemic hit.

Mr Robinson said: ‘He lost his job because there was no requirement for anyone to go out and eat.’

Cannabis is not free, he pointed out, and his client had his addiction, so he was selling cannabis to fund this and ‘keeping the wolf from the door’.

He referred to Burton’s work now as a shareholder and executive chef at two Nottingham restaurants, and how his client works 17-hour days across both eateries – one in Beeston and one in Canning Circus.

Far from his cannabis-using days, Burton now manages a team of 50, working between Canning Circus’s Sans Patrie and Bar Sans Patrie, and Beeston’s new Italian restaurant Ottimo, which opened recently as part of the town’s multi-million-pound Beeston Square development.

At the weekends he looks after his two children and has no free time whatsoever, the court was told.

‘He had suffered anxiety of these proceedings hanging over his head for this period of time,’ added Mr Robinson. 

Judge Watson told Burton he was a street dealer ‘albeit in larger amounts than single deals’.

The judge suspended the prison sentence, given the age of the offence now. The case has had a two-year delay which was not Burton’s fault.

The judge said: ‘In the two years that have passed, you have moved on from associates who dragged you into this criminal enterprise and made a success of yourself.’

He told Nottingham Live that the business now rakes in more than £150,000 a month.

He added: ‘Life is very good for me.

‘I’m very, very sorry. I’m sorry but I’m not sorry because it has been a learning curve and it pushed me to do better. I shouldn’t be here.’

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