One half of this year’s enduring bromance affectionately termed ‘Bandy’, Ben Milbourne’s journey to finals week was graced with great food as well as friendships. Unfortunately suffering from a lack of conceptual clarity during the bovine challenge, the judges brought his MasterChef dream to an end.
From the moment Gary arrived at his station questioning the direction of his dish, Ben admits to knowing he was in trouble. “It’s always hard when the boys arrive at your bench for the first time and you have to try to explain your dish – it’s a real make or break moment,” he explains. “I don't think I sold my initial dish, and I think the fact that Gary wasn’t totally in love with it threw me a bit and I never really recovered from there.”
The crestfallen look on Ben’s face after the challenge clock had ticked its last tock made it painfully apparent how he viewed his chances of remaining in the competition. “That cook was by far the hardest; not having a strong direction for my dish and not being totally in love with it during the cook meant the every minute was one closer to me going home and I knew that in my heart. You know when you have cooked well and when you haven’t and I knew I hadn’t that day.
Looking back on his MasterChef journey, Ben has far more than gaining invaluable culinary experience to be thankful for. “I was extremely lucky to meet Andy at our first ever audition; he was cooking a dish that was very similar to mine in the first round, we both did a ceviche with a mango and fennel salad which I think was a pretty good indicator of things to come. I definitely would not have made it to the final 5 if it was not for him. Having someone you trust and you know will pick you up when you fall down is so important in life and even more so in MasterChef.”
Making a name for himself throughout the season as a Mexican food maestro, it was a very different dish Ben considers his proudest cooking achievement: Grant King’s fear-inducing Crispy Scaled Snapper. “For me it was a vindication of everything I had given up to be standing there. That dish was the reason I applied, to challenge yourself against a dish like that and succeed is a special thing.”
Ben now plans to employ and build upon what he’s learnt in a new venture, and whether that’s a restaurant, a trip down Mexico way or both, you can bet he won’t be flying solo. “Andy and I have decided whatever we do in food we will do it together; we have so much fun in the kitchen and make each other better cooks so it would be silly not to continue this adventure side by side. And he is my best mate and who doesn’t want to go on an adventure with their best mate standing next to them every step of the way?”