Since winning MasterChef 2011 on Sunday, Kate Bracks hasn’t had time to unwind — she’s been working the post-show publicity trail like a pro, and we managed to catch some time with her today just before she boarded a flight in Melbourne. The proud mum-of-three from Orange talked about how her cooking will change, funny behind-the-scenes stories, and why she wants to connect with her fans.
What have the past 48 hours been like for you?
It’s been crazy! But it’s been fun as well. Everybody has been very lovely to deal with so it’s been a lot of fun.
And of course congratulations on your win! At what point during the grand finale did you think you had it in the bag?
Probably with the final reveal of the scores. When I got the first 9 from Matt Moran, I went, ‘Well I’m already three points ahead, so . . .’ I was doing the maths, and at that point I thought, ‘Ooh, I might’ve won it,’ and it just increased as each 9 came out. By the time I got George’s 9 I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I think I’ve done it!’ [Laughs] I wasn’t too worried about getting more than a 5 from Gary.
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Was it at the back of your mind in the weeks between the cooking part and the score announcement?
I felt very comfortable with the way I’d cooked; for me that was the most important part. I wanted to finish the competition in a way where I had felt like I’d cooked the best that I could in that situation. Coming away from that, I thought, ‘You know what? What will be, will be.’ I felt quite contented that, win or lose, I’d made it to the top two and that was pretty good.
How do you think MasterChef will affect your cooking back at home?
I think the expectations are going to be up a little bit! [Laughs] Friends and family expecting lots of invites around for food. But they’re gonna have to get a lot of dessert because that’s the way I’m going to head with my cookbook, so they can be my taste-testers.
What’s your favourite dessert to eat?
If I’m wanting a bit of comfort it’s just a simple, self-saucing chocolate pudding using real chocolate, and I like to have chunks of chocolate in there as well. But if I want something a bit fresher, I really love just a classic lemon tart. Beautiful.
Before the show had you studied food as much as some of the other contestants?
Probably a little bit more than some and not as much as others. I was on the fortunate position, I suppose, of being on the older end of the spectrum, so I’d had a bit more experience with cooking, and I’d actually done a subject at TAFE when [my daughter] Erin was a baby, so about eight years ago. I’ve done a lot of reading just because it interests me; I’ve always subscribed to foodie magazines and read through cookbooks in bed at night just because I’m a food nerd and that’s what I like to do. [Laughs] So I guess in some ways I was probably a little more widely-read than some, but there were some people in there who knew all the lingo and the jargon of all the fancy things. For me I read for interest, rather than to be up on the latest techniques and scientific processes, but I did a little more reading along that vein while I was in the house, so that was good.
How did your kids like seeing their mum on TV every night?
When it all started going to air I said to them one Skype call, “What’s it like seeing Mum on TV?” And they said, “It’s normal.” [Laughs] It wasn’t very weird for them at all, which I found quite surprising. I think it gives us a little insight in children’s minds. They just accept everything as normal, so that was what was normal for them!
Have you had a chance to talk to [series one winner] Julie Goodwin about how she kept things balanced after winning?
I haven’t yet; I was whisked away for media things straight after the announcement. When she gave me a big cuddle I did say to her, “I need to talk to you!” and she said she’d gladly do it. I’m hoping to tee that up some time in the near future.
What do you make of this year’s MasterChef criticism?
I think everybody’s entitled to their own opinion, and viewers probably are a little bit more aware of the whole MasterChef process because it is the third season. But at the same time, for me it was fantastic! The names, the things we got to do and the opportunities we had were just out of this world. I’m incredibly appreciative for all of that. You’re always going to get people who are going to criticise things, and I think sometimes it starts a bit of a wave: somebody starts, and then somebody else jumps on . . . It can get momentum, but I was pretty unaware of most of that because we were locked away and didn’t have Internet access. We were just able to concentrate on what was going on.
Do you have any funny or memorable behind-the-scenes stories we may not have seen on TV?
[Laughs] I’ve got a classic one. When we were in New York we were on a boat out to Liberty Island; we were about to disembark, and Alana got locked in the toilet! She was in there for close to an hour and it took a lot of trouble to try and get her out. So that was quite funny, and it was the classic, clichéd American response of sledgehammers and all sorts of weaponry to try and get her out of there. They did eventually succeed! [Laughs]
What did you learn about yourself throughout the competition?
The thing that I learned most was that I realised that I’m stronger than I ever thought I was, in that I was able to put up with being away from my family for so long. And also that I could deal with more pressure than I ever thought I could! [Laughs] I learned how to deal with that pressure, I suppose; how to put myself through some very stressful situations.
Lots of the contestants have new websites, Twitter and Facebook — are you going to get into all the social media?
Absolutely. I’ve got a website; it’s www.katebracks.com. At the moment it’s still a bit more of a holding page and a point of contact, so people can email me through there. I do plan to grow that over time but I haven’t had much time to get onto that yet. I probably will get back on to Facebook and get into Twitter. I’m keen to connect with people and know exactly where they’re at, and maybe even throw out some ideas for my cookbook, see what people think and get some feedback before it all goes to print.
What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you get back to Orange?
After the media commitments over the last couple of days I’m going to sleep [laughs], I’m going to try and get one full night’s worth of sleep! And also cuddle my kids! I’ve gotta make up for lost time. They’re always up for a cuddle.
Photo courtesy of Network Ten