You don’t get a more diverse crew – from Head Chefs to Private Chefs, from unemployed Chefs to graduates of Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, from Resort Chefs to Chefs working in some of the best restaurants in Australia. And all we want to do is see Marco Pierre White break them down and then build them up (and hopefully make at least one of them cry on TV). From the press release:

Network Ten is pleased to announce today the 18 qualified chefs who will be competing in the toughest cooking environment in Australia on MasterChef: The Professionals.

Be prepared to meet some of the country’s most innovative and exciting chefs, competing to win a career-defining, money-can’t buy experience. From big cities to small towns, these contestants hail from kitchens all over Australia. Having been at the top of their game either locally or overseas, they will be up against each other for an around-the-world ticket to gain experience in some of the best kitchens on the planet, plus a cash prize that will be
announced on the show.

For these qualified chefs, food is their world, their passion, their love. From all walks of life, each chef has their own unique food story and culinary background to bring to the table. The contestants will be guided by acclaimed chef Marco Pierre White and esteemed food critic Matt Preston.

Production of MasterChef: The Professionals has already commenced in Melbourne.

The 18 contestants who will appear on the show are:

Akuc Isaac Chol: 27, NSW, currently not working
Born in Sudan to an Eritrean mother and South Sudanese father, Akuc is the eldest girl of 11 children. Her family fled to Egypt when she was just six years old and lived there for nine years before moving to Australia as refugees when Akuc was 15. Akuc studied commercial cookery at TAFE before beginning her apprenticeship at Spice Temple, where Neil Perry rated her among the best junior talents across all his kitchens. She finished her apprenticeship at Lochiel House in the Blue Mountains.

Anthony Bantoft: 33, QLD, Private Chef
Private chef to the rich and famous, Anthony has cooked for the likes of Penelope Cruz, Sean Connery, Tommy Lee Jones and Andre Agassi, to name but a few. Based out of Palm Beach, Florida, his job as a private chef sees him work on super yachts and travel extensively around the globe. He began his apprenticeship in Cairns at the age of 15 and was running a restaurant at the age of 23.

Bonny Porter: 23, NSW, Chef
Bonny, 23, found out she was deaf in one ear at age three, and lost the hearing in her other ear when she was just seven. But she has not let that hold her back in any aspect of her life. Currently working as a chef at Sydney’s Rockpool Bar and Grill, where she has been for the past year, she started her apprenticeship at Park Hyatt in Canberra, completing her training at Manly Wine by Gazebo.

Cameron Bailey: 26, NSW, Chef
Cameron began his apprenticeship at est restaurant under the master guidance of Peter Doyle. From est, he went to Icebergs where he worked under Rob Marchetti. It was a big change, which in no time saw him cooking signature dishes for the likes of Elton John and Gordon Ramsay and controlling the pass coordinating 15 other chefs. Two years later Cameron moved to London and worked with Michelin-starred chefs Marcus Wareing and Anthony Dimitri. He is now a freelance chef in Sydney.

Cassie Delves: 19, NSW, Chef
As a child, Cassie’s love of food developed and she spent weekends tending to her fruit trees in her back garden. This was just the beginning, and her real appreciation for food grew when her family began to travel, with her first roundthe-world trip at just eight. Uponreturning to Australia, Cassie began her apprenticeship at a local bistro in Kiama, NSW, at 16. Cassie did her second year at Bilson’s where she was mentored by Diego Munoz, her culinary hero. She completed her apprenticeship at Justin North’s Becasse.

Chrissie Flannagan: 33, NSW, stay-at-home mum
Chrissie has been out of the kitchen since the birth of her two gorgeous daughters, Lucy (aged seven) and Ivy (12 months). As a recently separated single mother, she feels it’s now time to get back into the workforce and set a good example to her daughters. Her career began at age 16, when she undertook a traineeship in kitchen operations. After completing her apprenticeship she worked and travelled overseas, having worked at the two hatted Bel Monde, The Book Kitchen, Wokpool, Bathers and Fourth Village Providore.

Coop Woodstone: 37, NSW, Catering Manager
Coop started as a kitchen hand at 18 and was quickly promoted to line chef. He got his first head chef position in London at age 24 and has held positions of head chef, executive chef and restaurant consultant since then. He was head chef at fine dining establishment 360 Bar and Dining, Bistrot Marlo and The Storier. In 2009 he started his own catering business with wife Beth. Together they have three children, Viena (aged six), Neve (three) and Sebastian (12 months). Viena has a rare brain tumour and has had to undergo two surgeries in the past year. For Coop, it’s the greatest hurdle he has had to overcome, and it is Viena who inspired him to audition for the show. Coop has a nine year old daughter from his first marriage, Jada, who now lives in Canada with her mother.

Kiah Blanco: 27, QLD, Sous Chef
Born in Innisfail and growing up in Mission Beach in Northern Queensland, Kiah is half Torres Strait Islander (his father’s side) and has a strong connection to the land. He uses local ingredients that he finds anywhere from rainforest to reef and his cooking reflects his surroundings. Kiah got his first job working in the kitchen of a pizza restaurant where his mum was a waitress and has worked in numerous resort restaurants since including Lizard Island in Far North Queensland and most recently Bibesa in Mission Beach.

Kylie McAllester: 27, VIC, student
Kylie started her apprenticeship in Lorne working under George Biron, who introduced her to obscure sorbets, foraging and a local approach to food. She did the second year of her apprenticeship at One Fitzroy Street and was running her own restaurant on the Sunshine Coast with her fiancé Ben when she was just 25 years old. They have since sold the restaurant and moved back to Melbourne, where Kylie is studying nutrition and Ben is a chef at Vue de Monde.

Luke Southwood: 43, NSW, Chef
At 16 and living in Barcelona, Luke spied a notice in the window of a small restaurant, looking for cooks. He applied, got the job, and cooked in Barcelona for six years. Luke moved back to Australia in 1991 and was employed by Maggie Beer at Pheasant Farm restaurant. He later had his own catering company but when this closed he moved to Byron Bay to be Head Chef at Dish restaurant. In 2010 Luke was working in what he dubs an amazing job as a catering manager at Sanctuary Byron Bay, when he was involved in a terrible car accident that saw him have to quit his job. He has been recovering ever since.

Matty McKenzie: 25, QLD, Chef
Matty’s culinary career took off with gusto when he was accepted into Jamie Oliver’s first international restaurant, Fifteen Melbourne, Australia. After successfully graduating from Fifteen Melbourne at the age of 21, Matty landed his second chef position at Melbourne’s Vue de Monde. From there, his career soared, with an offer to fly overseas to Hakuba, Japan, to launch the innovative Bar and Restaurant created by Australia’s first winter Olympic gold medalist, Steven Bradbury. Matty then moved to Brisbane, where he was appointed head chef at the famous historical Old Government House Queensland and is currently employed as a private chef and hotel ambassador and works in the private fine dining restaurant Prive 249 of Brisbane’s Sofitel Hotel.

Michael Demagistris: 31, VIC, Head Chef
At 18 Michael began his apprenticeship at DaMunvio, continuing it at Kingston Heath Golf Club. Following this Michael was head chef at Jacques Reymond, where he was pushed hard and taught the finer side of cooking. Michael has been head chef at Sorrento Golf Club for the last seven years. He met his wife Tamara when they worked together at Kingston Heath Golf Club and together they have two children, Elle (aged five) and Luca (six months).

Nathan Brindle: 23, NSW, Head Chef
An artist, competition fisherman and skateboarder, Nathan began his apprenticeship at age 15 when he left Nowra for Sydney restaurant Lucio’s. He ran a catering company called River Deli and then worked at Sepia for 18 months. Nathan is currently head chef at Blancmange in Petersham.

Nick Whitehouse: 41, NSW, Kitchen Project Manager
Originally from the UK, Nick arrived in Sydney in 2009 and has worked at restaurants Koi, Wildfire and Flying Fish. Nick says his main qualities are that he is calm under pressure and organised. Nick was the personal chef for the Red Hot Chili Peppers on their UK tour and had to do most of the work from a van or from the side of stage. He lives with his partner, Angela and daughter Emma (aged two) and says his greatest achievement is becoming a father.

Rhett Willis: 33, QLD, Head Chef
Rhett began his career in Brisbane where he served his apprenticeship at a range of establishments which gave him a rich diversity of cooking experiences. After proving his professional and creative talents at the prestigious Icebergs in Sydney under celebrity chef Robert Marchetti, he was offered the role of head chef at the exclusive Astra Lodge in Falls Creek, where he created an award-winning menu. He has been head chef at Jellyfish restaurant for four years.

Rhys Badcock: 29, NSW/WA, Head Chef
At 14 Rhys moved from the Sunshine Coast to Byron Bay to be with his father. Since starting his apprenticeship at 18, he has gone where the work has taken him. Beginning his apprenticeship at Driftwood Estate, he moved onto Cape Lodge where he worked with Tony Howell, whom he credits for teaching him to cook. He has since worked as a certified chef at Dunk Island, a sous chef at Bespoke in Brisbane and as head chef on the Kimberley Quest for the past three years.

Sarah Knights: 27, NSW, Head Chef
Sarah left high school in Year 10 to begin her apprenticeship and has been working in professional kitchens since she was 15 years old. She moved to Sydney in the third year of her apprenticeship, working at est under Peter Doyle. Sarah worked at Bistro CBD, then Bistro Ortolan, before travelling overseas to work as a private chef to an English family. This took her on board a super yacht where she met chef Scott Wade, who is now her partner. Last year Sarah and Scott returned to Sydney together and Sarah began work at Uccello and is now in head chef at Plunge restaurant.

Tracey Holerness: 47, NSW, Chef
Yorkshire-born Tracey has left her entire family in England to follow career opportunities to Australia. Her 28 years in the industry have given her some incredible experience including a stint at The Dorchester Hotel. She was Commis Chef at 90 Park Lane Restaurant when it was awarded a Michelin Star. As Chef Garde Manager on the QEII Cruise Liner, Tracey was one of the first female chefs on the luxury cruiser. Other career highlights include working as the executive sous chef at the Olympic Games in Sydney and cooking a State banquet for Queen Elizabeth II and the Sheik of Bahrain. MasterChef: The Professionals is a Shine Australia production and will air in early 2013, on TEN.