Junior pastry chef at Darren Purchese's sweet studio, Burch & Purchese, a stint at Sydney's Pei Modern, chef de partie at Spain's Mugaritz, the sixth best restaurant in the world, and now working at Ben Shewry's Ripponlea restaurant, Attica. There’s no denying Kylie Millar’s career has taken off.
You’ve been both a contestant and a guest chef on MasterChef over the years, so you’re no stranger to the show. Can you describe how you felt about returning this season?
It’s definitely a very special experience being able to return to MasterChef, even more so being able to set a Pressure Test. For me, walking back into the MasterChef kitchen feels like I’m returning to an extended family; the judges and all the crew behind the scenes are a joy to be around.
What did you enjoy most about your experience this season?
Meeting the new contestants was great. Seeing their enthusiasm and excitement for the challenges, and also their dreams post-show, was great.
For me, [this] experience was a great way to reflect on what I have learnt over the years, after being a contestant on MasterChef.
What changes have you observed in the calibre of the contestants over the years?
The contestants over the years have gotten better and better. Their knowledge [of] techniques and ingredients amazes me.
This season, you host a tough Pressure Test where contestants have to replicate your dish, The Nest. Without revealing too much, can you explain how this dish will test the contestants?
There are a few cooking techniques in this dish that will be very new to the contestants, some of which I learnt whilst cooking in Spain. It will also test their plating skills; they will need a steady hand for this one.
Your 2015 Pressure Test dish, Kylie’s Toffee Apple (pictured below), was exquisite and challenging; how does The Nest compare?
The Nest is quite different, it still has the technical difficulties, probably even a few more than the toffee apple, but the plating is a lot more natural than the toffee apple.
Talk us through the process of creating these incredible dishes.
That’s quite a difficult question. Sometimes I try to replicate a structure or building I have seen, other times it may come from something I have eaten, or even [by] using a regular cooking technique but twisting it in a way that it hasn’t been used before. A lot of the time, a dish develops over a period of time. And I am always altering the components.
If you were a contestant this season, what would be your signature style or dish and why?
I think I would still be sticking to my strengths - desserts - but implementing ideas to make the dishes less sweet, [like] adding ferments and pickles, [or] using more native ingredients. There are a lot of interesting flavours to be explored.
What advice do you have for our contestants, or any aspiring chefs out there?
Always be willing to learn. With every little task there is a lesson to be taken from it.
Who or what keeps you inspired?
I read a lot of cook books which helps me to further my learning. My two favourites at the moment are Ferment For Good by Sharon Flynn, and also Jordi Roca’s new book, Anarkia. Talking to suppliers and also the people I work with inspire me every day.
More on Kylie at kyliemillar.com.au