Martinis And A Mammoth Cookbook Collection: Getting To Know MasterChef's Ali Stoner

She's been a quiet achiever since arriving in the MasterChef kitchen, but Ali's passion for cooking and keen eye have proven she's one to watch.

Plating up sweetbreads for the first time, dishing up a perfect Scotch egg, or always being the voice of reason in team challenges, Ali has quickly become a fan favourite of the Fans this season with her creative approaches to dishes and ability to always appear calm.

"I've always, deep down, wanted to apply but have been a bit too nervous and scared to do it, to put yourself out there," Ali told 10 play about arriving in the MasterChef kitchen.

Scottish-born Ali moved to London when she was 18-years-old, where she lived for two decades before making the move to Australia in 2011 with her husband and two girls.

With her graphic design background, Ali is an artist who works across kiln-formed glass and canvas. That artistic background couldn't be clearer when Ali plates up her dishes to the judges, but being a fan of the show and finally throwing herself into the kitchen are two very different experiences.

"I was always the one sitting there on the sofa saying, 'of course I'd make X, Y and Z' absolutely full of it, but now I actually realise it's much more difficult when you're standing in the kitchen," Ali said.

After COVID, Ali began to realise that there wasn't any reason to not apply for the show, and though she convinced herself that she'd never be selected, "Suddenly I'm on the show and, honestly it took me a little bit by surprise".

"It was hugely emotional, I was very proud of myself for not absolutely breaking down in tears because I really felt like it," she said, laughing. "[It was] just so overwhelming, the emotions of it, and actually being there, having watched for so long.

"I'm a massive fan, and to actually be standing there and getting that apron was surreal and super overwhelming, it's amazing I didn't absolutely bawl."

Ali's dishes so far have been refined classics and mixes of cuisine that reflect her simple attitude when it comes to food: "There's nothing I don't like".

"I'm a bit of a Labrador when it comes to food," she added. "I love so many different cultures and cuisines, and I tend to cross everything over where I can where possible in my cooking."

While many chefs come to MasterChef with a food dream firmly in mind, Ali admitted that she was just ready to start a new journey without a set goal in mind but rather allowing the journey to inform the destination.

"I don't really have a 'food dream' in mind, I just know if I throw myself into it, the path will start to form, the trees will start to clear."

Before heading into the MasterChef kitchen, Ali boasted a cookbook collection over 200, sheepishly she admitted that since the season began, "I've bought an awful lot since then".

"As a designer, I like flicking through cookery books as a relaxing thing, I look at them for inspiration I don't tend to follow recipes a lot, I look for inspiration and I've always done that," Ali said.

"I also love the design aspect, so I might buy one from a chef I've never heard of because I find the design really interesting. I've done that a lot."

With an entire wall in her study dedicated to her collection, Ali began rattling off the books that were just on her kitchen shelf. From Peter Gilmore to Guy Grossi, she has books on Italy, Vietnamese street food, the flavours of Victoria, and always an Ottolenghi or two, Ali said she's the easiest person to buy gifts for, always thrilled to add another cookbook to the ever growing collection.

During lockdown, Ali and her husband began a journey of juniper, creating around 50 different martinis all inspired by classic cocktails but based on the classic gin martini.

"I'm kind of frustrated I wasn't able to get a cocktail onto the table in MasterChef," she laughed.

Much like Ali, we'll be crossing our fingers for a MartiniChef crossover to happen while she's still fighting for the top spot against the remaining Fans and Faves.

MasterChef Australia Fans & Favourites airs Sunday - Thursday at 7.30pm on 10 and 10 play on demand