The first entrepreneur fired from The Apprentice has said it is a “shame” Lord Sugar failed to see the same potential in him as “Her Majesty the Queen”, after he received a pandemic honour for his community work.

Former pharmacy manager Harry Mahmood, 35, was awarded the British Empire Medal in the 2021 New Year Honours for his work in the West Midlands during the early months of lockdown.

After becoming the first of the 16 contestants eliminated from the BBC show, he suggested Lord Sugar had failed to look closely enough at his CV.

The Apprentice 2022
Lord Sugar (Ray Burmiston/PA)

He told the PA news agency: “I was very shocked to get the phone call from the PM’s office to say, ‘Harry, Her Majesty the Queen would like to honour you in the New Year Honours’. I was like, ‘Is this a joke?’

“I thought I was doing it all privately – but it was nice that people decided to nominate me to have that award.

“But like I said, that is just me as a person. If Her Majesty the Queen can see the potential in me and me representing the community I am in, and inspiring others, then it is a shame Lord Sugar couldn’t see that in me as well.

“Because I have got a lot more credentials about me that he didn’t get to see.”

The Apprentice returned to screens on Thursday, with Lord Sugar aided by Baroness Karren Brady, and previous winner Tim Campbell filling in for Claude Littner while he recovers from an accident.

Ahead of the series, Mahmood described himself as the “Asian version of Lord Sugar” and said he hoped to work with the Amstrad founder to become “the bad boys of the bath bomb world”.

However, he failed to impress during the first task in which the candidates were told to create a marketing campaign for a cruise liner, including a television advert.

He added: “I did get on with Lord Sugar. I have got a lot of respect for Lord Sugar.

“But I don’t think he really gave me a chance, to be honest with you, because if he had looked into me as a candidate, he went through my application, looked at what I stand for and what I have achieved during Covid – getting honoured by the Queen, winning national pharmacy awards, setting up enterprises from scratch, and all these things in my own time, as well as supporting people in the community – he would have realised that, ‘Oh, if Her Majesty the Queen has invested in Harry, surely there is something in him. I haven’t seen him have a chance really. I will give him a chance’.

“But obviously none of that stuff surfaced really.”

Future episodes will see the remaining 15 entrepreneurs battle it out to win £250,000 worth of investment into their business.

The Apprentice continues on BBC One and iPlayer.