Emma Dean, Masterchef 2013 winner and now author of ‘A Homegrown Table’, chats to bmag about her experiences around the world, and returning to cooking in her own kitchen.
Tell bmag readers about your experience in Masterchef – your highlights and key aspects you took from the show:
Highlights, they were so many! Definitely winning the Dubai challenge and being able to go to Paris. Even at the beginning at in the Melbourne challenge and cooking for our new ‘family’. And I guess winning was pretty amazing.
The best part was we didn’t have anything else to focus on. Although we had to live away from our family, there was no grocery shopping and no mortgage to worry about. We just immersed ourselves into study and practicing techniques. My skills increased quite a bit, but my knowledge just went through the roof!
The final challenge was a dessert. I’ve been making pavlova since I was a little girl so that helped me get across the line. In an experience such as Masterchef, you really learn about your own resilience to keep going, especially under extreme stress and pressure.
What’s your personal food philosophy?
My personal food philosophy is that food always has to be delicious, seasonal and locally sourced. And as a cook, to do your best and not too be hard on yourself.
What’s been on the agenda since Masterchef concluded?
I’ve started up my website. I’m looking at opening a restaurant with my partner Dan this year, as well as a cooking school with online classes.
What’s your vision with your first book, A Homegrown Table?
It was both incredible and stressful to get it done after Masterchef and before Christmas.
I pretty much wrote down everything I like to cook and eat; different types of meat and seasonal vegetables. I cooked it all in my kitchen, so it was a home-grown effort. Mum came over to wash the dishes on the first day, and ended up staying for the whole week and helped cook.
Favourite recipe to cook at home?
I’m a bit of a sweets girl. Choc-orange cake, rhubarb cake and yoyos are my favourites and all in ‘A Homegrown Table’, from Grandma’s recipes. She passed away over 20 years ago, and I found the recipe book at my parent’s house. It’s very nostalgic and beautiful. I love that about cooking; it can be passed along generations. For mains, my chicken gratin and my beef tartare are pretty delicious.
Favourite ingredient/flavour to work with?
A few things – rhubarb, Jerusalem artichokes, tomatoes and basil. Jerusalem artichokes are like a root or a potato. They have the same quality as pumpkin – savoury and sweet.
Favourite type of cuisine?
Probably Middle Eastern. My sister and I have cooked plenty of it over time. Lamb and prune tagine is incredible. I also like cooking Indian and Thai.
Any recipes for bmag readers?
Always cook bread at home! My homemade bread recipe is so easy. Almost easier than going to the shops, and I live in the city!