From steering a Bobcat loader to winning MasterChef Australia Season 6, Brent Owens’ journey has been awe-inspiring. The young Australian chef, who boasts equally of good looks, great culinary skills and a witty sense of humour, was recently on his maiden trip to India, promoting the seventh season of the reality cooking show.
I got a chance to spend a fun evening with Brent, after winning a Twitter contest hosted by Grand Hyatt Mumbai (GHM) & Food Bloggers Association of India (FBAI). After I got to know about this win, I immediately announced it on all my social media channels, inviting friends, followers and readers/subscribers to post questions for Brent. Questions that they’ll like to ask Brent!
We talked a bit about what life is like behind the scenes at MasterChef, what he would do to reinvent a classic Indian dish, about his new book and also what happened to the top knot! Here’s the excerpt from the catch-up:
Firstly, what happened to that man bun, Brent?
The man bun got the snip straight after MasterChef finished. I had to tie it up on the show for hygiene reasons and I also change my hair style quite frequently so it was never going to last.
What would be one highlight from your India visit?
Along with meeting a group of amazing people, I loved trying all the street food India has to offer. I had never heard of most things I tried which was great for me and I am taking that back to Australia with me to experiment and create some interesting re-inventions.
Have you tried any Mumbai street-snack or any Indian dish since you’ve come to India? What’s has been your favorite?
I tried everything I could. I had sev puri, vada pao, pani puri, pao bhaji and a few others. They were all amazing, but I have to say that pani puri with the sweet yoghurt over the top was my favourite. I could eat that for breakfast, lunch and tea.
One dish that you’d like to take home with you and reinvent?
After eating dosa and learning how to make it, I have a few ideas to create a dessert based around it and masala tea. It could go horribly wrong but we will see. I also think I could re-invent most of the street food I tried, if I only knew how to make it all.
Watched any Bollywood movie lately? Who’s your favorite actor/actress?
Never watched a Bollywood movie so can’t say I have a favorite but when I get a few hours spare, I’ll have a look so that when I come back I’ll have an answer for you.
What’s your comfort food?
Depends a lot on my mood. During the cold winter months, I love having a range of comfort foods. Stews, spicy dal, soups, curries, but to top the list as my winter warmer of choice would have to be a decedent chocolate fondant.
What’s the dish you’d make to impress your date?
I would make a full degustation. Chocolate would most definitely be on the menu. That’s always a winner. I think making a dish look incredibly technical and fancy would get me some brownie points and having some elegant French food throughout would give that romantic feel. Champagne oysters as a starter, lobster for a main.
What would that one dish be that your girlfriend Madison cooks really well?
Maddy loves to cook food that is simple and healthy. She does make great healthy pancakes, layered with fruits and maple syrup so I can eat them guilt free.
We read about your girlfriend Madison forcing you to audition for MasterChef. Tell us more about this?
I had been saying for years that I would love to do this, love to do that, love to be on MasterChef, and she got sick of me saying it and never turning those dreams into actions, so she told me to just give it a go and see what happens. She forced me to send that application in because I was quite nervous and not taking it very serious. Without her push, I don’t think I would have ever applied.
What’s one strategy that you used during MasterChef worked really well?
Learn from everybody else. All the other contestants had strengths and I knew that so I pulled as much knowledge in from their strengths to help improve my weaknesses and also trying to be relaxed. I tried to have a bit of down time to balance it all out otherwise its just work, work, work and more work.
What would one quality of each of the MasterChef judges you really like be?
Matt- Food genius
George- Comedian and a lot of fun
Gary- Very personable and easy to talk to
How has life changed post MasterChef?
Life has completely different. I am cooking for a living, helping people learn, inspiring people to do what they love and enjoying every single minute of it. Life is great.
One traditional dish that you have reinvented and are really proud of would be?
I did a Thai dish on the show, which saw your traditional red Thai curry flavors in a completely different light. The coconut was transformed into a noodle like Panna Cotta, the curry paste into a vinaigrette and each element cooked in a different way to create an elegant modern plate of food.
Tell us more about you first book ‘Dig In’.
Dig In is all about food that I love to eat, food I love to cook, re-invented classics that I grew up with and some MasterChef favorites. I have created all the recipes so that it is very simple and achievable for the up most beginner cook at home and then some recipes for those who are a little more adventurous. It’s a great book that I am really proud of.
Dig In was released immediately after MasterChef. When did you decide to start writing a book? How did you collate all the recipes?
I started writing DIGIN as soon as MasterChef finished. It was tough and the deadlines were short but I focused all of my energy on it so that I could put out the best book i could possibly do. I started by writing down all the food i love to eat, whether that be breakfast, lunch, tea or even snacks, I then tried to put a little twist on some of them so it has the Brent touch. Then came the recipe writing and food testing. It was a lot of fun and I look forward to writing my next one.
Where and why would you settle down other than Australia?
I love Australia. Its home and all of my family are here so I don’t know if I could live abroad but certainly spending extended periods around the world would be amazing. I love the USA and look forward to going back. Very interested in heading over to Spain to check out the food and of course come back to India and experience more of the food that I have heard so much about, especially the seafood and southern areas.
Do you see any interesting food trend coming our way?
I have heard that India’s food trends are catching up with the worlds so that’s very exciting. I hope that like Melbourne, where I am from, India gets to have the availability of every international cuisine at your doorstep. We have hundreds of cafes, restaurants, food trucks and market stalls that have everything the world has to offer which is amazing so fingers crossed it can happen in India.