With just 75 minutes the MasterChefs will create a dish, savoury or sweet, that features potatoes.
Chatting to 10 play over the phone, Curtis said, much like the Junior chefs, he got his start in the kitchen from a very early age.
“It’s almost so cliche that I don’t like telling the story because you’re like ‘Oh sure’, but I probably started cooking when I was maybe five or six,” he said.
“I was cooking with my granny… I watched my mum bake and I really fell in love with the whole process quite young.
“I’ve always been in love with food and the way it tastes and that fascination with how it’s put together,” Curtis continued, “Strong women in my life were big influences on me.”
With a keen sweet tooth, Curtis said he and his grandma would make fudges and cookies together. Though his granny tended to stick with what he described as “very plain cooks”, what she did she did really well.
“She made the crispiest roast potatoes,” Curtis said, fondly. “There were certain things that she just got really, really good.”
Now a dad himself, Curtis said he loves cooking his two sons, Hudson and Emerson.
“They’re good cooks! They both enjoy being in the kitchen — one’s more adventurous than the other, I’m not sure how that happened but Hudson will eat absolutely anything you put in front of him,” he said with a laugh.
Though travel restrictions meant Curtis wasn’t able to be in the MasterChef kitchen in-person, setting a Mystery Box Challenge still allowed him to be part of something he described as being so important in inspiring more kids to get into the kitchen and fall in love with cooking.
“Kids need to know where their food comes from, what ingredients are and all that kind of stuff,” Curtis said.
“You should talk about that with your kids! There’s no better way than to put it in their hand, let them play with food in its rawest, natural forms and let them be adventurous. They’re the ones with all the ideas that are going to shape the industry and the future,” he continued.
Having seen how COVID-19 has affected so many in the food industry across the world, Curtis said it’s inspiring to see a group of like-minded kids come together and bond over their love of food.
“When I started my apprenticeship I remember being really embarrassed about my uniform. I grew to absolutely love stand be proud of it but it was not a ‘cool’ industry,” Curtis said. “Now it has become one and seeing kids that are openly encouraged by and interested in it… it’s pretty awesome.
“By the time this pandemic’s all gone, these kids will be 17 or 18 and looking for an apprenticeship somewhere and that’s great.”
Recently Curtis has been working on the opening of his popup Picnic Society in Los Angeles. In a response to limits and rules around social distancing, Picnic Society allows small groups to enjoy catered picnic baskets with menus ranging from grilled lobster and steak frites to sandwiches, salads and housemate charcuterie from his restaurant Gwen.
“It’s like time stands still and you’re hanging out, and it’s okay to lay back and enjoy yourself for half an hour and totally zone out, relax and then come back to what you’re doing,” he said.
Throughout the pandemic Curtis said he was heartened to see how people gathered around food, be it baking banana bread or just getting back to home-cooked meals and the routine of sitting around the table together.
“It’s a safety for us, isn’t it? It brings us back to a simpler time,” Curtis said.
“The Australian way of life has always revolved around the dinner table if you know what I mean, those family values and moments that you get from a homemade meal are really special so I think it’s good to see that continue.”