Japan visit transforms rivals
From trying charcoal pig’s intestines to cooking in the foothills of Mt Fuji and flogging street food in a Shinjuku alleyway, Tamara Graffen’s experience in Japan with her MasterChef comrades was a feast for the senses.
After reaching the culinary competition’s top nine, the Broome cook was over the moon when it was announced they would be heading to Japan for a week of gastronomic experiences.
Graffen had visited the country twice already so she was already a connoisseur of Japanese cuisine but she said the trip gave her fresh inspiration for her dishes.
“Going to Japan, where there is such a respect for produce and everything is about precision, it definitely gives you a different mindset when you’re cooking,” she said.
“The judges said that ‘chefs who have spent time in Japan have come back with this different philosophy about food’, so we felt very inspired.”
During the sojourn, the contestants explored Tokyo and ventured into the countryside while engaging in new food challenges and eating ramen and matcha ice-cream every day.
But the real highlight for Graffen was spending quality time with her eight opponents, with whom she has grown close while living in the MasterChef house.
“I think it was the first time in the competition where we really got to let our hair down a bit,” she said.
“Being with a bunch of foodies and being adventurous was so fun.
“We had some pig’s intestine grilled over charcoal, which was interesting but anything slathered in a yakitori sauce is delicious.
“I think the language barrier helped because we didn’t always know what we were eating.”
Graffen hoped her knowledge of Japan would be an advantage and added the time abroad made her rethink her game plan.
“Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the judges just want delicious food,” she said.
“You can be creative and inventive but, at the end of the day, it needs to be a dish that people just want to dive back into.”
MasterChef contestants Arum Nixon, Eloise Praino, Ben Ungermann, Diana Chan, Callan Smith, Karlie Verkerk, Tamara Graffen, Eliza Wilson and Sarah Tiong in Japan.