Melbourne travel manager Jo was the latest contestant to be eliminated on Monday from MasterChef. In another gruelling Pressure Test set by famed pastry chef Darren Purchese, contestants had to recreate a peach Melba — the dish that inspired Purchese to become a chef in the first place. No pressure (pun intended) or anything, right?
A delicate and complex dish, any misstep was going to prove costly, especially at this stage in the competition. Unfortunately, with overcooked peaches and think tuile, Jo was sent home. Here, she tells us about that last emotional cook, how MasterChef has changed her thinking about food and the exciting food tours she has planned.
POPSUGAR Australia: You got dish of the day for the Gordon Ramsay roast chicken dish — how did that feel?
Jo: OMG, it was the best feeling ever! I had wanted to do well, and hoped that this would be the cook where the judges noticed me — I just wished there was an immunity cook attached to it! [Laughs]
PS: Tell me about how you found that Darren Purchese Pressure Test?
Jo: Call me crazy, but I really enjoy Pressure Tests — the fact that you have a recipe to follow and all of the steps written out — I feel like I will always cook better that way, so was happy to be doing them. Plus, the things that you get to cook in a Pressure Test are usually things that you would never be able to put up in a 60 minute challenge, so I really enjoyed that part of it too.
PS: What made you break down in tears halfway through?
Jo: I think I was suddenly aware of all that I had put on the line to get into the kitchen, and the fact that I had really only just started to find my groove. I knew it was make or break time, but could hear George's voice in my head saying we never give up, so I kept going — I'm not a quitter!
PS: What do you think was your downfall in that test?
Jo: Definitely not paying more attention to the thickness of the tuille. I also let my peaches sit in the poaching liquid a bit longer than they should have. When everyone is cooking to stay, you cannot let one thing get past you, and I did!
PS: You said right before the judges tasted your food that MasterChef changes your thinking — could you elaborate on that?
Jo: It's hard to describe, but when you have all of your external influences shut off — family, friends, TV, job, internet — you are forced into this tunnel of thinking about food and cooking 24/7. If you had a chicken, what could you do to elevate it so that the judges would be happy? I've never had to think like that before, and I loved the focus.
PS: What have you taken away from MasterChef?
Jo: I have learned so much, not only about my cooking ability, but also who I am as a person, and how much I can push myself. I was so disappointed with myself for being eliminated so soon, I saw it as a failure and embarrassment for not doing well enough, so I know that I have really high standards for myself and want to keep pushing until I feel like I have really done something amazing. I'm not there yet but have had a great kick start!
PS: You have a huge love for travel. How do you think your experiences abroad helped you on the show?
Jo: When you travel, you have to think on your feet, because often things go wrong. Freaking out won't get you any further along, so you have to learn how to worry about the things that you have control over, and just worry about those! I used to teach leadership training for my travel company, so I think I drew on that a lot in high pressure situations.
PS: What made you so emotional when you left the show?
Jo: I just didn't know what to do with myself. I had planned to be in the competition for so much longer and when that never happened, I never had a back up plan! Plus, I was worried that I had let my family and friends down by not getting further along. I was cross at myself because I never hit the target I'd set out to.
PS: What advice would you give to people considering applying for the show?
Jo: Definitely do it — plan for it and make it happen. If it doesn't happen the first time, try again, and never give up if you really want it bad enough. I'm a big believer in the universe providing when the time is right, and everything will happen when it is meant to. You just have to cook well and stay safe!
PS: What have you got planned in the pipeline? I heard there were some travel food tours in the works?
Jo: Yes! Loki and I have talked about going to India to do a street food tour, maybe with a couple of the other contestants too! I also have itineraries that I want to get out for people to go on amazing food-focused tours all over the world, with dinners, markets and cooking classes all part of the experience. I want to escort them. so that I know people are going to have fun and get to taste and see amazing things! In my 20 years of travel experience, I have been to amazing locations around the world, and if I can open that up to show people who share a passion for food too, then it will be a wonderful thing. I have plans for a BBQ tour through the USA, Italy, Spain and France, as well as river cruising in Europe and a Mexico bonanza as well. I can't wait to get moving! Fans of the show might be surprised as to who will escort their foodie tour, as I have a few of this year's and last year's contestants keen to [get on board]. Can you imagine going on a BBQ tour through the USA with Meat Bae? Yes!