Visit to MasterChef man­sion

Life & Style Weekend - - TREND - WITH Seanna Cronin

MAK­ING it on to a real­ity show like MasterChef is a dream come true for many con­tes­tants. But it also means months away from fam­ily and friends while liv­ing in one big share house with a group of strangers who, over time, be­come mates.

On a leafy, well-to-do street in Mel­bourne’s east, the MasterChef house looks like any other.

It’s big, of course, to ac­com­mo­date 24 con­tes­tants plus a live-in pro­ducer and more peo­ple who come and go, but oth­er­wise there are no ex­ter­nal clues for passers-by.

The mini-man­sion is more than just a place to sleep. It must pro­vide the cooks with en­ter­tain­ment dur­ing their down­time at the week­ends.

The six-car garage houses a gym, ping-pong ta­ble, ad­ja­cent cinema room and six fridges to store the in­cred­i­ble amount of food de­liv­ered each week.

There’s only one kitchen, although it has two ovens, so the con­tes­tants have a cook­ing ros­ter sched­uled in two-hour shifts so ev­ery­one gets time to prac­tise.

Vis­it­ing on Aus­tralia Day, a day off for the con­tes­tants, they are happy to have some­one new to talk to.

They’ve made us sausage rolls and lam­ing­tons with mango and rasp­berry purees, and of course the food is de­li­cious and way bet­ter than what I make at home.

This year there was a spe­cial re­quest for a fish tank and we are proudly in­tro­duced to Yuzu, Par­fait and Crumb – all named after words ‘banned’ from the MasterChef kitchen. The con­tes­tants de­scribe liv­ing here as a ‘time warp’.

The nor­mal pace of work and fam­ily life is re­placed with long days of film­ing – most start at 4.30am – and lots of study and prac­tice.

There are cook­books ev­ery­where, some supplied and some brought in by the res­i­dents. Ta­mara alone hauled 30kg of cook­books with her from Western Aus­tralia.

The meals are com­mu­nal, eaten ei­ther at the big 24-seater din­ing ta­ble or out­side in the court­yard if the fickle Mel­bourne weather co-op­er­ates.

It’s a re­stric­tive en­vi­ron­ment in some ways – the con­tes­tants can’t just leave when­ever they want, although they do go out for din­ner or lunch at week­ends.

It’s no Big Brother but it’s easy to imagine go­ing stir crazy after a few months.

They’re spoiled, at least, with a wealth of fresh pro­duce and a fully-stocked pantry. This is school camp for food­ies.

PHOTO: SEANNA CRONIN

The MasterChef con­tes­tants take their ta­ble ten­nis very se­ri­ously.

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