What a difference 12 weeks make. Over the course of MasterChef 2012, 24-year-old Andy Allen went from a passionate cook with some promising raw skills to a culinary force to be reckoned with. The Maitland sparky may have seemed like an outside bet at the beginning of the competition, but by the time he raised his arms aloft in victory it was clear to all that MasterChef has found the right champion.
Grounded to the last, Andy put on a finale display that was as notable for his seeming lack of nerves as it was for his superb cooking. “I wasn’t really focussing on my confidence levels at all going into the finale; I never had throughout the competition,” Andy shares. “My main focus was to have fun, relax and cook the food I enjoy cooking.”
Rarely did Andy seem more in his element than during the National Dish Challenge, creating a Modern Seafood Basket so spectacularly good it inspired Gary to give it a perfect 10/10. Concerned as he was with his dish’s presentation, it wasn’t a moment Andy remotely expected.
“I guess I set the bar pretty high in the entree round with my plating. I just felt after looking at my first course plating compared to my main, there was a bit of a difference in attention to detail, and I was worried the judges would take that into consideration. I’m lucky it tasted how it did. Let’s just say I never thought I’d see the day where Gary Mehigan would give me a 10/10 for one of my dishes. It just shows how far I’ve come.”
Andy’s composure was even more remarkable during the final round, given how few of the processes inherent in Christine Manfield’s Gaytime Goes Nuts dish he’d ever attempted before. The secret behind his success? “My secret was pretty simple: read the recipe!” says Andy. “I think it actually helped me that I had no experience at all in the dessert world. This meant that I just went through the recipe thoroughly, step by step, but as quickly as possible.”
Assessing his progress over the course of MasterChef 2012, Andy cites Italy Week as the turning point. “I don’t know how and I don’t know why, but I felt like I knew myself as a cook after the trip and was able to come up with a clear idea and vision for a dish before I started to cook.”
As he goes on to explain, his snowballing success in challenges had much to do with relentless study, both on and off camera. “I read a lot, which is pretty strange for me as I hated to study during my school years. The kitchen was always packed, so I would park myself in front of the TV, book in hand of course, and read,” he explains. “I also took it upon myself to be very observant at all times, whether it be in a MasterClass or just around the house; I was always listening and taking in any information.”
Grateful for the overwhelming support he’s received throughout his journey, there’s one person in particular whose backing Andy says was instrumental. “From bouncing ideas off each other, to making life easier and more enjoyable in the house, Ben and I couldn’t have done it without the support of each other,” Andy explains “I never thought going into the competition I would have found a best mate. I can’t wait to show Australia what Ben and I do next.”
As for what project we see Bandy tackle first, one thing’s for sure: our MasterChef champion certainly has plenty of options on his plate. “With one of the prizes being a cookbook deal, I have to invest a lot of time into that in the next few months. A few pop up restaurants with Ben and the rest of the gang are on the cards, as well as an overseas research trip to Mexico and hopefully Europe with Ben also.
“I’m still trying to find my craft and the direction I want to go with food which is really exciting. I guess I’m lucky I’m only 24 and that anything is possible.”