Masterchef Mania: Interview with Justine Schofield of Masterchef and more...

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Justine Schofield from Masterchef

After we thought that the Masterchef mania had died down, the new participants were announced last night for the new season of Celebrity Masterchef. But we all know the real stars were the original Masterchef contestants so when I was invited to the shiny LG kitchen at Customs House Forecourt to interview Justine Schofield I was excited to learn more about this Jimmy Choo shoe lover turned Masterchef. And read on for even more Masterchef after the interview!

Before the interview, Justine demonstrated two dishes, one with a breakfast theme as it was 10am which was a baked tomato stuffed with speck and vegetables and seared scallops with a remoulade. Justine's tips were have a great oven (hehe the new LG Multifunction oven hint hint) and Ready, Steady Cook's Alistair McLeod hosted with his characteristic witty banter and many from the audience were lucky enough to try her dishes. I tried the stuffed tomatoes which were fantastic (since when is anything with speck bad?). After that I sat down with Justine to talk French, food and the other Masterchef contestants...

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B.M. (Before Masterchef)

What can you tell me about pre Masterchef Justine?

I don't even remember that me! I didn't know where I was going with my career. I mean I loved sales but has a passion for food and sort of left it.

Were you in food sales?

No not all I was selling security cameras and installing CCTV cameras!

What prompted you to audition?

It was actually a friend, I had no idea about Masterchef, I hadn't even seen the UK one. I said “As if I'm going to go on Television”. She said “Just do it, it's cooking and you cook better than my mum, our friends and family and you have to do this” and I was like “No no no” and she kept sending me the applications so I end up applying for it one day and forgot about it for a month or two and then I got a call. And the rest was history.

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Family & Food

Your background on your mum's side is French, hence your love of French food. Tell me about your mum.

Mum came over here about 29 or 28 years ago-actually she just got back last night from France! She tries to get back as much as possible. She just raised us the Australian way but always reminded us that we are French and don't forget it (laughs). We've been lucky as dad works for an airline so we've gone back and forth every couple of years to France so we've always been immersed in French culture.

And your mum is she a good cook?

Yes she is...

But you are a better cook?

Of course I am (winking). Mum is always a better cook no matter what, your mum's always the better cook. She had a restaurant when she first came to Australia in Bowral in the country. She had no experience in restaurants, she was just cooking and had a passion but it closed down.

What's your favourite meal of your mum's?

I think Blanquette de veau (veal stew in a white sauce). It's amazing. It's a very Wintry dish, I think Sel Et Poivre has it but that's about it. I'll have it at my restaurant.

That could be your signature dish!

Exactly, exactly! My mum's one is amazing.

So you like more rustic French?

Yes like stews, long braises, and there's the other area like stuffing tomatoes, steak and chips with a nice Bearnaise.

What about Haute Cuisine?

Oh look I love to eat it and I love to watch how its done and the mechanics behind it but I don't think I'll ever be at that level. I think because I've grown up on all the classic dishes it's hard to get away from those although I do like to modernise them.

Are there any cuisines other than French that you like?

Yes I'm REALLY into Italian food, I cook that a lot at home because of the freshness and flavours and all of the classics. You can have bolognese whatever but you can build on it and make it the BEST bolognese. My best friend's Italian and we'd watch her Nonna cook. It's so simple but they've got that extra touch and you try and copy it but they've got their own tomato sauce, their own recipe that they won't tell anyone.

They'd probably have their own tomatoes..

They do and a certain time in summer they do all the sauces and bottle it for the whole year.

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Did making Adriano Zumbo's cakes scare you?

I was scared especially the one I had to do. The chocolate one scared me more than the croquembouche. That was hard. The time they had us do the cake in was ridiculous and so hard to do.

Did you know that Adriano was hoping you'd win?

No! Was he? Who said that? (He told me) Bull**** - Oops! (delighted) I have to go back to him because I really look up to him because he does amazing pastry. That's really nice!

SBS asked me this question and I thought it was great: Three cooks, which one would you marry, work for and fire.

I would love to fire Gordon Ramsay. Just for the fun of it and to fight with him. He's actually pretty cool in real life.

Marry? I don't know...who would I marry a young Alain Ducasse or Michel Roux - the younger one.

Work for? Here? Ummm Alain Ducasse - even to spend a day in that restaurant in Monaco. It's in one of the beautiful hotels there. You feel like you're in the 18th century.

He's your favourite chef isn't he?

I do love Alain Ducasse - I've never met him but I think what he cooks is amazing but I haven't been to his restaurants. Tony Bilson I really like and Mark Best from Marque. I'm really interested in the way he cooks. He has the background of an electrician and he turned his life around. He cooked a mandarin and a sea urchin and you think “That is gross, what are you thinking?” and you don't want to order it and you taste it and it's great. I'd love to learn from him.

He does a lot of Molecular Gastronomy...

I'd like to see it but I'd never take it on myself .

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The other Masterchef contestants

Molecular Gastronomy, That was Aaron's bag. No-one else really got into that...

Yes how can you? I mean we're amateur chefs so how can you do that. For me that's what a lot of people couldn't understand about Aaron. If you can't chop an onion how can you do Molecular Gastronomy. Learn the basics first and then do that. Like I was saying to some other people, walk before you can run.

So who did you really get on well with in the house?

Julie and I were really close. I saw her on Monday. She's going to come over for dinner soon. She said “I want to eat your mum's food”. Lucas and I were like a bigger brother relationship. He looked after me.

Who didn't you gel with?

I know everyone says there has got to be someone but I'm one of those people that like to get along with people. Most of the people I got along with. In the beginning Aaron really annoyed me but he actually grew on me and I can understand that he is actually very passionate about what he wants to do and he's doing the hard yards at George's restaurant. Now he's stopped the talk and started to do the actions and now I respect that.

What did you think of Chris? He divided a lot of people. I thought he was a great chef but then he'd say things...

I think his personality is direct, he's always been like that like the reserved, strong minded, his way is best type which is what gets him in a pickle but the way he cooks and his abilities, he's what 43 years old and he's got the experience.

So he's not evil as he was portrayed?

No way, and people said all sorts of things and he's the cleanest person I've ever met. No seriously he was very neat and precise and I admired what he did.

Who did you go for in the final? Julie or Poh?

Julie all the way. She's just a beautiful, beautiful person.

What was your favourite challenge? Your least favourite challenge.

Favourite for the elder statesmen like Jacques Reymond. Yes I won but it was more to be able to cook what you want your style in a certain season. I was really pumped about it and to be successful at it was a real bonus. To cook for those people was an absolute privilege. I was so nervous and I just pushed myself so hard to stop fricking around and just “Do it” and I did it.

Lowest point was Hong Kong and getting eliminated because Julie and I were so close. We were in a team and wanted to do so well. There were a lot of trivial hiccups and it looked fantastic but the flavour wasn't there. But then it was all happy again because I came back!

Did you know you were going to come back?

No. I came back here and did interviews in Sydney and 2 days later they said “You've got to go back” I hadn't even unpacked my bags! I didn't tell any of my friends either as it needed to be a secret until they saw it. They thought I was doing food demos or doing work experience in Melbourne.

What do you think was your downfall in Masterchef?

My age. Yes my age. I think if I was older and I had a bit more of a repertoire and a bit more ideas in my head I would have pulled off more, or had more ideas in my head about cooking. But I can't be more than myself and I can't have any regrets.

What did you think of the judges. We all had a perspective of them as a viewer but how would you describe each of the judges and how they were with you?

The judges were great, we all got along. They were mentors in themselves. They would criticise something that you'd done and you'd go “What the hell, why didn't you understand it?” and they'd pull you aside afterward and really explain it. I'll give you an example. The steak that I did, the French one. I said “This is a bordelaise sauce, I've grown up on this sauce it IS nice" and it was nice and they were like “If you want to call that a Bordelaise sauce it needs to be done this way". It was actuality a sauce Marchant (de vin) which is the sauce you do in a pan with the pan juices. That's why I was scratching my head the whole time thinking what the hell. But then I got what they said and in the Masterclass they showed us how to do the right one. Amazing teachers, funny and they're people you look up to.

Are they different in real life?

George is the funniest guy-is he funny on tv?

He seems very intense and he comes out with these bizarre sayings....

Yeah he does that for a laugh, he's hilarious and a very, very funny person. Gary has so much knowledge it's unbelievable. And I tell you what, Matt Preston looks scary but he's cuddly and warm and funny.

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**The Crystal Ball

What is the dream? To open a restaurant?

Ooh yeah! Of course I want my restaurant and hopefully I will get that one day. In 5 years perhaps.

Here in Sydney?

Yep yep...A lot of people from the North want me to open up a restaurant there. Every time I walk down in Mosman they ask “Can you please open you a restaurant here?” but a lot of people there don't eat out Monday to Friday and that's the only thing that really concerns me. People in the East eat out more.

What are you doing now? Are you still at Aria?

I'm doing some experience there whenever I can. I've done 4 shifts there so every couple of Fridays and I've been up at the Brisbane Aria doing a couple of shifts there. Lucas and I have got some gigs happening soon. We're going to do a five course degustation meal at Nino's restaurant in Bondi Junction. We're going to do our five favourite dishes each month and change it with the seasons so that's going to happen in October. I'm also doing some food demos around Perth and a couple of other things I can't really say but they're more promotional things showing off my recipes.

And a cookbook?

I wish! I wish! That's not on the cards. Do the people want me to make a cookbook? If they do I'll do one. I don't know what the public wants. I think there are going to be a lot of cookbooks from Masterchef so I'll just wait for a little bit.

Are you single?

Single...typically...I don't have time but if something happens it happens.

What's your ideal first date?

Nice restaurant, nice champagne that's it, that's all I'm asking! Funny good company. No quiet moments and I'll be happy.

Does it have to be a French restaurant?

No of course not, I eat too much French food (laughs)

Lastly, your Death Row meal. If you were about to be executed what would you order?

I know its really boring but a really good steak, chips I'm talking about a 400g thick rib eye aged beef that's tender with crispy chips and a beautiful Bearnaise sauce.

Dessert? Because you want to prolong it as you're going to the executioner..

Of course of course! Hmm my mum's Oeufs a la neige or Snow Eggs/Floating Islands! Oh and don't forget the lobster to start with. Done a la Americaine which is flambeed with cognac, cream and tomatoes and eschallots and sliced in medallions. Beautiful beautiful.

You can't get that here at many restaurants..

Good! It will be at my restaurant (laughs)

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p&o luke mangan masterchef 1

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And because I promised you more Masterchef, Julie, Michelle and Justine were at the Luke Mangan Salt Grill P&O Launch held at Glass Brasserie at the Hilton. On some P&O routes, for a premium of $30 diners can book a seat in Luke's onboard Salt Grill. Luke will be joining some of the voyages including the Maiden Voyage. As for the Salt Grill menu? I spy Petrossian caviar,  Kingfish carpaccio, Lobster sashimi and all sorts of appetite whetting numbers. I had a great chat with Julie and Michelle who were both completely un-diva like and friendly. I also met fellow blogger and twitter goddess Becca who took this lovely pic of us.

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Me, Julie, Michelle and Becca

So tell me Dear Reader, what do you think of the celebrities in the new Celebrity Masterchef? There's Eamon Sullivan, Michelle Bridges, Peter Fitzsimons, Alex Perry, Indira Naidoo, Kathleen De Leon and Anna Bligh.

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