Dan Churchill, Masterchef contestant, author and rising star on the Australian scene, had a chat to bmag about healthy strategies for home cooking, and what he’s got planned for 2014.

Q&A with Dan Churchill

What’s your philosophy on cooking?

Cooking is an easy thing to do, but also easy to neglect. We tend to rely on takeaway and easy resources to get by, but what I find is when you have a go at cooking a delicious meal, and realise how simple it can be, you fall in love with it. There’s nothing better than bringing everyone together to the dinner table through a meal to the table that you’ve just prepared.

What did you take from your experience on Masterchef?

I learnt a lot about cooking and camera angles, (laughs), but I also learnt what I struggled with. I’m so driven to succeed, but it’s really important for me to stop and reflect sometimes.

Best moment in your career so far?

Completing my Masters was pretty cool. One of my highlights is watching my food go onto a plate, go off the pass, and having someone relate to the food that I love to cook. Writing The Healthy Cook was amazing too – a huge stepping stone for me.

Tell us a little about your new book – The Healthy Cook

The Healthy Cook is me in a book. It showcases how you easy it can be to enjoy healthy food. If you’ve got colour on the plate – you’re doing well. It’s a book for the home – learning how to serve up healthy meals.

Favourite meal to cook at home?

Well what I’m craving at the time! Spaghetti Bolognaise from scratch is my favourite. Right now I’m going through a Mexican phase. Fish tacos are my specialty – they will be in my next book.

Favourite ingredient to work with?

I love meat. Sweet potato and coconut milk are also amazing.

Tell us about your project Thrive.

Thrive is a superfood café, currently open in Sydney and Melbourne – but expanding to Brisbane this year. We aim for little ingredients and maximum taste. If we can inspire the Brisbane community to see what they can do with ingredients to create a healthy meal, we’ll achieve our goals.

Thrive will be opening in June, in Post Office Square along Adelaide St.

As school starts again in the coming weeks, what are your tips for healthy school and work lunches?

I think a lot of people struggle to find ingredients they like that are also healthy. People want to eat healthy, but they don’t know what. Start with colour, start with protein and go from there. Also minimise using resources like pasta. Quinoa is a great alternative.

As a young chef, what do you see as some of the weaknesses and strengths in the diets of Gen Y?

Diet is the worst word in the world. I hate it, and would not want someone to stop eating something that they enjoy. Our generation needs to avoid using diets as a meal plan. Learn to plan ahead slowly. Lose weight while feeling great is the best approach.

What are your other goals for 2014?

I’m going to the US, UK and Thailand. I want a show in the US soon. I’ll also have my 4th and 5th book out by the end of the year. My YouTube channel is a good way to keep up with my latest work.