Speaking to 10 play, Andy joked about how — for many of the kids competing in this season of Junior MasterChef, they would have been too young to have really watched his season when it aired in 2012.
“I don’t even know if they knew who I was,” he said, laughing. “They probably watched the season before, but I don’t think they would have been able to watch TV nine years ago… some of them were maybe still in the womb! I didn’t actually know if they would know that I was part of the MasterChef alumni.”
Though some of the contestants are about as old as the MasterChef franchise has been on-air in Australia, Andy said he was shocked to see some of the skills on display in the kitchen.
“I think for a lot of the kids there were two big influences, one was MasterChef and one was YouTube,” he said.
“You’ve got this 11-year-old rolling perfect tortellini and you’re like, who stood net to them side-by-side? What nonna have we not seen that’s living with this person to teach them how to roll these perfect tortellini?
“It turned out that, when they want to learn something, they just YouTube it. It was a constant thing.”
Coming back to the MasterChef kitchen alongside fellow judges Melissa Leong and Jock Zonfrillo, Andy said doing the very first bench visits of the season was a pleasant surprise again and again.
“The first thing that you ask is, ‘Hey mate, what are you cooking today?’” Andy explained. “‘Oh, I’m doing this white chocolate mousse with a lime granita and a Szechuan meringue.’ We just looked at each other with the biggest grins on our faces because that was coming out of a 13-year-old’s mouth.
“We were like, what’s going on here? And then it happened again and again and again. It didn’t get old.”
While the contestants range from 10 to 14-years-old, for Andy his passion for the world of food came much later. He admitted that it wasn’t until he was actually standing in the MasterChef kitchen for the first time when he really discovered how much he loved cooking.
With his background in sport, the pressures of the kitchen ended up being the thing that Andy came to love.
“Being on MasterChef was day-in-day-out, like you were playing in a sporting tournament that went for six months. It was the best thing ever and that was when I really realised that I loved food.”
After winning his season, Andy says he knew he was going to pursue a life in the industry after walking into the kitchen of Three Blue Ducks.
“You think you know stuff about food when you’re an amateur but, when you walk into a professional kitchen with guys that have been doing It for 20 years, that’s when you go wow. There’s so much more to food than I could possibly imagine.
“The amount of learning you can do is endless. That’s when I was like, I want to pursue this as my career.”
Though the MasterChef kitchen is infamous for being a hotbed of heightened emotions, the pressures of challenges and the huge clock counting down how long you have left for a challenge, Andy said he was surprised to see how the Junior MasterChefs handled themselves.
“The emotions were so much higher with adults! The kids are fearless. They’re walking around with more confidence than any of the adults,” he said.
Whittling down more than 2,000 applicants to a group of 14, Andy said he was expecting a group of kids with huge dreams.
“I thought they’d have these big ideas and may struggle to execute. But the first thing was the idea you were blown away with, and then it comes to the tasting and it was exactly what they wanted to do,” he said.
“That’s what blew me away. They were able to execute these big ideas… so we knew from as soon as they basically said their dishes and brought it up to the tasting table that it was going to be a special series.
“Food is all about the classics at the moment,” Andy said, adding, “reinventing the classics, and these kids were constantly cooking their take on classics. It was really, really interesting to see a 14-year-old giving you inspiration.
“I’m not going to lie, I learned from these kids!”
Junior MasterChef Australia premieres 7.30 Sunday, October 11 on 10 and 10 play