Elena wins MasterChef: “I’m ecstatic and eager to celebrate"
NOOSA'S Elena Duggan has come back from behind to win this year's MasterChef title.
The 32-year-old is $250,000 richer after clinching the reality cooking show's crown in a nail-biting grand final contest with fellow Noosa cook Matt Sinclair.
Both finalists told APN of their close friendship developed from their fortuitous meeting at the show's auditions.
"There were lots of hugs, a few tears and lots of big smiles," she told APN
"I'm relieved, ecstatic and eager to celebrate with my friends and family."
Ms Duggan rebounded from a three-point deficit in the final round to win by two points.
She showed endurance and perseverance in recreating 'Verjus in Egg', a dish concocted specifically for tonight's grand final by Heston Blumenthal and his executive chef at Dinner By Heston, Ashley Palmer-Watts.
"With Heston nothing is as it seems," she said.
"We weren't sure if it was going to walk off the plate or burst into flames, but knew there would be some magic about it."
What appeared to be a simple boiled egg on a plate was in fact a complex dessert with a 91-step recipe.
"It's definitely my style of dessert. It had a lovely balance between sweet, salty and acidic," Ms Duggan said.
"I'm sure enjoying it helped me to enjoy cooking it."
If there was a prize for good sportsmanship then Ms Duggan would have won that as well.
During the mammoth five-and-a-half hour final round, the longest single challenge in the show's history, she stopped work on her own dish to help Mr Sinclair who was struggling with the liquid nitrogen component of the recipe.
"That's what friends do for each other," she said.
"Sure it's a competition but we are also like friends and like family. I wanted to make sure he got over the line. It was a bit of an automatic response; you help a mate out."
Despite the helping hand, Mr Sinclair's egg split open as the final seconds ran out on the clock in a dramatic and devastating finish.
"I was gutted, but it's one thing to be disappointed and another thing to look at myself in the mirror and say 'mate you gave that absolutely everything you had'," he said.
"I couldn't have done any more."
Inaugural MasterChef winner Julie Goodwin called it "the most intense, emotional" MasterChef finale she could remember since season one.
Both finalists were supported in the MasterChef kitchen by their Sunshine Coast-based parents as well as their partners - Mr Sinclair's wife Jess and Ms Duggan's fiance Eric - and Ms Duggan's sister Alexandra.
"She's (my sister) the one who got me to apply and she's been my number one test taster," Ms Duggan said.
Before receiving the judges' final scores Mr Sinclair said he knew his cracked chocolate egg had sealed his fate.
"Mentally I was prepared and I knew how it was going to go down," he said.
"I accepted it and felt good about it. It was nice to stand there and feel happy for Elena."
Mr Sinclair received a $40,000 prize as runner-up, which he plans to put towards his food truck business Ten Piece Cutlery.
"My dream is quite small and attainable in the grand scheme of things, so that money is putting me on track to make that happen comfortably and not put us (me and my wife Jess) under any financial strain," he said.
"I can't ask for any more than that."
Foodies can expect to see Mr Sinclair at Brisbane's Eat Street Markets in the coming weeks. He is also in talks to host a pop-up restaurant at Ricky's River Bar in Noosa, where he has been working for the past two months in the restaurant's wood-fired grill.
Both cooks paid tribute to the support they have received from the Coast over the past three months.
"Noosa will always hold a special place in my heart," Ms Duggan said.
"I think my childhood there is what's led me to here. A lot of the things I love about food are to do with growing up there and what my parents did for work."
Ms Duggan plans to travel around Australia and overseas to gain work experience before looking for her own property, potentially in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, to grow and cook her own seasonal produce.
As MasterChef's eighth annual winner, she also receives a monthly food column in Delicious magazine.