‘I Was Having The Time Of My Life’: Antonio Cruz Vaamonde Farewells The MasterChef Kitchen

Maggie Beer returned to the MasterChef kitchen on Sunday night with an elimination challenge full of secrets and surprises.

Contestants could choose to cook with a visible ingredient she selected, or they could swap and cook with an ingredient hidden under a black cloche.

While all the contestants played it safe, Antonio chose the surprise ingredient under the cloche, and was rewarded with the opportunity to cook with oranges instead of olives.

“I was so happy I got the oranges,” Antonio told 10 play. “I thought the best-case scenario was I revealed a new ingredient, I cooked an amazing dish and was safe, or worst-case scenario, I’d go into round two, but at least I had time during the cook to think of what I could do with the olives.

“It was a bit strategic, and it paid off for me because the oranges were something I was more comfortable with.”

Antonio created a White Chocolate Ganache with Hazelnut Ice Cream and Burnt Orange Caramel for round one and while the judges loved his ice cream, they were concerned about his use of white chocolate.

“It was a good dish. It maybe lacked a little bit of balance, but I was so happy when Jock said that the ice cream was good because I really wanted to show that I could do ice cream in the MasterChef kitchen,” he said. “It’s a nice notch under your belt.”

When Antonio entered round two alongside Malissa and Declan, he decided to do a savoury goat’s cheese and kalamata caramel mille-feuille, but tragedy struck when the pastry didn’t turn out.

“It was very ambitious for me to think that I could do the rough puff. When you're in the kitchen with all the stress, it's the little things that go wrong,” he said. “I always wanted to have everything up to my standards and I knew at that stage, it wasn't.

“I didn't want this dish to represent my whole experience and the whole trajectory ahead on the show. Knowing that I could have nailed it and that it could have been amazing was frustrating. I knew I was in danger of leaving the competition, but I was having the time of my life and, knowing the prospect that I could be leaving that day, was why I got a bit emotional.”

Before the judges tasted his dish, Maggie Beer revealed that she was 34 years old when she discovered her love for cooking, which is the same age as Antonio. And when his dish didn’t quite save him from elimination, she told him “34 is the magic year”.

“Maggie Beer looked like a floating angel when she rocked up into the kitchen. She was so amazing and hopefully she's right and 34 is just a new beginning for me,” Antonio laughed.

“For the future, I’m going to balance my career and cooking because I want to be in the food industry somehow. I'm yet to figure out how, but food is such a big part of my life and I feel so happy when I cook so it would be silly not to pursue it.”

Reflecting back on his journey in the MasterChef kitchen, Antonio shared that his love for cooking stemmed from cooking with his grandmother.

“I grew up in the kitchen with my grandma and my mom, cooking lunches and Sunday meals for the whole family and I always had a very, very big bond with her. That permeated to the kitchen and once I moved to Australia, even though I was so far from home, we always kept in touch and we chatted almost every day,” Antonio said.

“She wanted to know what I was cooking and when I was going to apply to MasterChef, and she made me promise her that I was going to apply and at least give it a crack. She didn't know if I was going to get in, but she really wanted me to do it.”

Antonio did more than just make it onto the show, he made it all the way to the top 10 and achieved one of his milestones.

“I'm super, super stoked that I made it to the top 10. Not in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would have the chance to be on the show, let alone stand there in the kitchen. I felt like I was a kid in a toy store and, every day, walking towards the kitchen I felt super excited,” he continued.

“I was always trying to take it all in because you never knew when it was going to be time up. I just really wanted to make the most out of every second that I was in that kitchen.”

MasterChef Australia airs Sunday - Thursday at 7.30 on 10 and 10 Play