She fell in love with baking back when she lived in South Africa with her gran, now South Australian urban planner Kristen Sheffield, 27, has overcome youthful insecurities—and endeared herself to Australian audiences—to set her sights on the 2018 MasterChef prize.
WHO: What do you love about cooking?
It’s about making people happy. When you cook for people, you bring joy to them. When they love it, they tell you and that gives you a warm feeling. It’s always been my way to relax. After a hard day I come home and it’s a reprieve, my happiest space really.
WHO: You have spoken of being uncertain about being a cook because of being overweight?
For most of my life, I’ve been a bit heavier. When I left school I thought I could pursue the cooking thing and mum said I should because I love it, but in my head, I went, “If I’m around food, I’m going to eat food. So that’s not a good idea. So don’t pursue it and go to uni and everything else will fall into place.” But what ends up happening is, you love food, so you’re cooking all the time and you have to eat it, whereas if I cooked it for other people it wouldn’t be necessarily for myself.
WHO: What was the turning point to put those doubts aside and pursue your food dream?
I think as you grow older you start speaking a lot kinder to yourself. We’re often quite harsh on ourselves and we’re our own worst critics. If someone spoke to me the way I was speaking to myself, I’d be horrified. I think there comes a time when you start learning to love yourself and I think that’s happened for me over the past few years.
WHO: Did you struggle as a teenager?
Definitely. Kids are mean and I, like most people, have had my fair share of bullying, but I think more than anyone else providing comment on my weight, it was in my own head. Like I said, you’re your own worst critic.
WHO: Have you done the diet thing in the past?
Like most people who struggle with weight, I’ve yo-yo’d and you get on to one health thing and lose a bit of weight but then you put it back on because it was drastic and unmanageable. I’m happy with who I am, but that’s not to say that I wouldn’t like to lose some weight. Not so much about vanity, I quite like the way I look, more about health and missing out on things. Recently in Vanuatu, my friends went ziplining and I couldn’t. So I’d like to lose weight but I’d like to see it happen in a healthy way and because I’m happy. Not because I’m worried about what people think of me.
WHO: Has MasterChef boosted your confidence?
It’s confronting watching yourself on television. I think I’ve come out the other side going, “I like who I am.” That’s boosted my confidence.
WHO: Has being on the show changed your attitude to body positivity?
Over the past couple of years, I’ve started to feel more confident. Coming through the show, I think that’s gone even further. I walk around with my head held high and I’m proud of who I am. Generally, we place too much attention on our appearance and weight. It should be about the person and who they are.
WHO: What have you learnt about yourself?
I’ve learnt I’m a lot more emotional than I thought [laughs], I cry a lot! But I’ve also learnt despite that emotion, I’m quite a strong person and I can do anything I put my mind to.
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