There was a mountain to climb before the final. A recipe that has been perfected over the years by head chef Martin Benn and that would have to be repeated in just under four hours. Not only did Emelia shine, she also had time to stop what she was doing and help Laura, the friend and competitor who would be in the final.
At 32, the Australian of Serbian and Macedonian origins decided to accept the invitation to return to Masterchef Australia’s new and renewed competition after finishing a frustrating third place in 2014. On her return she shone and won the grand finale which aired this Wednesday 13th January on SIC Mulher.
We all know this is one of the most addicting shows on television, but we hesitate to hold onto the title as perennial jurors Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris, and Matt Preston, who have led the operations since the first episode in 2009, theirs Announced departure. You helped make the Australian version of the program the best we’ve seen anywhere in the world.
The program has reinvented itself for the 2020 edition. In addition to three debut judges – former competitor Andy Allen, author and restaurateur Melissa Leong and chef Jock Zonfrillo – the format changed. This time there was no room for new faces.
The cast of attendees would be a combination of some of the greatest talents to have in the show’s kitchen over the past decade. They called it “Back to Win”, “Back to Win”. But only one could do it.
For a moment Emelia dreamed of returning and was frustrated with the possibility of not going back. She was called at the last minute, packed her bags, filled the prescriptions and risked everything. Its worth it.
The dessert specialist remained discreet in the first half of the season. She later admitted that she was “intimidated” by the experience of her fellow chefs in professional kitchens – and that she doubted her ability to beat them up on savory dishes.
Season 12 was also marked by reunions, namely that of Emelia and Laura, who were classified as third and second in the 2014 edition. The friendship remained, they traveled together and wanted their fate to be fought for the title.
The choice is far more important today than Emelia predicted when she said yes to the call from production. Along the way, the pandemic has rocked its business and the champion coat is now becoming more valuable than ever.
Masterchef Australia’s final winner, NiT, talks about the new (and sometimes tough) jurors, the impact the pandemic has on the shooting, the monsters he faced and his future career.
Having a second chance to fight for the Masterchef title doesn’t happen every day. How did this happen?
I received the first call in June 2019 to find out if I would be interested in returning. I was surprised, but at the same time I didn’t know if I wanted to go back. In the end I said yes. A few months later they called me and said I was not selected. It was disappointing.
But it’s back …
Yes, they called me a third time at the end of 2019 to invite me back – and I said yes. We were already recording three weeks later.
In 2014 she was third behind Laura, the friend who beat the 2020 final
Why did you hesitate?
I was concerned that filming was scheduled to take place between January and May, which is the busiest time of year for my cake shop. Fortunately, I said yes, because after that I came to Covid-19 and lost all my work.
When we returned to Masterchef’s kitchen, not everything was the same. Matt’s three familiar faces, Gary and George, disappeared. Was it strange?
Surprisingly no. It was all very natural from the start. The new judges are spectacular.
It’s not easy to forget a jury that has expanded the program for a decade.
I think the jock [Zonfrillo]Melissa [Leong] and Andy [Allen] did an amazing job. I love them and got on wonderfully with them.
Were they too hard?
Sometimes yes, especially Jock. He had a lot of expectations for me and when I was unable to do what he suggested he was very tough. But that was also very motivating. I don’t remember anything in particular that you said to me, but I think it was more like the tone you used to speak to me that stuck in my mind.
Did returning to the show kitchen six years later with more experience make competition easier?
I do not think so. I’ve only made cakes since the sixth season I took part in. So I felt like I was at a disadvantage compared to other competitors who had worked in restaurants for many years.
Did that force you to adopt a clearly defined strategy?
The strategy was to stay in the middle of the field until I gained the confidence I needed. And of course learn and practice a lot.
Is it true that the competitors obsessively work on the recipes that they will later make on the program?
Yes of course. We all work the recipes behind the scenes. You have to practice a lot and read cookbooks obsessively.
This time the competition was tough and full of experienced contestants, some finalists and other professional chefs. Who gave you the most headaches?
I think everyone had very strong skills, it’s difficult to choose one. Reynold is a formidable force in the kitchen, Brendan is fantastic at what he does well, and Tessa was just a finalist last season. There were so many talented competitors this time …
This season was unusual too, and not just for the best of reasons. In the middle, a pandemic emerged that no one could predict. How did you deal with the news?
These were very uncertain and frightening times. We had to keep a social distance inside and outside the studio. We were all very nervous about having to work with so many people. But we got into the rhythm and got used to it.
A lot has changed. No more dinner.
Yes everything was canceled, we couldn’t have people outside of the studio. All external challenges have been canceled. It has become very monotonous just to cook in the master chef’s kitchen.
Was the suspension of recordings even considered?
We had nurses in the studio who took our temperature every day. Fortunately, we were never afraid.
The moment Emelia stopped to help her friend in the semi-finals
Did you hope to win this time?
No, don’t even think.
So I had a surprise every week …
I just focused on doing my best every day. I think that the fact that I didn’t anticipate scenarios allowed me to focus more on each challenge.
Was there a time when you said to yourself, “I’ve already left, that’s how I go”?
I almost went into Josh Niland’s Fish Challenge, we were still 12 or 13. It was Tracy who left and the fear helped me realize that I had to take the competition more seriously.
And so it went week after week until the final. What was your biggest fear on the last day?
I was afraid of making sad numbers in the final. Everyone was watching me and I had nowhere to hide. But I went to the final with dishes that I knew very well, I was very confident.
It was frustrating to be third and one step away from the title in 2014. How did you feel when you said you were the winner of this edition?
I don’t know how to explain. I was mentally ready to lose. When they called me, I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t believe it happened.
At 32, he finally won the competition
How did the participating (and now winning) master chef help you?
It has helped me steer my career and start my business. And now, after the win, it gets even more important: I’ve created my own brand of ready-made cake mixes, I’m writing a recipe book and I’m starting to record my cooking program.
And do you try a professional kitchen? Don’t you feel like it?
Not really. I love to work for myself. I love the business part, I have management training and that is one of my other passions besides food. I want to introduce my brand to supermarkets so that everyone can bake cakes like me.