From 50 to 24 and there’s many weeks to go and in spite of their own failings (in some cases) MasterChef Australia has delivered it’s new Top 24. 24 more names for you to try to learn before at least 6 of them are gone and you can’t remember which ones they are anyway. This season is a solid return to the soul of the original series… if only it was being watch by a similar-sized audience to what it was getting in those first couple of seasons. From the press release:
The world’s most-loved cooking show, MasterChef Australia, has returned in 2014 bigger and better than ever, with the best group of home cooks the competition has ever seen.
Thousands auditioned, with judges Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston scouring the country to handpick Australia’s best amateur foodies.
Sharing an unrivalled passion for cooking, this season’s Top 24 will deliver some of the finest dishes in the program’s history.
A hairdresser, a law student, a dentist and a kids’ wear designer are among the Top 24 amateur chefs who have claimed the coveted MasterChef Australia aprons for season six.
Get set to see some inspiring cooking as the contestants finetune their skills, compete under pressure, meet some of their culinary idols and face some of the biggest challenges of their lives in their new home – the MasterChef Australia kitchen.
The biggest prize in MasterChef Australia history means the rivalry will be fierce. This year’s contestants will compete for $250,000 cash, a Hardie Grant cookbook publishing deal, work experience in some of Australia’s best kitchens and an Alfa Romeo Giulietta.
Want to meet the best home cooks Australia has ever seen? We’re thrilled to introduce the MasterChef Australia class of 2014…
Laura Cassai, 18, South Australia, Health Science Student
Growing up in Templestowe, Victoria, Laura now lives on a vineyard in McLaren Vale, South Australia, overlooking the Gulf of St Vincent after moving there in 2013. With a rich Italian heritage, Laura grew up under the watchful eyes of her Nonna Maria and Nonna Rosa. Laura’s connection to her Italian roots strengthened when the family lived in Tuscany for two years, when she was aged six.
Steven Peh, 20, Western Australia, Commerce Student
Working as a waiter at Nobu, Perth, Steven has seen some of the finest cuisine on offer. It’s a role that has made him realise his skill and passion for food needs to be harnessed in the kitchen. Born in WA’s Pilbara region, Steven’s first memories are of red dust in the town of Newman, before the Peh family moved to Perth when he was three.
Ben Macdonald, 36, Queensland, IT Systems Consultant
Ben grew up two hours north of Auckland in Whangarei, New Zealand. After gaining an Honours degree in Manufacturing and Industrial Technology, Ben travelled overseas. He has since worked in the US, France, Denmark, Spain, New Zealand, Australia and – for the majority of his career – the UK. Ben’s love of food intensified as he indulged his love of travel from his UK base, clocking up visits to almost 100 countries.
Emily Loo, 31, Queensland, Resort Sales Coordinator
Emily Loo is known as the Spice Queen among family and friends and celebrated for her signature dish, Sarawak laksa. Born in Borneo, Emily is the youngest of three children. Her Malaysian-Chinese heritage brings with it plenty of flavour and a well-honed appreciation of spices.
Byron Finnerty, 27, Victoria, Deckhand
Turning his back on the high life and the high seas, Byron Finnerty is ready to take his place in the MasterChef Australia kitchen. Byron has spent the past two years travelling the world as a deckhand on the super yacht Odessa. Rubbing shoulders with the likes of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Owen Wilson, Byron couldn’t deny his love of food any longer.
Tash Shan, 27, Australian Capital Territory, Social Media Manager
Canberra-based Tash Shan comes to the MasterChef Australia kitchen with the weight of the nation’s capital on her shoulders. For five years she’s watched on, impatiently awaiting citizenship to finally live her dream of cooking in Australia’s most famous kitchen. Born in Malaysia, Tash moved to Melbourne aged 19 to pursue a double degree in Law and Communications.
Brendan Langfield, 26, Queensland, Retail Manager
Brisbane-based Retail Manager Brendan Langfield knows a thing or two about being in the limelight. Having spent a good deal of his life behind a bass guitar in pop-rock band Finabah, it’s now time to don an apron in the MasterChef Australia kitchen. With Finabah, Brendan enjoyed some success including having the most added song on radio one week. The band has toured alongside Wolfmother, Spiderbait, Kate Miller-Heidke and Amy Meredith.
Cecilia Vuong, 31, Victoria, Secondary School Teacher
Cecilia lived in Italy while growing up, moving to Australia aged 10. She began really experimenting with her cooking in 2008 and particularly loves baking. Cecilia would love to have her own café and to teach cooking skills to others. Recently enduring brain surgery following a skiing injury, Cecilia’s love of food has intensified during her recovery as she explores her creative side.
Jamie Fleming, 25, New South Wales, Bar Tender
Growing up in Adelaide, Jamie and younger brother Luke, now 22, had well-developed palettes. Jamie decided he wanted to be a chef at age six, mesmerised by the kitchen prep in a family friend’s restaurant. He now lives with partner Rhiannon whom he met while staying with friends in Sydney in 2011. The pair were engaged within six months. Soon after they were expecting daughter Amelie, who is now one year old. A second baby is on the way in 2014.
Emelia Jackson, 24, Victoria, Marketing Coordinator
Emelia – aka the Dessert Queen and famed for her panna cottas – was encouraged in the kitchen from an early age. She remembers watching and learning from both her mum and Macedonian baba (grandma). She would also get her hands dirty to help, kneading dough and baking treats. The youngest child of a large family, Emelia says cooking is in her bones.
Kira Westwick, 31, Queensland, Nutritional Coach
At 31, Kira Westwick is not only a busy mum of two, but an accomplished businesswoman. She runs two health and fitness studios on the Gold Coast with husband Adam. She’s also an accomplished cook, focusing on healthy and nutritious ingredients and often incorporating raw food. Kira considers daughters Jordan, six, and Madelyn, two years, her greatest achievement and loves nothing more than sharing stories with her girls over the dinner table.
Tracy Collins, 38, South Australia, Hairdresser
Based in Angaston, seventh generation Barossan Tracy Collins is married to winemaker Jaysen and is mum to daughter Finella, 11, and sons Harper, eight and Charlie, six. Jaysen is a winemaker and owns a small winery, Massena Vineyards. Tracy is a business owner in her own right, having opened the environmentally sustainable and awarded Green Room Salon and Spa in Angaston in 2010.
Nick Doyle, 22, New South Wales, Law Student
At 193cms, Nick Doyle is a gentle giant. Hailing from the tiny town of Gilgai, near Inverell in country NSW, this boy from the bush grew up on 900 acres. Now he calls Newcastle home, where he’s the first of his family to attend university. Nick’s earliest food memories are of his mum experimenting in the kitchen. She was a big influence on young Nick and his passion for cooking began around age eight.
Sam Gant, 26, Victoria, Kids Wear Designer
From a close-knit family of five, fashion designer Sam Gant grew up on a 20-hectare farm by the coast near Geelong, indulging both her love of the water and the outdoors. Cooking came naturally to Sam, who has been in the kitchen since she was five. She has memories of helping her mum and prides herself on her strong sense of flavour, tasting and recreating recipes.
Sarah Todd, 27, Queensland, Model
Fresh from traveling the world on glamorous modelling assignments, Sarah Todd lands in the MasterChef Australia kitchen with a point to prove and a new future to create. Sarah met fiancé Devinder in Sydney in 2008 and credits him with really reigniting her passion for food. With his Indian heritage, it was Devinder who taught her to play with flavours and learn to love experimenting in the kitchen. In 2011 the pair welcomed son Phoenix.
Scott Yeoman, 32, South Australia, Carpenter
A knockabout Aussie bloke, Scott is a big kid at heart who is hoping to find that special girl. He loves spending time at the family’s shack on the Murray River and relaxes by playing both guitar and drums. A self-taught cook and a quick learner, Scott loves nothing more than cooking for friends and housemates, trying out new recipes on them. While ready to earn his Certificate IV in Building and Construction, Scott feels that MasterChef Australia is a chance to change his life and give him the chance to open a little bar in Adelaide with live music, seasonal food and a cosy open fire.
Nicole Cleave, 55, Western Australia, Inflight Manager
While Nicole Cleave might be the eldest contender in the 2014 MasterChef kitchen, this mum of four has as much get-up-and-go as her younger counterparts. From Middlesex in the UK, Nicole and older brother Bob grew up fast after their mother passed away when Nicole was just six. Joining the workforce at age 18 as a flight attendant, Nicole worked in the UK and then Bahrain. In 1988 she moved to Sydney and married her long-distance Aussie love Kim.
Brent Owens, 24, Victoria, Bobcat Driver
Most days, this fiercely independent, hard-working young man can be found behind the wheel of a bobcat. But increasingly, his mind is elsewhere, dreaming up menus. Describing himself as a bad boy turned good, Brent, from Melton in Victoria, might have a tough exterior, but he’s a big softie at
heart, and maybe even a bit of a nerd deep down. Brent lives with his girlfriend of six years, Madison, and works for her father Laurence’s excavation business.
Amy Shields, 37, Western Australia, Learning Systems Administration
Born in Johanesburg, Amy moved to Perth with her family aged 24 as her dad, now passed on, was Australian. Amy lives with husband Craig, and her close-knit family are all nearby. With aspirations to write a best-selling cookbook, Amy wants to make food accessible to people. She would love to run cooking classes to inspire home cooks with simple flavours and ingredients.
Deepali Behar, 30, Western Australia, Dentist
Hailing from Wigan in the UK, Deepali Behar moved to Secret Harbour, WA, four years ago with then boyfriend Jordan. A dentist by trade, Deepali once had a research project published in the respected European Journal of Paediatric Dentistry. Although she loves what she does, she’s now ready to lay it all on the line to compete in MasterChef Australia.
Colin Sheppard, 51, South Australia, Winemaker
A successful builder in Melbourne, Colin and wife Fiona were regular visitors to South Australia’s beautiful wine regions. Always intrigued by the art of wine-making, Colin volunteered for four weeks at Murray Street Wines in the Barossa. It sealed his fate. An impulsive decision followed and he called Fiona to announce they were the proud owners of a vineyard. Soon after, they took up residence at Flaxman Wines in the Eden Valley. Today they live there happily, with their dog Gus and four chooks.
Rachael Ciesiolka, 45, Northern Territory, Data Manger
A tough character who only knows a can-do attitude, Rachael has lived all over Australia, thanks to her father and husband’s work: mines in the west, railways in the Territory and then Queensland for the Australian Army Corp and the RAAF. By her count, she has lived in 24 different towns. Having had a variety of jobs, Rachael joined the RAAF herself at age 27, serving her country as a dental nurse for four years. Currently she is a contracted Data Manager with the RAAF in Darwin.
Sean Baxter, 31, Victoria, Brand Manager
The eldest of four kids growing up on cattle farm in Kilkivan Queensland, Sean learned to appreciate fresh produce from an early age. His appreciation only deepened after attending boarding school in Brisbane, where he says he learned about mass-produced food and its pitfalls. Now based in Victoria with his girlfriend Cassie, Sean works as a Brand Manager and Ambassador for an alcohol company, planning events and hosting training seminars and tasting experiences. He also judges cocktail competitions.
Renae Smith, 30, New South Wales, Brand Developer
Based in Newtown, Sydney, Renae grew up on the NSW Central Coast in a happy, albeit strict, Jehovah’s Witness family. She fondly remembers spending time in the kitchen with her mum, learning basic skills and techniques. Renae has two daughters, Kyah, 12, and Paris, 10, whom she adores. She left the church six years ago, something she describes as an enormous challenge. However, her attitude of turning negatives into positives has only helped define the strong character she is today.