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A chat with MasterChef Australia star Hayden Quinn

Hayden Quinn shares some of his MasterChef experiences and memories.

02 Sep 2013
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He may not have won the contest but it is MasterChef Australia Season 3 participant, Hayden Quinn, who is making the biggest splash in the food world.

When he was voted out of the hit series earlier this year, Hayden received huge support from South African fans and made the decision then and there that he had to visit this country.

The sexy surfer and chef, who also holds a degree in marine biology, is now one of Australia’s favourite new personalities, and he will be one of the hottest attractions at the new look Good Food & Wine Show which takes place this September in Johannesburg.

Crowned ‘Cleo Bachelor of the Year’ in 2012, he also has a new book and TV show coming out soon and a project he’d like to do in South Africa is in the pipe line.

He answered some questions put to him prior to his visit:

Tell us who inspired you to get into the kitchen?

I grew up in the kitchen with my mum. She was a home economist (she has since changed careers but is still better than me in the kitchen).

I loved food, loved eating, and I was always very active so having good food was a massive driver for me to learn how to cook.

From learning from mum in the kitchen at home to watching famous chefs like Jamie Oliver and Rick Stein on television I was always interested in food and keen to try as many foods and dishes as possible.

How would you describe your style of cooking?

Relaxed, fun, fresh, vibrant and sharing food that tells a story.

How has competing in MasterChef Australia changed your life?

A lot! It has opened so many doors for me and enabled me to do something that I love very much, from food (cook books, cooking shows), to travel (to places like South Africa for the GFWS), to sport (Ironman commentator).

What is your stand-out moment from the series?

Oh, that’s a tricky question!! The whole experience was pretty amazing but it was hard work! I was in the house for six months so it was a long time.

But I think the stand out moment for me was probably in my first cook off in the MasterChef Kitchen where I won the challenge and then went on to gain the immunity pin that really set me up for the series.

And going to New York was incredible; I love that city and have spent plenty of time there in the past.

Are there any particularly memorable moments from the series that weren't captured on camera?

I think some of the times when we were just at the MasterChef house were special.

Times we could just spend together and hang out and chat. I also enjoyed sneaking out the front garage and riding my skateboard around, reminded me of surfing.

I guess the little things kept it interesting.

Throughout the competition you had some tough challenges – what was your worst and favourite challenge, and why?

Worst would have had to have been the challenge in the Qantas First Class Kitchen. It was my first and only opportunity to captain a team and things did not go too well.

I really love being a part of teams and feel I am a pretty good leader but this challenge was terrible! And yet another elimination for me! (I was in 10 out of 11 eliminations I think!)

The best challenge for me was on Matt Moran’s farm; real cooking, cooking over open fire, in the country, I guess similar to your braai cooking.

It reminded me of camping and surf trips with mates where you cooked over hot coals.

What have you done since leaving the show – we believe that a TV show/book are in the pipeline, is this correct and can you tell us about them?

I have been a busy boy! Lots of amazing food, travels and sport focused things.

I love being able to share with people how important a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

I travelled last year to India and did a dinner for 200 Indian fans with Dani Venn at the Four Seasons Mumbai, it was an incredible experience.

I also went to NY and did a little filming around part of the city I love. All the while I was working on my cook book.

I am also a part of a new wine label which is about to launch in Australia called Kooks which is all about accessible, tasty wine which gives back to the community.

Were you surprised how many people around the world followed the show?

Sure was! It is crazy to see the support from all over the world.

I guess that is due to the accessibility of social media etc. but for example when I was eliminated from the show in South Africa, the tweets and Facebook posts that I received were incredible.

Thanks guys!

It’s great to know that people have enjoyed the food we cooked and that our Australian character can touch people all over the world.

You are a qualified marine biologist – do you see yourself using this degree in the future?

I use my degree every day. I think going to university is one of those things that has really set me up for life.

I may not analyse the effects of CO2 on ocean acidification any more but I still have a huge passion for the protection of our oceans and have the degree under my belt has helped me a lot in understanding the importance of sustainable seafood and making sustainable seafood choices.

I am also in talks with a South African organisation around sustainable seafood which is looking like a very exciting project so I can’t wait to talk more about that once we have it all locked in.

What has happened to the surfing and life-guarding?

What do you mean? They are very much still there, sounds like they have died a sad death!

I still surf frequently (although I am a lot busier these days) and I also help out on the beach Lifeguarding where and when I can and when the boys need me.

I had worked for the lifeguard service for seven years before MasterChef so it’s not something I could leave easily. I was also the beach services co-ordinator so not just working on the beach.

Where do your food dreams still have to take you?

I have a lot of big dreams and plans for the future.

I am currently working on a very big project which is going to take my passions and my loves to the world.

For me it is not only about food, food is just a part of my story, for me it is much bigger, it is about people, stories, health and wellness and of course about discovering more about our world.

Watch this space!

What's the best culinary advice you've ever received?

There are a couple;
1. Cook what you love to cook.
2. Don’t worry so much about measuring (unless you are doing some crazy dessert)
3. Have a sharp knife!

Are you looking forward to your first visit to South Africa?

I cannot wait! I am so pumped, one of the things I love about what I do, and what I have done all my life is travel.

And for me South Africa is one of those places I have always dreamed about visiting, for the surf (think Endless Summer) for the wildlife, and of course the people and the food.

I love immersing myself in a country, a culture and sharing with others what I love, so I cannot wait to see what SA is all about.

What can visitors to the Johannesburg Good Food & Wine Show expect from you?

They can expect a lot of fun, some good stories and a heap of interaction with me.

One thing I love about food shows is the ability to be face to face with people who love your food.

Lots of questions, lots of chatting with the crowed and of course some fresh, tasty and simple recipes which I love to cook at home in Australia and there might even be one or two from my new book Dish It Up which is going to be available in December this year.

The Johannesburg Good Food & Wine Show takes place this September.

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