‘Oh No, What Have I Done?’: Why Rebecca Gibney Originally Turned Down Celebrity MasterChef Australia

Celebrity MasterChef Australia premieres Sunday, 10 October at 7.30 on 10 and 10 play on demand.

When the award-winning actor and producer was first offered the opportunity to join Celebrity MasterChef it was an immediate ‘no’.

“My agent rang and said, ‘Do you want to do MasterChef’ and I said, are you sure? Not Survivor or I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here?” She told 10 play over the phone.

“I don’t really cook, so I was surprised when they asked me. My husband’s the chef of the family so I said no!”

After hanging up the phone, Rebecca told her 17-year-old son about the chat only to find him mortified at the idea of passing up the chance to walk into the MasterChef kitchen.

“It’s the only reality show that he watches,” she continued, “he watches all of them, the Australian one, the American one. He couldn’t believe I said no so I had to ring back and say yes!

“He said he'd disown me as his mother if I didn't say yes and I said, but darling, I'm not really a good cook, I'll make a fool of myself. And he said yeah, but it'll make great telly!”

Thinking that it was going to be a bit of fun, cooking with a handful of other celebrities, when the car pulled up at the MasterChef building, as fireworks went off around her and she realised just what she had gotten herself into, the reality started to set in.

“It just hit me, I went oh no… what have I done? I was completely out of my comfort zone! I’ve never done anything that has pushed me as far as this has,” Rebecca said. “I know that SAS show, that’s hard. But try getting into a flippin’ kitchen, that’s way harder.”

While she defers to her husband as the chef of the family, when asked if she had any signature dishes or specialties in the kitchen there was one thing that immediately came to mind.

“If you want to know who’s the best master martini maker, I’ll win that one hands down,” she joked. “I’m really good at a martini and a cocktail.”

While on the surface the competition required the celebs to see who could plate up the best dishes, Rebecca said the emotional aspect of the show was an unexpected challenge. Throughout her career, she has spoken about her struggles with anxiety, especially when it came to being herself on live TV. Here, in the MasterChef kitchen, she wasn’t able to hide behind a character or a script but had to put herself on the plate.

“That was probably the biggest and scariest thing for me,” she revealed. “You’re kind of naked in a way — apart from your clothes and an apron — it’s just you, and it’s a scary thought that the world is just going to see me, but the great thing was all of us felt like that.

“The thing is, it’s very warts-and-all on all of us, I think that’s what’s going to be the most surprising for a lot of people watching, They’re not going to expect what they’re going to get from everybody,” Rebecca said.

“I think all of us, at some point, cried. All of us were laughing, screaming, swearing. We all went through it and it’s going to be great television.”

That vulnerability meant that the celebs bonded very quickly, becoming a little family behind their benches, with the shared experience of facing the judges.

“I actually felt like a child every time I took a dish up to have them taste it and judge it,” Rebecca said, laughing. “We all felt like that, we all felt terrified of what they were going to say!

“And it’s not because they’re scary, we all know that they’re actually really lovely, but I didn’t want to disappoint anyone,” she said. “I felt so out of my comfort zone and I’m not the best cook so I thought all I can really do is my best and hope that they like it.

Not knowing how to adequately prepare for the competition, Rebecca said she practiced a handful of dishes. “I thought if I could do the basics, simple food but make it good, at least I can show that I’m okay in the kitchen and that I’m not a total failure,” she said, laughing.

“I tried to do Kiwi recipes because I thought, I’m a Kiwi-Aussie, that’s something I can bring to the competition. Some of the things that I grew up with that are significant to me.”

Rather than trying to impress the judges with the most outrageously complex dishes, she wanted to focus on the meaning behind what she was creating.

“I’d rather just bring dishes that meant something to me growing up, something that had a story because ultimately I’m a storyteller and I thought if I can’t be the world’s best chef I can at least tell a story through my food. That was my game plan.”

Despite being in the competition, Rebecca laughed when asked how competitive she is, describing herself as “the total opposite”.

“I just went in thinking I’m going to be the light relief because I’m not going to know anything,” she added.

“I didn’t know half the equipment, how it works or what it did… I wanted to show I’m there to have a good time, try my best and give people a hug if they need it!”

Celebrity MasterChef Australia premieres Sunday, 10 October at 7.30 on 10 and 10 play on demand.