‘The Competition Is A Lot Stiffer’: Why Billie McKay Was Intimidated By MasterChef’s New Crop Of Chefs

Winning Season 7 of MasterChef Australia, Billie McKay never thought she’d get another shot at the once-in-a-lifetime experience.

But with MasterChef Fans & Faves, Billie joined the 12 returning chefs who would be facing off against 12 of Australia’s best home chefs.

“I never thought I’d get that chance again,” Billie told 10 play, “so I was so excited but obviously still scared because that kitchen is a scary place at times.”

This time around, as one of three returning chefs who won their original season, Billie also admitted to putting a lot more pressure on herself.

“I think that feeling’s pretty common among Julie [Goodwin], Sashi [Cheliah] and I. That fear’s a little more heightened because we know we probably have to perform well.”

And it wasn’t just the returning chefs that intimidated Billie, in fact on the whole she admitted “the competition is a lot stiffer”.

“I think in my season I probably floated through the first half of it just by cooking well enough to not fall in the bottom, but this time around it’s much harder,” she said.

“It’s more intense, the skills that all the other contestants have are just so much further above than what I had starting out.

“You have to really push yourself a lot more than I did last time,” Billie added. “I felt a bit hopeless walking in, actually. These new contestants are so skilled, I can’t get over it really. And of course, seeing the returning contestants, a lot of them have been cooking for years and years professionally… I was a little bit intimidated.”

After winning her season, Billie was offered a position at Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck restaurant in London. Working there for a while, Billie eventually returned home to her family dairy farm where she stepped away from the food world. When she got the call to come back, it reignited that passion within her.

“I could have done it in the comfort of my own kitchen, that would have been smarter,” she said, laughing. “But the access to different types of ingredients in that pantry in the kitchen is insane. You’re thrown into challenges every day and you have to think about something new to cook to impress the judges.”

Being thrown back into the world of MasterChef, Billie said it didn’t take long for her to be swept up in the passion of cooking.

“Being surrounded, constantly, by the other contestants who are the same - they want to talk about food, they want to think about food, they want to cook all the time and eat all the time. Being in that environment, it has really brought the passion back for me.

“What I love about the MasterChef kitchen is the judges can throw the weirdest, strangest ingredients at you and you have no choice but to create something with them,” she continued.

“That’s a really cool aspect of it, working with ingredients and food that I’ve never really used or seen before, but coming up with a dish that you — hopefully — end up being proud of!

“It’s an intense environment to get the passion back, but I’m very, very glad that I said yes.”

MasterChef Australia Fans & Favourites premieres on Monday, 18 April at 7.30pm on 10 and 10 play on demand