ou’d forgive Justine Schofield – and all the other graduates of MasterChef Australia – for fearing a new batch of contestants each and every season.
But it says something about the quietly confident host of Everyday Gourmet, who made her lasting mark on season one of Channel 10’ s cooking juggernaut, that she’s more excited to meet and learn from her would- be rivals than fear them.
“I’m intrigued when I see such an amazing cook on MasterChef,” she says, “I want them to come on my show and teach me how to cook a certain dish.”
Eight years since finishing behind inaugural winner Julie Goodwin and runner- up Poh Ling Yeow, with seven seasons of her own weekday cooking show under her belt, Schofield remains an avid fan of MasterChef, the show that made her a star.
Having just wrapped another 90 episodes of Everyday Gourmet, which demands she research and perfect more than 250 recipes each season, it’s little wonder she’s looking for inspiration everywhere she can get it.
Not that she’s complaining, admitting “I pinch myself every day because I’m so lucky to be doing it.”
“I’m just so grateful people are not sick of me and I’m happy they’re still learning off me and for me, it’s a pleasure to do it,” she says.
This year, she took the show on the road, filming episodes from Japan and North Queensland, and has also released a second cookbook, Simple Every Day [$ 34.99, Pan Macmillan].
“When I came off MasterChef [ in 2009] ... I’ve never told anybody this ... but I always felt I wasn’t good enough to be teaching people how to cook. I’m not the chef who has done the training and has had the restaurant and done the repetitive work; the long hours on a Friday and Saturday and Sunday,” she says.
“Like ‘ I’m not worthy of this amazing role.’ Then, as my director says, ‘ Jus, you’ve got to understand what your show is about ... it is realistic because your food is not intimidating and sometimes people just need a little tip. It’s about not being embarrassed to show people the basics.”
At a time when home delivery has never been easier, Schofield is a cheerleader for the pleasure food and cooking can bring.
“There’s nothing better than going through the process of cooking for someone you love; or putting it in the freezer and knowing you can go home and eat that pea and ham soup on a cold night. You know it’s going to be bloody delicious and the effort is worth it and doesn’t have to be that hard.”
While she admits she’s “unlucky in love” — confirming her recent split from Seven’s Sunday Night reporter Matt Doran — her passion for food only deepens and is about to take her to Europe.
First stop is a cooking class in Paris, then side trips to San Sebastian, Corsica and Sardinia, before leading a tour with fellow food lovers to Morocco in November.
“Food is my real love,” she says.