A once in a lifetime opportunity – Masterchef Audition Round 1

Published October 29, 2010 by maryanntsai

Anyways, yup – you’ve read it correctly it’s Masterchef Audition Round 1. As most of you guys know I’m really into Masterchef and have ever been addicted to the show since it first started. I would follow this show without fail and wishing that I was one of the contestants there competing. That was Masterchef series 1. By the time it was Masterchef series 2, same thing happened – I was still glued to the show but before then I actually thought about applying for the audition but talked my way out of it as I had a few friend’s wedding happening that year and have made some commitments and it just wasn’t the right time for me to go on the audition. That was Masterchef series 2. After watching the series 2 and was over joyed that Adam has won the Masterchef title and thought to myself maybe there’s a chance for me after all. This will be a very long post – be warned…

So one night, I was reminded by my colleague that Masterchef audition is now open for application and that I should really apply. I didn’t think too much about it but was curious to find out what sort of questions they ask online. When I started applying “for fun” – there were so many questions, probably around 80 hehehe maybe I was exaggerating but it just seems like I’m never going to finish the application. At the end of the application you were asked to submit a photo of yourself, I thought out of “fun” I would put a picture of me with a plate that had tomato sauce smiley face on it. I didn’t think of it too much and totally forgot that I have applied for Masterchef some months ago.

One day at the office I received a phone call on my mobile with a (02) – that’s a Sydney number, I don’t know who will be calling me from Sydney and it went somewhere along the lines of “Hi, this is Kirsty from Masterchef congratulations you have been shortlisted from thousands of applications to come for an audition” I was thinking at that time is this a joke?? But it isn’t cos after the phone call I received an email outlining details of Masterchef series 3 audition guidelines for round 1 and if you are successful there will be a round 2 Judging day cook off. So I was over the moon, I couldn’t believe that I was selected amongst thousands of applications. If I had my way I would have jumped up and down and screamed out loud “hooray” but I had to keep my calm. I was told that my audition day will be 2 days after I have returned from my holidays. What a perfect timing that it didn’t happen during my holiday trip.

So having been on diets lately I haven’t been cooking much and I desperately need to decide what I need to cook for the round 1 audition day. The guideline said you can bring one plated up dish and please remember there’s no heating or refrigeration facility. I was shocked, what? Most of my dishes are hot temperature dishes – the only thing I could think of that will work would be desserts or salads or some sort of cold dishes. So thinking hard I couldn’t decide what to cook and which cuisine to cook. I started thinking about heading towards Thai cuisine – a nice thai seafood salad served with fish cakes but I was told that salads are boring!! So I scrapped that idea and decided maybe I should stick to my root – Taiwanese Cuisine. So I did a few mock up of taiwanese dishes – dumplings, deep fried chicken, spring onion pancakes, taiwanese style spring rolls and in the end they all didn’t taste too good when they’re cold. So it’s back to drawing board again.

After some time of digging my brains I decided to cook Taiwanese beef noodle soup served with Taiwanese style spring rolls and pickled vegies. It’s definitely a risky dish as it’s not something that people have commonly tasted. Thankfully, my sister in law lend me all the plates, bowls, chopsticks, chiller bags, containers and even a thermal pot to try keep my Taiwanese beef noodle soup warm. So after returning back from my Singapore/Malaysia trip I was exhausted but had to grab some ingredients to cook on Tuesday. I stupidly went to work on Monday as well so by the time I got home I was exhausted haven’t quite recovered full from the tummy bug I had in Singapore. Anyways, so I started cooking my dish on Monday night and the cooking lasted for few hours and then by about 10:30pm I’ve packed everything and thought I’ll cook the noodles and vegies first thing Tuesday morning so I had to get up around 6.30am as my audition time was 8am!! So early…but I’m glad at least I get it out of the way and didn’t have to suffer the torture of waiting till afternoon.

I have no idea where this place is – William Angus Institute (Tafe) so I caught the tram and grabbed the direction from Pandabear and then when I hopped on the tram I was carting 2 chiller bags along with a thermal pot. People were staring at me wondering why this crazy girl carting so much stuff early in the morning. Anyways, I politely asked a gentleman whether he knew where William Angus Institute was and he said sorry I’m not sure. Thankfully, a nice young lady said to me I’m heading towards that Tafe I can take you there. Thank God! So I followed this student to the Tafe and was confused where Is should be going as there weren’t many signage around. So I saw a canteen chef sitting at the table so I went and ask her “excuse me do you know where Masterchef Audition is held?” she pointed me to the right direction and said “by the way good luck!” and I replied “Thanks! I’ll need it…”

So finally I have arrived at the audition place, expecting hundreds of people to queue up for the audition but I was one of the first to arrive there and they were still setting up tables and getting ready for the audition. I registered myself and was asked to sit near the sofa area and wait till they are ready – I’m actually early! So a guy came and sorry I couldn’t remember his name but he was a fitness dude and have made a dessert for the audition so I had a brief chat with him. We were then called off to complete some forms. We sat down on the table and few other contestant for the 8am audition started to rock up. To be honest the forms were really long – one page of questions that were quite similar from the questions we had online. Two questions which I remembered was if you were a food what would you be and why. Also tell us a secret or something that had happen to you that will make us laugh or be shocked about. For the food – it’s definitely sushi – cos it’s tasty, healthy, you can make all different sorts of wonderful sushi – adaptable and flexible and why wouldn’t anyone like sushi? As for the secret, I shall reveal later on….

So we got told to move into the audition room there was about 8 of us and we were given some time to plate up our food. I feel ridiculous carrying 2 chiller bags and a thermal pot and my dish took a little longer to plate up as I had to wrap the spring roll and separate all the ingredients on my plate so I can show them what was wrapped inside the spring roll. Inside the audition room we had 2 female and 1 male. I think the 2 female one was the initial person (agency) who rang me – Kirsty and the other one I can’t remember and the male which was a chef/producer was there. So we were each given 3 minutes to talk about our dish and the 3 people could just ask us any questions. I was really nervous after observing all the other contestant’s food which range from – delicious sashimi lightly seared with beetroot and spring onion shavings, 2 desserts – one was a caramel chocolate ganache tart and a mars bar cake (from Masterchef recipe), poached quail with quail eggs, seafood pasta and goats cheese wrapped with olive leaves. Seriously, I felt like my dish was out of place compared to the rest of the other contestants..

When it came to my turn to discuss about my dish I told them it’s Taiwanese dish that I’m presenting and I said to them I wanted to stick to my root so I’ve made one of most famous dish in Taiwan – the beef noodle soup. The chef/producer asked me how did I pickled my vegies and the way I cooked my beef noodle soup so I had to go through the steps of me making them from scratch. They also asked me why did I want to join Masterchef – cos hopefully I can own my own restaurant one day. So after everyone has their turns in talking about their dish it was tasting them. We were paired up and we get to taste our partner’s food and make comments. They warned us they didn’t want to hear comments such as “This is really nice” we were suppose to be cooks that are able to critic food. So I got paired up with a girl named Elisa (I think) and she had the quail and quail eggs – I thought the quail was nicely done, tender and the quail eggs reminded me of a taiwanese tea egg recipe. So I asked her what cuisine is this and she said it’s a fusion of modern Asian. No wonder I could taste the star anise and asian flavours. She tasted my dish and said she liked my beef noodle soup but the spring roll was a little bland. Then we were allowed to taste everyone’s food while the 3 producers went into their room and will come back and let us know whether we have progressed to the next round.

So after a few minutes, we started packing all our dishes away and the male chef/producer came back and told us we all got through. We were all very glad and he gave some feedback on our dishes. He said he liked my pickled vegies but thought the spring roll was only ok as it was something that I put a whole lot of ingredients together and wrap them up. (How bizarre, I actually spent the most time preparing the ingredients for the spring roll – cooking each individual ingredients carefully). He didn’t make any comment about my beef noodle soup. So after we were escorted to the waiting area for interview, I went back to see him and asked what he thought of my beef noodle soup. He said yes it’s quite nice except the way you plate up sort of made it look plain/home made rather than restaurant modern style.

So we were all waiting and sitting down in the sofa area discussing how excited we are to have progressed to the next stage we were then told to go into the interview room together and inside were 3 other new producers along with a TV camera standing there shooting. We were told by the producers how tough Masterchef will be. We’ll be told when to go to toilet, when to eat, when to get dressed, when to film and when to have our free time. It literally sounded like an army boot camp. It will be long hour days of shooting, our spare time will be spent writing recipes and things, we’ll be living with other contestants in a confined space and sometimes we will wear same clothes for the consecutive days for shooting purpose and will have limited or no internet/mobile phone contacts with the world. It was pretty daunting, after coming out of that room I was beginning to doubt whether I have signed myself up for Masterchef or Masterchef Army Camp from Hell. So I walked out speaking out loud “I don’t know whether I can do this” a dude past by and said “of course you can, YOU CAN DO IT!!”

So we were individually interviewed and when it was my turn for interview, when you walk in you had to write your name on the little white board carry it infront of you while they shoot you from the camera and the entire interview was video taped. So one of the female producer asked me so what dish did you make? I said Taiwanese dish. She’s like what’s Taiwanese dish and why did you make Taiwanese dish? I had to explain cos it’s my root and eventually I would like to own my own restaurant serving Taiwanese food. She then asked me how old I was – I replied “29” and they all laughed and said “we thought you were 19, you’ve done pretty well in keeping your youthful looking”. Then she read through my application and said “I know you’ve mentioned that you don’t want to mention about your dad – could you please briefly mention it?” I was like, look I didn’t want to be like the past contestants carrying sob drama stories about how they want to cook because either their mum or dad have passed away. I wanted to be judged purely on my passion for food and cooking so I briefly answered it. They then ask me what will I cook if I was to get through to round 2 for the judges. I said I’ll stick to Taiwanese dishes probably some dumplings and pork belly. She replied “well, cooking Taiwanese food might be an advantage for you as it’s never been done on Masterchef show before but it could also be a disadvantage for you if the judges don’t like Taiwanese food”. Well, it’s the risk that I’m willing to take. She continued reading through my application and said you’ve mentioned in your application that one of your goals in life is to please God and do His will. Can you explain to us what do you mean by that? *She specifically clarified that question and said cos she’s not a religious person, she wants to know more about it* I wasn’t prepared for that question and within split second I thought to myself, this is the opportunity for me to share my faith with the 3 producers so I told them my religion is Christianity – Presbyterian and I regularly attended church every Sunday and I pray to God and try to read God’s word every day. Then the producer said “are you aware that if you were successful in getting into Masterchef you won’t be able to attend church for at least 7 months?” I think they must have saw my shocked facial expression then another producer quickly replied “well, if you have spare time you can choose to attend church if you want to..but it will be limited and we just don’t want you to have a break down if you cant go to church”. I was starting to think whether this was a good idea but I replied I should be ok, provided I can pray and read my bible. One last question from the 3rd male producer who haven’t actually said anything during the whole time. On your application your secret was that “you once told a bully who was bullying your little sister that you would rip his head off if he doesn’t stop his bullying” is that true? I was like yeah, but that was back in primary school. I don’t do that anymore. They all had a little laugh..phew at least they didn’t think I was a violent person…or did they??

After the interview we had to fill in more forms, police clearance forms and psychiatric test questionnaires. I guess they have to make sure if any of us get in none of us would be criminals or mentally ill people just for our safety measures. We were told that at night we would get a phone call either way to let us know whether we got through to the next round of audition. I was like “Oh what we have to wait till night time, that’s a long time” I wanted to know the result right now. I’m really glad I had the opportunity to share my Christian faith with the judges but I also thought it might be something that would have costed my “Masterchef dream” but I wasn’t going to deny my faith for Masterchef as God is too important to me. What ever happens, I’m just glad I’ve gotten this far.

So at night, waiting for a call by about 7pm I still haven’t received a phone call and thought to myself well, I probably didn’t get in. By about 7 something I received a phone call and it’s a girl (can’t remember her name) from Masterchef “Is this Maryann? Hi, congratulations you have been short listed to next round of judging day where you get to cook for George and Gary in a commercial kitchen for an hour” I was so excited!! Yay that’s so cool, had to compose myself as it was really unexpected and I can’t believe I have made it to the next round :-)

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