Dishy MasterChef contestant Andy Allen was an unlikely winner. The affable 24-year-old former electrician from East Maitland scraped through the early weeks of the competition, finally nailing a tough finale against ‘dessert queen’ Julia Taylor.
Coming away with $100,000, a cookbook publishing deal and the chance to work at a number of Australia’s finest restaurants, Andy will also be joining a few more of the TV show’s alumni for MasterChef LIVE at Moore Park in October.
The large-scale food festival will include demonstrations, cooking classes, Sydney’s roaming food truck Eat Art Truck, plus, food markets, chefs George Calombaris, Matt Moran and Maggie Beer – as well as former contestants: Andy, Julia, Ben Milbourne, Audra Morrice, Amina Elshafei and Kylie Millar.
Andy, you were an unlikely winner for this year’s MasterChef competition, (we have to admit, our money was on Julia)…
Oh really! I think everyone would have put money on Julia [laughs]. That was probably the best bit; I was a massive dark horse going into the finale and I sort of pulled through.
What was it like to win?
It was the best feeling I’ve ever had. To go through the whole competition – it’s a long process – it’s exhausting, it’s the most fun I’ve ever had, but, to actually achieve what I’ve achieved, it’s indescribable: the emotions, the happiness, the relief I was feeling when the judges pulled those cards…
What have you been doing since the competition finished?
I’ve been flat-out writing my [cook] book. I’m hopefully going to get it out towards late November, early December. Obviously I’ve never written a book before, so faced with [writing] 80-100 recipes in three-and-a-half weeks was massive. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I broke it down into little categories. It’s been tough, but I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel now, and it’s really exciting.
Do you and Ben [Milbourne] still have plans to go into business together?
Yeah, definitely! I went down to Tasmania and we did a few pop-up restaurants, a few weeks ago now, then Ben came up to my house and stayed a few nights at my place. We probably talk on the phone pretty much every day.
So the bromance is still going strong?
Yeah! People stop us in the street and say "you guys are actually friends" – I was like, "Could you not tell that on the show?" I think people are amazed that we’re still mates.
In October, you’ll be cooking and demonstrating for the public at MasterChef Live. What can people expect over the three-day festival?
A lot of entertainment, a lot of learning. It’s the biggest cooking festival in Australia, so it’s massive scale. I can’t wait, to be honest. Instead of being in front of a camera, I can do it to the public, it’s really exciting.
Will there be invention tests and that sort of thing?
I’m doing invention tests, mystery boxes… I’m recreating my finale entrée dish: seared tuna with cauliflower and squid ink puree. I actually doing a lot of sweet stuff, which is different for me because I don’t cook sweets that well.
Will people be able to taste your winning dish, the modern seafood basket?
It’s definitely going to feature in my book, I’m just refining it a bit. I know it got a ‘10 out of 10’ and two ‘nine’s, but I still felt there was room for improvement. I’ve been back in the kitchen testing all sorts of ways to make it look and taste better. It won’t be at MasterChef Live
, but it’ll definitely be in my book.
What was your favourite challenge during MasterChef?
Man, that is really tough; I loved every single one. I think the most memorable, and where I felt that I achieved a lot, was the Stanley Cup challenge in Tasmania. The task [Sam and I] were given was massive at that stage in the competition, and for us to perform how we did and for both of us to be saved – that was the most emotion that I felt in the competition. That could have been the end of the road for me, and I’m very thankful I didn’t get sent home.
What was the toughest thing about being on the show?
I hated being away from my family for that long – that was the toughest thing. The whole ‘no communication, no freedom’ lock-down was very hard. I’m a pretty active person; I’m very close to my family. Those two things were taken away from you – that was the hardest bit. In terms of the challenges, I loved every single one.
We’ve noticed that you have a lot of adoring fans… are you a culinary sex symbol? [Laughs] There are a few female fans… I’ve had ladies come up to me and pronounce their love for me, and want me to marry them on the spot. It’s flattering, and it’s overwhelming and a bit awkward, too.