POPSUGAR Australia: Tell us about you found that elimination cook?
Sam: It was the hardest cook emotionally in the MasterChef kitchen, purely because of the people I was up against. Callan is like my little brother, and Eloise was my best friend in the house by that time — she was like my rock. We used to lean on each other a fair bit when times got tough, and both ended up in elimination that day, so it was really hard. I'm not at all a competitive person, and I think that's what got the better of me in the end. I knew how much it meant to them and how much they wanted it, and at the back of my mind, I kind of doubted how much I actually needed it. As soon as you lose that bit of competitive drive in the kitchen, that's when you start to fall down, because you need to give it your all and on that day, I didn't give it my all. It all came crashing down a little bit.
PS: So it was more the emotional side of things rather than the technicalities?
Sam: Yeah, for sure. At the end of the day, I had an hour to cook a dessert using fruit and herbs, which was nearly my signature thing throughout the entire competition. I had everything at my disposal, I just didn't bring my mental game that day.
PS: Did you know you were going when that basil ice-cream didn't work out?
Sam: Yeah, I had a fair idea, and then tried to turn it into a granita. It presented OK, but the granita was unstable, which in the end melted on the dish and affected the eating of it. It tasted a bit wet, the flavours got muddled and ruined the dish.
PS: Does it throw you when the judges come up and talk to you mid-cook?
Sam: Yeah completely, you've got to know how to read them, but at the same time, have to back yourself. At the end of the day, you've got to own the dish, no matter what feedback they give you, you've got to take ownership of those decisions. You've got to make sure you're confident with what you're doing and you're not putting something on the plate because they want you to, but because you need to or want to. It goes both ways: They can give you feedback that can throw you, or help you.
PS: You mentioned that something clicked when you made top 10. What made you treasure the experience a bit more?
Sam: Going in, I never really knew where I'd stand in the competition. I found my feet very early and from early on, my goal was to make top 10, because I thought that was about where I was at. There's a period between week three and week eight where you're stuck in the middle — everything feels like it's dragging a little bit — you're just going through day by day trying to get through the next week. It's a bit of a nothing time between top 20 and top 12 — you're trying to kill time, pretty much. And then you get to top 12 and that's a bit of a minor goal, and then top 10's the big one.
Unfortunately, my last goal was to make it to Japan, and I fell one day short of that. Had I ticked the Japan box or an international trip, I would've left there 100 percent happy and fulfilled. That was the final little box, and then I would've been happy to go. Not that I'm unhappy with where I got to, that would've just been the cherry on top.