'MasterChef Australia 2011' winner Kate Bracks
It was creating a delicious snowman dessert from the world's best restaurant, Noma in Copenhagen, that changed Kate Bracks’ life.
The 36-year-old mother-of-three from the New South Wales town of Orange pulled off the complex recipe to beat co-contestant Michael Weldon by five points and claim the "MasterChef Australia 2011" title on Sunday.
Her newfound fame is a long way from her life in rural Orange, a few hours drive west of Sydney.
While enjoying her celebrity status, this humble winner just can’t seem to absorb her achievement.
As she gets used to all the fuss, she can look forward to a grand prize that includes $100,000, her own cookbook deal and work experience opportunities in some of Australia's top restaurants.
We spoke to her about being the new face of cooking, her future plans and her love of Vegemite.
CNNGo: You’ve been ‘MasterChef’ for a couple of hours now, what has changed?
Bracks: I feel like I’m floating on the clouds and waiting for my feet to hit the ground. It hasn’t happened yet. The biggest change is that I haven’t got off the phone since. But mainly, the opportunities that have opened up for me as opposed to what it would have been if I had been eliminated a few weeks ago. It’s a very different field that I’m entering into and it’s exciting. Let’s say it’s an end of one chapter and starting to a whole new book.
CNNGo: Before 'MasterChef', what did cooking mean to you?
Bracks: Cooking was a way that I relaxed and unwound. When I came home from a stressful day, I used to bake. Baking was my first love and my husband knows that. We moved to Orange about five years ago, which is three hours away from Sydney and a big foodie town. It was a whole new world of flavors and fresh produce that had opened up for me. The town helped me explore my creativity and kindle my love for food.
CNNGo: What does food mean to you now?
Bracks: I experiment with food more. A lot of my friends tell me, ‘Oh, you must be sick of cooking now.' But I love it even more now. 'MasterChef' has enhanced my passion for it. I haven’t cooked since winning the title, and I’m already missing it.
CNNGo: 'MasterChef' has made cooking more commercial, as opposed to being just a household chore. Do you think cooking has gained novelty?
Bracks: People are much more aware of what they’re eating and what they’re cooking. It’s very easy to get lazy about what we put into our bodies. But I love how shows like 'MasterChef' have raised people’s awareness of what they’re eating. Everyone makes 'MasterChef' jokes at home and pretends to be one, and I think that’s only a good thing. The plates at home look much prettier now, even if it’s a simple dish.
CNNGo: In the show, you cooked under the mentorship of international chefs and then traveled to Malaysia and New York. How did those adventures change you as a cook?
Bracks: They were incredible experiences. It opened up my world to more ideas and a whole new culture. I had never been to Malaysia or New York before, so those opportunities just expanded my horizon. I profiled different flavors, skills and techniques and then used them all in my cooking.
CNNGo: Did you ever dream of being the most watched person in the country, especially after the popularity of reality shows like 'Big Brother' and 'Australian Idol'?
Bracks: Not at all. I have never been a big television watcher, so I never understood the entire hype of reality TV. Even now, I feel like I’m exactly the same person but the difference is that a lot of people know me. It’s a strange feeling that hasn’t sunk in yet.
CNNGo: 'MasterChef' contestants are always so emotionally charged. Is food really that stimulating?
Bracks: What you don’t see on TV are the long hours that people put in. The days are much, much longer than they look. We’re talking 14-hour days. Yes, it looks very emotional, but there’s a lot more going on than what’s shown in that broadcasted hour. They are so passionate about food and they want it so perfect that sometimes crying is the best way to deal with it.
CNNGo: Does Vegemite on toast still hold a special place in your heart?
Bracks: Of course. If Australia’s 'MasterChef' doesn’t crave Vegemite, then something’s wrong.
CNNGo: How do you see the Australian food industry progressing?
Bracks: It will continue to grow. Australia’s produce is so dynamic, it’s constantly changing and new ingredients are coming in the market. Even the chefs that I’ve had exposure to over the last few months are awestruck by this country’s culinary potential. It’s exciting for me because everything is growing and I have so much to play with.
CNNGo: What’s next for you?
Bracks: The road to my cookbook. It’s part of the prize and number one on my agenda. The time restraints are on and there are lots of deadlines to meet.
CNNGo: What’s happening with your dream of opening a gourmet bed-and-breakfast?
Bracks: With the extra commitments I have as a winner, that dream is pushed back, but only a little bit. But definitely, my husband Luke and I will be investigating that in a little bit more detail to see if we can make it happen. My idea is to have a tiny hotel with small cottages near my hometown that serves gourmet food around a communal table.