Maggie Beer has a picnic at Hanging Rock for MasterChef Australia


MAGGIE Beer’s plate is always full to overflowing. From the foundation which bears her name with the mission to improve food experiences for older Australians; continuing as the face of Maggie Beer food products even after selling the balance of her business earlier this year, to her numerous TV commitments; the 74 year-old admits she’s busier than she really needs to be.

But Maggie can’t actually envisage a time when she will take it easy.

“No, no, no, Lisa,” she says over the phone from her beloved Barossa base. “I’m very lucky, I do have a really balanced life in many ways – in terms of my family, where I live and I have this love of music. I have a broad life and I wouldn’t swap it for anything.”

She looks forward to her annual MasterChef guest judge appearances, so it’s no surprise to see her catch up with Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and the remaining 13 contestants this week.

“What I love is that these people are coming together and they’ve got a dream that they’re
putting the time aside to follow and have a go,” Maggie says. “I’ve aways loved that having-a-go mentality, even those that leave along the way, learn so much, that it’s never going to be anything but a great experience.”

It was certainly a magical few days, starting with an actual picnic at Hanging Rock. The teams had the monumental challenge of creating 25
picnic baskets to feed 100 guests at the foot of the infamous imposing rock, in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges. “It was quite a picnic. Oh my gosh, you wait ‘til you see it,” Maggie says. “It’s such an iconic spot. It was the first time I’d been there, and there’s no doubt how commanding the presence of the rock is.”

The foodie icon thinks she’d do well in that
particular MasterChef format, despite the challenges of a makeshift kitchen and churning out huge quantities of delicious tasting, and looking, fare … as long as she was in charge, Maggie qualifies with a laugh.

“That would be absolutely fine for me, the challenges I wouldn’t bother myself with is going up against the clock,” she explains. “The ones with 60 minutes and there’s that clock. They’re the ones that are really scary.”

As is being tasked with an elimination challenge, the second part of her Season 11
appearance. The losing team of six faces elimination from the popular Channel 10 show over two rounds. First up each has an hour to create a dish heroeing herbs from the MasterChef HQ garden. The makers of the three least impressive dishes will then have to cook again for their survival: this time, featuring a spice in their next creation.

“I hate it, I hate it – I really do,” Maggie confesses. “Particularly when you might have one person who comes out of the pack and two being so close. When you’ve just got three people and one has got to go – they might have just had a bad day but they’re really a good cook. And you might know that from seeing them the day before and yet you have to be making the judgments on what is in front of you.”

It’s even tougher when the group is as tightly knit as this year’s batch of contestants.

“The thing that really struck me was how cohesive a group they are,” Maggie shares. “Each year is different and this group – I mean I’m only spending two days with them – but I got such a feel of everyone being this unit, this family.”

South Australia has a fabulous track record on the reality cooking show, last year’s winner Sashi Cheliah the latest in a long line of successful contestants. Adelaide pharmacist Ben Trobbiani was still in the running for the Season 11 title at the time of going to press. George has often said he thinks it’s something in the water, Maggie has her own ideas.

“I think, and this is a very parochial view, I always think SA punches above its weight in so many fields,” she says. “(In terms of cooking) we have the most fantastic diversity of produce so close to our markets, our agriculture produce is not travelling great miles and miles to get to us. There’s our Mediterranean climate that allows us to grow so much, so many things that are desirable to cook with – the produce has definitely got something to do with it.”

MasterChef, Sunday-Thursday, 7.30pm, Ten



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