'What I wish I knew before I went on MasterChef'
FORMER Ballina restaurant manager Billie McKay, who won MasterChef Australia in 2015, has given some advice to current and future contestants.
Ms McKay, who was the former chef at the Point Restaurant and Bar at Ballina's Ramada Hotel, is currently honing her skills at Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck, in the United Kingdom.
In a new interview with delicious magazine, Ms McKay revealed what she wished she has known before going on MasterChef.
"I wish I knew more of the 'famous' chefs that visited while I was in MasterChef… there were a few embarrassing moments where I'd politely smile and applaud, all the while thinking, "Oh gosh, who on earth is that?"," she said.
"Then I'd avoid eye contact with the judges in the hope they'd not ask me anything about the chef in question!
"I also wish I knew how feral my hair was going to look when I watched the series on TV, definitely suffered from a few bad hair days during MasterChef.
"But my hair was put on the back-burner, the only thing I was thinking about was food!
"Aside from that, I am actually so glad that I went into MasterChef with so much to learn about food - if I knew everything I needed to know before I went in, I would never have gained the food knowledge that I came out of the competition with."
However, she said there was nothing she wished she had done differently.
"I am so grateful for the experience, and as cliche as it may sound, I totally grew as a person," she said.
"MasterChef opened doors for me that I didn't even know existed.
"The whole process reaffirmed that food is what I love and it is what I want to do."
She also gave this advice to up and coming contestants:
"Surrender yourself completely to the experience; it really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and the skills, knowledge and confidence you get out of it are just priceless," Ms McKay said.
"Brush your hair (but only if it doesn't take away from your cooking practice and study time), and most importantly, smile and have loads of fun.
"Cook what you want to eat! That's what cooking from the heart is, thats what 'you on a plate' means.
"It really has to be food that you love.
"Take risks: they won't always pay off, but when they do the reward is pretty great.
"Get some sleep. I always made sure I got around 8 hours sleep every night, although it's not always possible with the crazy-early challenges they throw at you.
"But energy and focus are so vital in the challenges you go through."