Guest chef Benjamin Cooper was criticised by fans for being a white chef schooling the contestants on South East Asian cuisine? Did you feel that during the final cook?
I understand how that might have come across in the edit but to be honest Benjamin was lovely. He wasn’t trying to dangle anything in front of our faces, it’s hard to walk that line between giving away the secrets of how to cook the dish and also holding back enough but I really think he was just trying to have fun with it.
You've also revealed that you have diabetes. What's it like managing that on a cooking show?
It’s actually very difficult. I’m not a chef that runs a restaurant, I’m a chef that runs pop up events, I run different types of events. Going through MasterChef and going through different challenges, there’s no consistency in what you might be tasting or cooking with. It takes a lot of energy and focus and care to know your body and what’s going on with it and manage that condition.
What's next for you post-MasterChef?
My cookbook Sweet Savoury Spicy is actually being released. It’s just been released in the US in bookstores and it’s available to order online here in Australia and once it does land on shelves, I’ll be able to do a few more book launch events. But other than that I’m actually working on lining up a few big events and once restrictions ease a little bit more I should be able to get my market stall up and running again.
You said that your highlight of 2020 was cooking for Katy Perry, what was it like meeting her?
That day was so surreal! The contestants cooking for immunity that day were already riding this wave of gunning for it and then you throw a megastar like Katy Perry, who let’s face it we’re all fans of, into the mix – it was like this outer body experience, honestly. She literally floated through those doors and I was like ‘I don’t know what to do with myself.’
Did you get alarmed when she'd creep up behind you?
All my teenage dreams came true! I wasn’t expecting it. I wasn’t expecting her to talk to us but the fact that she was so engaged with us and so very open with us as well. To be physically touched by Katy Perry – I think people would give their left hand for that! It was an extremely enjoyable, fun and exciting experience.
Aside from your elimination episode, were there any moments on the show that were particularly stressful or challenging?
I can think of two for two different reasons - one was the other pressure test I was in which was the Peter Gunn Black Box. I don’t work with chocolate very well, I don’t have a lot of experience with it but to create something that’s that intricate and elegant was a real challenge and at the end of the day I am grateful for it.
The other episode is actually seeing my best friend Jess [Liemantara] get eliminated - that was really painful, it was actually horrible. Obviously the edit that appeared on TV was shortened but because she was the first contestant to go under the new COVID social distancing rules, no one really knew how to handle it and how to handle all of that emotional energy in the room. When you see her actually break down when the news is told to her, the first thing you want to do is give her a big hug but you can’t – you just have to let her feel it and get through it and be able to pull herself together to make a statement so yeah it was really painful to watch.
Congratulations on making it to top 10, which remaining contestant do you think is the one to watch?
Look I reckon Poh. Obviously she’s a fan favourite but she is one scary lady! She is ridiculously skilled and as she says she’s got this Crazy Poh versus Zen Poh -she can do it all, I call her the Pohbot!
She’s definitely one to watch out for but also Callum – what a dark horse! He is one of the OG MasterChef crew so he’s got the experience, he knows exactly how to play this game and he’s so genuine and open. Don’t let his sweet smile fool you, that guy’s competitive!