When I was younger I had foodie aspirations and lots of them. I loved to cook, I loved to cook before it was cool to love to cook. I used to spend what little money I had on recipe books, gourmet ingredients and eating out. I wrote several business plans for several foodie enterprises but never quite found the right formula to convince me to take the plunge. I had my own successful stall at a farmers market making delicious organic soups, think Porcini Mushroom and Truffle Oil. I was always trying to throw elaborate dinner parties to my motley crew of mates who would rather be down the pub.
When I was 24 a little show started in England called Masterchef, it was a runaway success and developed a huge cult following. The format in England was very different to the Australian version, it’s a lot more about the cooking and the contestants food knowledge rather than trying to build television personalities. Each episode I think had eight new contestants and after 4 challenges you were left with one winner who goes onto the next stage. I loved the show and by the time the second series were auditioning for contestants I had convinced myself to have a go.
I painstakingly filled out the novel sized application form, complete with “who is your food hero?” and “what is your signature dish?” and sent it off without too much hope of ever hearing anything in reply. A few weeks later I was at work and a young lady informed me that they loved my application and would I be available for a phone interview. I made my way to a toilet cubicle, a truly awful place to discuss food, locked myself in and began to wax lyrical about all things edible. I was in there for a good 30 minutes and I must confess it was a little awkward sitting back down at my desk.
A week later I got the same call and made my way back to the toilet cubicle. This time it was a chap who drilled me on whether I could commit time to the show, how my girlfriend would feel about me being away, whether I was financially in a position to do so, etc. This was another substantial call which left my colleagues wondering if I needed more fibre in my diet. I got a letter through the post advising me that I was successfully through to the final stage of the audition process. One more test and I could have my mug on telly. This time I had to cook something at home and bring it along for a tasting panel.
I spent the next few days scouring recipe books for inspiration for a dish that (a) was delicious (b) was delicious cold (c) I was capable of making. After trying a few recipes out I settled on a chocolate fondant, a crumbly case with dark, rich, chocolate oozing out once attacked with cutlery – surely a safe bet? I made it a few times, Anna being the very indulged and willing guinea pig and made sure it still oozed and tasted the part after the hour I would be travelling to the studios.
I arrived and gently carried my precious cargo following the “Masterchef Auditions” signs before taking my place in line with ‘the others’. This had the nerve inducing feel of a job interview. I was called in and sat at a desk in front of 3 young women, suddenly my decision to go for a chocolate overload felt like it was going to pay off. “What have you made for us today Matthew?” They set about the fondant with forks and spoons and before long I felt like I was playing Billy Crystal in the When Harry Met Sally’s fake orgasm scene x 3! There were unrestrained orgasmic noises of pleasure coming from each one of the judges, it felt a little awkward to be honest.
When they had composed themselves they told me that I had passed with flying colours and the final hurdle would be an audition in front of a television camera. Gulp! Clammy hands, sweaty forehead, a furiously pumping heart and a quivery voice are not the tools for this particular trade. I was called into a room, the young women who had put me so at ease were replaced by a very formal looking older man and the biggest camera I have ever seen in my life was pointed at my face. I had a sinking feeling that the dream was about to turn into a nightmare and it did. I turned into a stuttering rabbit in the headlights and kissed goodbye to my Masterchef dream.
Sure enough I fell at the last hurdle. So there you have my little moment with Masterchef, “little” being the operative word. Despite the bitter ending it’s pleasing that as a young man I stepped outside of my comfort zone to chase my dreams; it’s something I still do today and is one of the most important life lessons I hope to pass on to Max……along with cooking of course.
Are you a fan of getting out of your comfort zone? What life lessons do you hope to pass on to your children?