Michael Cainero Snags the Recipe to Riches Title

Claiming the crown for his pork, apple and cinnamon spin on an Aussie classic, Queensland’s ‘King of Sausages’ discusses his success, what’s next and why providing healthy choices is the ultimate reward.

How does it feel being crowned Recipe to Riches winner?
It’s an unbelievable feeling; I still get goosebumps when people say congratulations on being the winner and winning $100,000. It still seems a bit like a dream.

Waiting for the judges’ decision in your heat would have been nerve-wracking enough, but what was going through your head watching the sales graph and then waiting for the overall winner to be announced?
Seeing 100% and knowing you’re well and truly in the game obviously gets the heart rate up! But there were so many products out there, so when Darcy came up as 100% I was actually expecting at least one or two more to do the same – they’re unbelievable products. Obviously Sahar was up there with the percentage and the heart rate was going quite fast!

It must have been such a thrill to see your products and your sales target hit 100%!
It was a huge pleasure having a chance of winning the show, but just knowing that so many people across Australia went out and bought the humble little sausage that me and my wife came up with in our house is truly amazing.

Of your fellow contestants, who did you think was a strong bet for the title?
Everyone was a strong contender. I thought the biggest threat was Savva’s Kebab – it’s new. Cookies are cookies in supermarkets already, sausages are sausages, baked beans are baked beans, but there isn’t a pre-made kebab. It was a brilliant idea.

Without giving away trade secrets, do you have any recipes you think might have been strong contenders in the other heat categories? Say for example, breakfast or innovation, mains, that kind of thing.
In those sorts of categories, no, but I’ve got a lot of stuff that I make in the sense of smallgoods – beef jerky, salamis, cured meats – that sort of thing. We also make yoghurts and my wife makes a lot of slices and stuff that’s gluten-free.

It sounds like you guys are real makers, you do a lot of stuff from home!
We have to do a lot from home because of my daughter’s allergies. She can’t eat certain foods so we had to go back to the way they did it many, many years ago and make our own.

With the different parts of the show; batch up, marketing, the consumer research, which was the most enjoyable part for you?
The whole process really. From the pressure in the kitchen to trying to do the product in mass production – I’d love to do it again!

What was your involvement when it came to getting the product mass produced?
It was pretty much just a few phone calls with the Woolworths staff and Peppercorn, back and forwards. We just did a few bits and pieces. As everyone saw, they had a couple of dramas.

What was it like seeing your product on the shelf for the very first time, with your face on it?
Daunting but exciting! My face going around Australia! Going to our local Woolworths at North Lakes, even before we went in the door I could see my product because it was right on the back wall and it just stood out. That’s exactly what I was after.

How did your daughter react when she first saw it?
She went crazy, “There’s daddy’s sausages!”. I think she really enjoyed the process of being filmed and photographed and all that stuff.

How does it feel knowing that your recipe, the recipe you love, has been so thoroughly embraced by the Australian public?
It’s mind-blowing that everyone has gone out and bought the sausages, but the support that we’ve gotten on social media… A lady sent me a message saying that her son had type 1 diabetes, was really fussy with food and didn’t eat much, but ate three or four sausages in one sitting. That’s what I get most pleasure from – kids really enjoying a healthy sausage and eating as much as they can because it’s good for them.

What words do you have for the judges who helped guide you and your recipes during the season?
Words can’t explain what the judges did! The encouragement they gave me, support and help, and guiding me through certain stages. From Darren and Eddie cutting up the rest of my apples when I cut my finger, to Russel’s marketing – he’s a genius. And the lovely Carolyn, who was unbelievable through the whole process. It was an absolute pleasure to work with them and hopefully I can continue to do so.

If someone had told you before the show began that you would be standing here at the end as the winner, what would you have said to them?
I probably would have laughed at them! I always thought my product was good, but to go through the auditions with thousands of people, then through the batch-up stage against the other contestants, and then come out on top – I’m still pinching myself.

What is your advice for anyone thinking about entering the competition for next series?
Look, anyone out there who thinks they’ve got an idea, have a crack – it doesn’t cost anything! I just went with no expectations and wanted an honest opinion from a complete stranger and look where I am now!

What does your Recipe to Riches adventure have in store for you next?
A lot of meetings with Woolworths! I’m really excited about that. I’ll sit down and chat with them about the whole range. I would really like to get lots of healthy food out to the supermarkets that people with allergies can easily find.