What have you been up to since your time on MasterChef in 2015?
Since MasterChef, I’ve of course opened up a flagship restaurant in Chippendale, KOI Dessert Bar, alongside my brothers. We’ve just opened up a second kitchen [KOI Dessert Kitchen in Ryde] which is mainly a production kitchen for the cakes, and it’s also a dream kitchen for my mum, Ike. KOI has been absolutely crazy, both with the cakes that we do and our upstairs dining and I could never expect it to be this insane.
Can you describe how you felt about returning to the show as a guest chef for the second year in a row?
This time I felt more nervous than before [Reynold first appeared as a guest chef in 2016, when he presented his Pressure test dish, Moss]. I’m still in a way an amateur up against a top 24 contestant. I’m actually cooking this time!
What did you enjoy most about your experience?
I enjoyed getting to cook again, I really did miss the experience of being in the MasterChef kitchen.
How did it compare with your time as a guest chef on the show last year?
It was more thrilling, however last year was more fun as I got to set a challenge for the contestants and see them replicate one of my desserts [his Pressure Test dish, Moss]. It was also more relaxing last year as my reputation wasn’t on the line.
How did it feel to compete against one of the contestants and have your dish scored by the judges in an Immunity Challenge?
I felt like a Top 24 contestant once again, [having] to think on your feet and to keep the dishes simple and tasty.
What is it like to interact with the judges as a guest chef, rather than a contestant?
It’s a lot of fun, it’s the usual banter [but] this time I guess it’s more relaxed and casual. It’s less of a lecture about how to learn from our mistakes and more of, “you’re on your own, show us what you can do now.”
How did it feel to meet this year’s aspiring cooks?
It’s amazing to see how the show’s evolved while keeping the true quality of the show intact: it’s all about the food. I love seeing how passionate these guys are with food, and that’s what it’s always been about: the food, their stories and aspirations.
How (or when) did you know that your future was in food and cooking?
As soon as I made my signature dessert [Coconut Panna Cotta] for the judges at my audition [in season seven]. I enjoyed the creativity of it so much, and the pressure. From there I [have worked] at some restaurants, honestly it wasn’t easy and neither is running KOI, but I still love it every single day.
If you were a contestant this season, would you do anything differently?
I’d take more risks, I’d stop playing it safe and instead challenge myself to do more savoury as well more intricate desserts.
Do you have any advice for our contestants or any aspiring chefs out there?
If you have a dream, and you really believe in it, then stick to it. Create a goal, whether it is short term or long term, break it down to little bits and find out the ‘how’ of getting from A to B. Especially in this industry, it’s not easy. Sacrifices will always have to be made one way or another to achieve your goals.
Do you have any exciting new projects on the boil that you can share with us?
In the coming months, my brother Arnold will be opening a bar next door to KOI Dessert Bar, called Monkey’s Corner. Together we are also looking towards a location in Bali.