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Masterchef Australia’s Brent Owens New Cookbook

Dig in Brent Owens

Masterchef Australia’s latest winner has well and truly left his digging days behind him as he says he has been busy writing recipes for his first cookbook Dig In.

The cookbook is based on classic recipes reinvented and will be out in November in time for Christmas.

This article on Cooked is quite interesting as he talks about how he learnt to cook from cooking shows. I note that Masterchef was NOT one of those shows he mentioned.

The highlights from the article are:

MasterChef fans know Brent Owens as the bobcat operator. And the season 2014 winner. When we talk to him, he’s crazy busy writing recipes and planning lunch: “Eggplant chips with kewpie mayonnaise and sriracha” (yep, it’s in the book).

He bought a laptop, which he takes everywhere. Between commitments (there are sure lots right now), he’s writing recipes. “Every chance I get, I might pop into a cafe and get a recipe written. Plus late nights in bed. It’s the most constructive way to do it.”

The pressure’s on: he’s looking at a whirlwind turnaround for his first book, Dig In!, which is out in November in time for Christmas.

What’s the vision? “It’s going to be pretty simple. Food I love to eat. Dishes from memories from the past that I have jazzed up a bit.” Essentially, the kind of food that anybody can achieve.

Food wasn’t really so important in his household growing up (“we always had meals at the family table, but it was never extravagant”) but, in his late teens, he decided he wanted to learn more.

By the time he’d finished school and (quickly) bought his own place in Melton, the routine of his day was set. Work, home, watch cooking shows, cook, eat, sleep. “I ended up watching them [cooking shows] for hours on end,” he says. Which shows? “I was always a huge fan of Jamie Oliver’s stuff, and Heston.”

He reckons he was something of a blank canvas – his words – at the start of the show, but “the picture started to paint itself throughout the competition”.

He spent his nights (seven months’ worth) in the Melbourne MasterChef house reading cookbooks. “We had a small library in the house that was chock-a-block full of books. I would look at those to teach myself to plate up.” Towards the end, when he was in the final three, Brent became enamoured with London chef Sat Bains’ book, Too Many Chiefs, Only one Indian. Why did he like it? The elegance, the pictures. “[But] It’s pretty cheffy, I can’t see it being a bestseller.”

Partner Madison Ancrum, who is also at the shoot on her day off, says sure, she is into the cooking thing (or, at least, the eating part) but, before the show, it did get a bit tiring at weekends. “He used to say, OK, I’m going to cook dinner, but it would start at 3 and not be served till 8.”

Reinforcing the influence of those cooking shows, she says the couple had never eaten “a fancy meal at a proper restaurant” before the show. Really? Really. “I mean, we’d go to a local restaurant and have a parma … [but] it’s incredible he can put it all together, just from watching …”

Madison is frank when asked about the trajectory they are on together: “He had the option of taking over the business [from her dad] and we would have kept living that lifestyle, waiting for the next step.” But he put his entry into MasterChef – half an hour before the cut-off no less – instead. Now, she says they’ve made a deal to move closer to the city by Christmas.

As for plans beyond that, Brent says he’s in talks with his web developer and brand manager. He’d like to develop a pre-made meals line “that actually tastes nice”. And he’s in early discussions about a television show that would have him driving around in a food truck, visiting people working different trades, “and trying to change they way the eat”.

In other Masterchef 2014 alumni news, James Fleming who was a bartender, prior to the show is now head chef at new place in Balmain Wilhelmina and he will be in a good mood today as it got a pretty good review in the Sunday Telegraph. 

October 5, 2014   8 Comments

Masterchef’s Hayden Quinn Gets His Own TV Show On Lifestyle Food

Cleo Bachelors 2012 - Hayden Quinn

Hayden Quinn will be back on the small screen when he fronts a new show The Dinner Project on Lifestyle Food.

Quinn who was in Masterchef Australia series three show will premieres  Sunday, November 2 at 7.00pm on LifeStyle FOOD, only on Foxtel.

He’ll move in with six families around Australia to develop an understanding of what their lives are like and what the cooking obstacles are. In six half hour episodes he will do meal plans and recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

More information:

There are six common issues that hinder Australians in the kitchen. Hayden researches the lifestyles and nuances of everyday Australians to inspire and create delicious meals in the kitchen.  There’s the ‘skill’s poor’ with Lani, a young Melbourne foodie who eats out more than in; the ‘budget conscious’ with Digby and Daniel,  a couple of struggling students from Geelong; the ‘time poor’ with Kath and Seb, a busy family of 5 from Hammondville; the ‘knowledge poor’ with Chris, a Mine Rescuer and his family from Newcastle; the ‘nutrition poor’ with Lyn and Pete, the Gold Coast empty-nesters and the ‘ideas poor’ with Sally and Peter, cattle and sheep farmers from Armidale.

 Expect a lot of meat as the show is being produced in conjunction with Meat & Livestock Australia, exclusively for Foxtel’s LifeStyle FOOD channel.

September 30, 2014   2 Comments

Masterchef’s Laura Cassai Cookbook Will Be Out For Mother’s Day

This year’s Masterchef runner up, Laura Cassai post reality TV career is going well, she has a cookbook deal as well as some other offers on the table.

In a good interview on Pop Sugar she talks about Masterchef and what life is like for her now. She has dropped out of uni, has a cookbook deal and is contemplating a few other offeres. Also she says she did not get too much help on the show by the judges.

Here are some excerpts but go to Pop Sugar to read the whole thing.

PS: So what have you been up to since the show finished filming?

Laura: A lot! I’m working full time at Restaurant Orana, in the city. I’ve had to wait until the finale had aired until I could get other offers. In the last week-and-a-half I have signed a book deal, so I have a cookbook coming out at Mother’s Day next year, which is really exciting. I’ve been doing a bit of public speaking at a local high school and getting involved in a kitchen garden program. And the upcoming things are cooking demonstrations in Adelaide and stuff like that, and at the moment I’m working on which charity I want to work with. I have a few good deals coming up, so I’m in the process of picking and choosing what I want. There’s a lot going on, actually!

PS: Throughout the series, or maybe towards the end, there were some viewers who thought you received too much help from the judges in some of the challenges. What’s your response to that?

Laura: [Laughs] God, I wish I received more help from the judges! I wish they helped me with other things. I don’t know. I think it’s a really weird comment that a lot of people have said to me. I guess everyone sees it differently, but I don’t feel I got that much help at all, especially towards the end; even in the top six, the judges, I think, just let us go with it to see what we could do on our own without too much help. I think it’s weird how the viewers have seen it in a completely different way. It’s odd.

PS: And there’s editing to take into account; they may have given the same amount of advice to other people, but because they happened to show yours—

Laura: Yeah, exactly. Maybe I was having, for example, like the finale I was having a few breakdowns, and the judges came up to me a few times and put me back in my place. Obviously they were helping me by trying to help me pick myself back up, but you don’t see a lot of stuff, like you just said. A lot of stuff does get edited out, and lots of people got help over the whole series.

PS: And no one wants to see you upset for the whole grand final — it doesn’t make for good TV!

Laura: [Laughs] Exactly. Imagine if I was crying the whole finale in the corner like a little Debbie Downer. I think the relationship I had with the judges, they understood when I needed to be picked up, and they saw me struggling, especially George — I think he understood me really well, and understood where things were going wrong. He just had to come over and say, “Pick yourself up,” and I’d be fine.


August 14, 2014   5 Comments

Masterchef Australia – And The Winner is….

Screen shot 2014-07-28 at 11.54.01 PM

Brent Owens has won series six of Masterchef Australia. He wins $250,000, an Alfa Romeo and a cookbook deal. He said he wants to open his own cafe and have his own line of products. Laura Cassai was runner-up and took home $20,000.

There would have been riots in the streets if Brent had not won tonight. Going into the final round Laura was one point ahead however in the making of Peter Gilmore’s Chocolate Ethereal dessert Laura had a lot of assistance from the judges. She mucked up a section of her nougat. Peter and Gary went over to hint that she might want to read the recipe. She didn’t and just at the point when she was about to add the wrong mixture into the egg white he called out and told her to read the recipe to him. It was at this point she realised her mistake.

Brent left off the Vanilla Butter Cream and that was not mentioned by the judges, but it was not the deal breaker as Laura had forgotten to chop up her piece of nougat and Brent took out the win.

However there is no doubt Laura is a talent cook and she is currently working with Jock Zonfrillo in Adelaide and would like to release a home style cooking Italian cook book. Hardie Grant the book publishers would probably have preferred her to win as it will be interesting to see what theme his cookbook will be.

Live Blog below:

It has been a great season of Masterchef this year. The cooking has been of a higher standard and there has been less drama, though there still have been a lot of tears. The final is between to young ‘uns. Brent the forklift driver versus Laura the 19 year old student. Who will win? Who should have won? Chat about the finale here whilst it is happening.

7.34pm Making the finale was the easy part apparently. Expect tears tonight. The winner will win $250,000, an Alfa Romeo, a cookbook deal and the chance to work in Australia’s best restaurants. 7.38pm: And as expected Tash is not there.

7.40pm Laura will use the money to open her Italian restaurant and Brent wants a dream restaurant as well. By the way Emma Dean has up pop-up restaurant going on in Pei Modern with Lynton tomorrow night 29 July.

7.45pm: First the theatre of the mystery box but there are no ingredients in there. The ingredients are actually on the table. Each person gets to pick four ingredients each which the other contestant will get as well and they have one hour to cook.

7.46pm: Laura picked scampi,then Brent picked garlic, then Laura picked anchovies, Brent picked cabbage, Laura picked pearl barley and then Brent picked fennel. Last pick for Laura was chervil and sherry for Brent. It looks like Laura is going to do well on this one.

7.55pm – Laura burns hand and drops garlic on the floor, meanwhile Brent turns his back and burns his garlic

8.00pm – Laura’s Grilled Scampi with Anchovy Butter, Scampi Head Oil and pickled cabbage was tasted first. George said he was pleased throughout the competition that she kept it super true to herself ie Italian. He said he would be at her restaurant with all his mates. Gary said super delicious. Matt was looking for a little bit more zing.

8.05pm – Brent’s dish was Textures of Pearl Barley, Poached Scampi with Red Cabbage Sauce. Gary loved the complexity of the red cabbage sauce. George said “delicious”. Matt said it is rare that is new and exciting. He also said the dish looked unbelievably beautiful.

8.11pm – Laura’s scores – George 9/10, Gary and Matt gave her 8/10 for 25/30.

8.12pm – Matt scored Brent 9/10, George gave it a 9/10 and Gary gave it a 9/10 for 27/30. 8.15 pm – Round one to Brent. Round two Brent had to take control of the chef’s table where the judges would be sitting. It was the parents of Brent and his hot looking girlfriend. For Laura it was Laura’s father who ran to her and her mother and Nonna. There were tears and Emelia knows she has not got a shot. 8.20pm – Nonna tells Laura she has trademarked her recipes…..ONLY JOKING.

8.21pm – And Laura is cooking Italian Pasanella with mushrooms with Lobster. Gary told her that the trick was mixing the two elements together, hinting that some of it might not go together. Brent was making lamb.

8.25 pm – Gary asks Laura who she wants to impress and she says her father as he is her biggest critic. He was also calling out more then the peanut gallery.

8.30 pm – Brent has burnt his potato gallette but even more scandalous he decided to cook his lamb medium as that is how his mum likes it.

8.33 pm – Emelia yells out to Brent saying one of your pans has fallen over and then Maddie says “You’re not burning the potatoes”.

8.35 pm – Brent is burning EVERYTHING including the potatoes for the third time. 8.36 pm – Laura’s lobster is undercooked.

8.40pm Laura served up her Lobster and Scallops with Mushroom Pasenella. Her father said it was faultless. Of course he said it was faultless as he knew she was in the running for $250,000. George said it was beautiful, intelligent cooking.

8.42 pm – Brent serves up his Lancashire Hot Pot with out the potato. Brent’s dad he has never had anything like that before. Matt Preston said the dish looks so beautiful. He did criticise him for lack of potatoes.

8.45pm – The scores for round two for Laura was 27/30 she received an eight from each of the judges. 8.50 pm – Brent received a 7/10 from Matt, George and Gary. Giving him 24 points. Laura was now ahead by one point.

8.55 pm – The Peter Gilmore pressure test is…….Chocolate Ethereal. Apparently twice as hard as the snow egg. It consists on Milk skin, tempered chocolate, sugar starch sheet, two types of toffee. Under the hards are the Salted Olroso Sherry Caramel, nougat, roasted salted almonds to make a praline and a chocolate ganache. You get the feeling Brent is gone.

9.00pm – They have three hours and they will get 20 minutes to plate up four dishes at the end.

9.05 pm – Laura starts heating up the sugar with the honey. WHICH IS A BIG MISTAKE but hang on Peter and Gary come over to drop the BIG hint that she has stuffed up and she needs to read the recipe. She does nothing. Just as she is about to pour the wrong mixture into her egg whites and completely stuff it up Gary calls out “did you read the recipe”. This is bordering on the outrageous.

9.10 pm Oh wait it gets worse. After she reads it and still does not get it. He says read it out to me. She still does not get it. Then it finally clicks. 9.12pm Gary then goes over to annoy Brent.

9.13 pm – Laura then says “My nougat comes together really well in the end”.

9.15 pm – Laura’s tempered chocolate seizes. Gary rushes over to tell her what happens when water meets chocolate. And then she cries and says she feels like giving up. George goes over and gives her a pep talk and his Kath impersonation “look at me, look at me”.

9.21 pm – She starts again. Which begs the question can’t a thermomix temper chocolate? Her second try at the chocolate works.

9.25 pm – Brent has not done his vanilla butter sheet. He is missing an “alament”.

9.30pm – Brent is plating up first. Also just realised Kylie Kwong is not there. Why not?

9.32 pm – Peter Gilmore said it was spot on. Matt thought the texture of the nougat was perfect.

9.33 pm – Laura has not chopped up her nougat. Gary will probably say that he likes it better not chopped.

9.40pm – Peter said the nougat needs to be broken up and the muscatels and other components need to loose so they can be tasted together.

9.46 pm – If Laura wins my brain is going to explode. Laura was scored 8/10 by Gary and George said her last 15 minutes were brilliant. Also Matt gave an eight saying it took their breath away. And Peter Gilmore scored her a seven. Finally someone who told her she did not cut up the nougat. Her grand total was 80.

9.47 pm – Brent was scored an 8/10 by Gary, a nine by George, a nine out of ten by Matt, and a nine out of ten.

The right person won. Congratulations Brent.

Bendigo Bank gave Laura $20,000 and Emelia $10,000.

Just as I was wondering why they had everyone freezing their patootie off outside, fireworks explode. And season six is over.

July 28, 2014   293 Comments

Masterchef Australia – And The Finalists Are….

It was two courses, four hours prep and twenty customers each that was going to see who went through to this year’s Masterchef grand final.

In the end it was Emelia that did not make the cut with Brent and Laura through to be the final two. Understandably she was upset as it was her dessert that let her down. Her mandarin curd did not set so she had to mix it into whipped cream which diluted the flavour.

You have to wonder if at this stage of the competition the tastings should be blind or at the very least the judges should not know what the dish was meant to be. Matt and Gary knew the curd had not worked out and that there was meant to be a more tart/acidic element on the plate so were critical about it. Having said that she was probably the one whose dessert was the weakest.

Brent first through to the final with his Roasted Pork Belly with apple and popcorn with celeriac cream main. Brent’s dessert was Seasonal Apples with pistachio and caramel. Gary just said “wow” and said it was one of the nicest things he has eaten this year.

After concerns about Emelia over cooking her Beef Cheeks in a pressure cooker they were described as perfect and Gary said that at every layer there is something interesting. And he added  he could not do anything to improve the dish.

Laura’s service was not as smooth as the other for her Smoked Quail, Chestnut and mushroom. Thanks to George she was told the menu said she was serving smoked quail so she hurriedly ran a smoker over it minutes before service. You have to wonder if there was any smoking flavour to the dish at all.  She was also slow in getting the her mains out because she was having to cooking the quail at the time of service. Again George was telling her how to time it. It worked as the judges thought it was fantastic.

Brent was first to be put through to the finale.

Gary loved Brent’s Pork Belly crackling. Matt also like the vinegar gel and he said it is a very complex and very clever dish.

Laura’s dessert was making a Chestnut Forest which was an imitation or homage to Martin Benn’s Forest Floor dessert that was in the previous pressure test. Her mousse did not set so she put it at the bottom of the plate and put the crumb over it. Matt thought it was a very clever dessert not at all worried that one of her elements did not set.  Gary said he has died and gone to heaven and said it  was a twist on a tiramisu.

After Emelia was eliminated Matt gave a speech which must have been to address criticisms of her on social media saying some people thought she was arrogant but it was really her steely determination. Matt clearly forgetting some of the editing Emelia had received in the series where she was shown to blame other people for the mishaps.

Having said that it would have been good to see Emelia in the final as she has been pretty solid the whole way through.

The final is tonight and I will be live blogging it from 7.30pm EST.

July 28, 2014   71 Comments