MATT PRE­STON

re­flects on his time at MasterChef.

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WOW, what a ride! Or should that be, in re­al­ity TV speak, “what a jour­ney”? I’ve been in­cred­i­bly lucky to spend 11 years work­ing on a show I love so much and there’s so much to be thank­ful for. So, as part of my lin­ger­ing good­bye, let me pen my per­sonal love let­ter to MasterChef.

THE CON­TES­TANTS

The pri­mary rea­son MasterChef has been a suc­cess is thanks to the in­cred­i­ble am­a­teur cooks who put their lives on hold to “chase their dreams”. (An­other re­al­ity TV cliché.) They’ve come from all back­grounds, re­flect­ing so many facets of this great coun­try’s so­ci­ety, and they’ve brought their dishes and sto­ries, too.

I don’t want to sin­gle any out – all 260 of them played their part; all in­spired me; many are friends for life.

And as they’ve gone on to achieve amaz­ing things through their own per­sis­tence and tal­ent, I’ve felt like an un­der-10s footy coach watch­ing his for­mer charges run out in a grand fi­nal. I know my im­pact was neg­li­gi­ble, but I’m so proud of their achieve­ments whether I’m sit­ting at the restau­rant or café they’d dreamt of open­ing, read­ing some­thing in­ci­sive and witty they’ve writ­ten, mak­ing one of their recipes or watch­ing them on their own show.

THE PINCH-MY­SELF MO­MENTS

MasterChef was full of those times when you find your­self in a place you never ex­pected to be – sit­ting next to the Dalai Lama, ner­vously wait­ing to chat to Prince Charles, set­ting a team chal­lenge on the podium of the Gen­eral Assem­bly of the UN as the first TV show ever to be al­lowed to film there.Then there are the in­deli­ble mem­o­ries of film­ing in the shadow of Notre Dame and Mount Fuji, or with the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hong Kong sky­line as a back­drop. None of th­ese, how­ever, were as evoca­tive as the places we went in Aus­tralia. It might seem hokey, but shoot­ing at the si­los in Brim, at the Need for Feed chal­lenge in Briago­long, on a beef farm in York, at the Noosa surf club, on Sydney Har­bour or in Kather­ine Gorge left deep im­pres­sions on me and a great sense of pride that th­ese im­ages would be seen around the world by about 19 mil­lion peo­ple – ex­port­ing a true pic­ture of the Aus­tralia I love and the peo­ple who make it so spe­cial.This has been one of the things I’m the most proud to have been part of. Got to stop – some­thing in my eye.

THE SORRY MO­MENTS

I’m sorry about the ques­tion­able words we’ve pop­u­larised like ‘hero­ing’ or ‘plat­ing’. I’m sorry I dropped that plate – it didn’t end up the way I wanted. I’m sorry for the end­less pa­rade of beau­ti­ful but faintly ridicu­lous clothes I’ve worn (none as bad as the old pin­stripe jacket in the first episode) and I’m sorry for any time I was ar­gu­men­ta­tive, an­noy­ingly stupid or for any­thing else I might have said or done over the years. I know I can be a lit­tle vex­ing.

THE FUNNY MO­MENTS

Many laughs kept up the spir­its on those 17-hour days, but Nigella sharply tick­ing off Ge­orge for lick­ing his knife and the con­stant jokes about Gary’s old-man shoes or his polar bear im­pres­sions would be among my per­sonal favourites.

THE FOOD

Flick­ing back through the happy snaps of the food we ate, it’s amaz­ing not only that I’m not fat­ter, but how many trends were set. Good things like salted caramel and the drive to­wards more plant-based cui­sine, and bad. I’m look­ing at you kale (or, worse, kale dust) and de­con­struc­tion.

THE GUESTS

Part of the joy was get­ting to spend time with (I hes­i­tate to call it work­ing – it never felt like that) some of my he­roes. I have a spe­cial place in my heart for Mag­gie, Nigella, Yo­tam, He­ston, Mas­simo Bot­tura, Rick Stein, René Redzepi and my late great friend An­to­nio Car­luc­cio. Cur­tis, Shan­non, Kylie Kwong and Matt Mo­ran were fam­ily.We were blessed to have so many of Aus­tralia’s best chefs join­ing us. Oh, and then there was that crazy week with Gor­don Ram­say and the sheer plea­sure of work­ing with Jamie Oliver. I’ve pinched my­self so of­ten it should have left per­ma­nent bruis­ing.

THE CREW

We were just the hood or­na­ment on this Rolls-Royce of a show that’s ac­tu­ally built by the crew. It’s an­other cliché to say MasterChef is a fam­ily, but it is. Now I sup­pose we’re the un­cles that moved to Auck­land. I’ll miss them all some­thing rot­ten come Oc­to­ber, though not the eye-wa­ter­ing pluck­ing of nose hairs or the look of de­spair from hair, make-up and wardrobe about how to turn the di­shev­elled 6.30am Matt into some­thing pre­sentable. (Oh, let’s be hon­est – it was sel­dom 6.30am, no mat­ter what the call sheet said. Sorry.) I never had a real chance to say thank you and good­bye to the crew, but I love all you guys. Got some­thing in my eye again.

THE FU­TURE

This is why I’m con­fi­dent that who­ever the new judges – lu­mi­nar­ies or bright new sparks – the show will con­tinue to be a bea­con of sup­port­ive and warm TV where the food is what mat­ters be­cause, sim­ply, it’s this crew that makes it so.

My key­board is to­tally tear-splat­tered now and while I’ve never been a fan of tears on the show, any pain or sad­ness that I feel at this in­evitable end­ing is neg­li­gi­ble when I think of what the show has achieved, what we’ve done, seen and eaten and how I’m just so ex­cited to see what comes next.

And, fi­nally, thank you for watch­ing – with­out you it would have all been pretty point­less. Tasty but point­less.

Head to de­li­cious.com.au to see some of Matt’s favourite MasterChef mo­ments.

REEL TIME

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