Winning Masterchef is a great way to launch a food business if Kate Bracks’ career is anything to go by.
In the four years since she won Masterchef Season Three, Kate has set up her own successful baking business in Orange, which she runs from a purpose-built commercial kitchen in her own home. She supplies cafes, sells her baked goods fresh at her local farmer’s markets, has published a cookbook, and has a website and Facebook page featuring her delicious creations.
She’s a self-confessed food nerd, who experiments in the kitchen and reads cookbooks as she goes to bed, and has become particularly famous for her lemon meringue, a syrupy dessert cake injected with lemon curd and topped with a burnished meringue.
Kate told Hope Media’s Erin La Macchia that she is having a ball with her new career, particularly with her monthly market stalls: “It’s a great way of staying in contact with my customers and seeing what’s popular, and being part of the community is something I love.”
TV Cooking An Emotional Experience
Going on Masterchef was one of Kate Bracks’ toughest and most rewarding experiences, and she said watching it on TV now brings back a lot of strong emotions.
“When I watch almost any TV now, I see what happens outside the boundaries of that screen,” she said. “I’m not just seeing what your average viewer sees. And in a certain way, I relive the whole experience when I watch the show now. I look at these people and think, ‘oh I know how that feels, you’re probably feeling like you’re about to vomit right now because you’re so nervous’. I have a huge amount of empathy for them.
“But it also brings back wonderful memories. There were so many highs in my experience there, that when I see them do something amazing or meet some inspiring chef, it brings it all back for me too.”
Masterchef Secret: They Don’t Do Their Own Cleaning!
Kate told Hope Media that the cleaning team was one of the pleasant surprises of the Masterchef experience.
“After you cook, there’s a whole team that come in and clears benches, and then you come back and it’s a nice clean bench, and your plate of food’s just sitting there,” she said. “I wish I had some of them at home – it was a real shock to me when I came home and actually had to clean up after myself!”
Fending Off All The Cooking Jokes
When Kate first came home from her Masterchef experience in 2011 she said there was a lot of joking as her children and friends ‘rated’ her food.
“I got to the point where I went, ‘alright, no more scoring’. I don’t want to be scored ever again! There’s obviously a lot of fun in that, but at the end of the day, any food that we make, it doesn’t have to be a perfect dish, it’s about nourishing us and having flavours that we like. We certainly don’t eat restaurant quality food every night of the week. I save that for when people come over.”
She added that at times, her husband has helped by offering to cook for guests instead of her.
“I would feel pressure when people came over, and my husband would say, ‘how about I cook, and then all expectation will be gone’. He was very lovely in that way.”
Unashamed About Her Christian Faith
During her Masterchef season, Kate Bracks became well known for her Christian faith. In fact, when she filled out the form online to put herself forward for Masterchef 2011, she prayed as she hit the “Send” button, “God, do with this as you will”.
“I really did have a strong feeling that God was a big part of it,” she told Hope Media.
While she didn’t pray she would win, she did ask God to help her represent him in every situation. At one point in the show, she publically refused to address the Dalai Lama as “your Holiness”, a stance the media latched upon and criticised. However, Kate explains on her website that the Dalai Lama actually respected her choice. Now, years later, she still speaks regularly about cooking and faith together – in schools, churches and community groups.
“To me, my faith is integral to every part of my life,” she said. “It comes out in the way that we relate to people, and in business, and when we go to church, and in friendships, so for me it’s an important part of what I do. I get invited to churches and schools and all sorts of places where I cook and do demonstrations, but people want to also hear about my faith. And it’s amazing how the two meld together.
“It’s such a big part of my life, having a faith in God and being able to share what that means to me in a no-pressure situation where people can just sit and listen. And often people come up afterwards and ask more, or join in classes or groups that can teach them more.”
The Heavenly Process Of Food Creation
Kate added that she loves the creative process in cooking because it’s a way of reflecting the creativity of God.
“What I love is experimenting and being able to create new recipes and dishes. And I think there is definitely a correlation with our Creator, God. He’s the one who makes things, and we are made in His image. I used to think that cooking was one of those superfluous things. I thought, ‘what does it achieve, it feeds you and that’s it, does it really change the world?’ But I guess what I’ve learnt is that God gifts us all in different ways and gives us passions in different areas and He can use those in so many different ways.
“The creative arts are just as valuable as social enterprises or business or anything else. They all can serve the betterment of our society.”
Home Cooks Can Make Incredible Desserts Too!
Kate said that despite the institution of dessert having a reputation for being very technical, lovers of sweets shouldn’t be shy of trying their hand at making something creative.
“There is so much in the desert world that is really simple and straightforward that you can alter the recipes with, you don’t have to stick rigidly to them,” she said. “There is a wonderful world of flavour and texture and balance in the dessert world and it’s not as tricky as you think.”
Pastry, According To Kate
While desserts aren’t all difficult, pastry is one of the trickiest, according to Kate.
“Pastry’s basic foundation is butter, flour, sugar (depending on whether it’s sweet or not), and that’s really all it is,” she said. “But in your flours, you’ve got different levels of protein and different starches and things, which can make it more elastic or more crumbly, and the amount of butter affects it too. So it’s one of those things that’s a little bit more complicated.
“For me, with a shortcrust pastry I’m looking for something that holds together, that holds that filling, that’s not going to crumble completely as soon as I pick it up, but at the same time that’s not tough, not too crunchy. So you’re looking for that middle line. It’s technical and seems to be the one thing that people who love to cook, want to play around with because it pushes the boundaries. Temperature’s important, texture’s important, the amount you work the dough is really important. If you work it too much it gets too stretchy and hard and then it’s more like a biscuit than a pastry.”
Kate’s Top 4 Tips For Better Cooking
Tip 1 – Don’t Be Scared To Try
While many people are afraid of cooking, there is no need to be, according to Kate.
“Cooking is actually a skill we can learn,” she said. “We often think, ‘I’m a good cook or a bad cook’. But the reality is that can actually change, because it’s just something that you practice over and over, and learn from and get better at. When I went into Masterchef, I think I was just your pretty average home cook that was pretty reliant on recipes. And I came out the other end so much more confident, willing to play around, and largely understanding how a lot of food works; the science of it because I was immersed in that world.
“It’s convinced me that it’s a skill you can learn and grow in if you’re interested and put the time in.”
Tip 2 – Learn From Your Mistakes
“Try things, see what works well, repeat those, and the things that don’t do well, you think ok, how could I change that and make that better’,” Kate advised. That’s the foundation of any skill.”
Tip 3 – Get A Great Knife
“If there’s only one thing that you’re going to spend money on in your kitchen, make it your knife!”
Tip 4 – Have Fun!
“Cooking is one of those things we just can have fun with,” Kate said. “Take the pressure off. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter. Most of the time it’s still edible!”
- Read / Hear our previous interviews with Kate Bracks, Julie Goodwin, Adam Liaw and Michael Weldon in The Great Masterchef Mashup
- Kate’s book is titled The Sweet Life