Emelia Jackson Spills Her MasterChef Secrets
A lot of people thought Emelia Jackson had what it took to take out MasterChef 2014, but the 24-year-old from Victoria just fell short of the grand final when she was eliminated at the end of Sunday night's semi-final. Along with her good friends Brent Owens and Laura Cassai, Emelia had to prep and serve a two-course menu, a main and a dessert, to a restaurant full of guests in the MasterChef kitchen — each contestant had to prep 46 plates. The standard of food was extremely high, and judges Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan loved Emelia's main of mandarin and chocolate glazed beef cheeks with a Jerusalem artichoke purée (George Calombaris was running the pass), but her dessert of whipped chocolate ganache with a chocolate crumb, fig leaf ice cream and mandarin gel, while still delicious, just missed the mark of being a perfect dish because her mandarin curd hadn't set in time. It was the only negative feedback any of the six dishes received, and as a result the grand final positions went to Brent and Laura.
But just as the tears started flowing, George surprised Emelia by offering her a position with his pastry team at The Press Club in Melbourne, to which Emelia asked, "When can I start?" The judges did not have enough good things to say about her. We caught up with Emelia this morning to chat about the service challenge, where her extensive food knowledge comes from, and why she almost walked out of the competition.
POPSUGAR Australia: In any other year you would have made the grand final because they usually have three grand finalists! It was a great episode to watch — did you watch it back?
Emelia Jackson: I did. I was very nervous when it started, but I really loved it.
PS: You all described that service as the best experience of your lives. Why was it so amazing? What was your favourite bit?
Emelia: It was just incredible to know that you are capable of doing that by yourself; it's not something you ever experience, having to prep 46 dishes on your own. We were all so nervous going into it, and we'd been planning our dishes all week. We weren't sure how long we were going to have for prep time either. We were very nervous that they were going to turn around and say, "You've got two hours!" [Laughs] It was one of those really surreal experiences, with all the diners sitting there, and it was great getting to talk to them and get their feedback, being connected. It was sort of a little peek into if you did have your own business, or café or restaurant, how it would feel.
PS: I don't know if this is something I missed at the beginning, but did your dishes have to have a running ingredient theme? So the mandarins for you, chestnuts for Laura, and apples for Brent?
Emelia: It was just a coincidence, because something we learned throughout the show was matching your mains and your desserts. Curtis Stone, when he came in, he's got a degustation menu at his restaurant, and they're all based around citrus, or one ingredient. So it was just a bit of a challenge that we set for ourselves, really.
PS: You held it together until the end, emotionally. What set you off? Matt said some lovely things about you.
Emelia: Yeah, all three judges said some really nice things. What set me off was Gary! [Laughs] He was the first to tear up, and it was really nice to see how well the judges know you, and how much they care about you, so that definitely set me off.
PS: How soon did you start working at The Press Club after the semi?
Emelia: I sort of started straight away [laughs], and then realised that was probably a bit too soon and a bit full on, because I'd just gone through this huge experience. So I've taken a break and am just reconnecting with all my friends and family, and catching up on some sleep.
PS: What was your MasterChef game plan and did you stick to it?
Emelia: I didn't really have a huge game plan; I was always very confident that I can cook really well, and I have a lot of food knowledge, and was always happy to share that with everyone else. So I didn't have a huge game plan, I just always backed myself, and always had confidence going into the kitchen every day.
PS: Where does your extensive food knowledge come from?
Emelia: I've just been in love with food since I was a really little girl. My grandma and my mum are both incredibly good cooks, and always had us in the kitchen with them. So I've always been really interested in it, and have always sought out that knowledge, and sought out to know more. I've gone through little cycles where I'll get obsessed with, like, Chinese cuisine, so I'll only cook that for six months [laughs]. So throughout the years I've banked it all up. When you love to eat!
PS: Are you happy with how you came across on the show?
Emelia: Yeah, I am. It was very important for me to stay true to myself, and I wouldn't have changed any of it.
Source: Network Ten