MasterChef Australia winner, Elena Duggan, on cooking with heart

Miss Alone

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Elena Duggan, winner of MasterChef Australia season 8, impressed with her cooking, and showed character by helping her co-finalist
A close competition, a make-or-break dish, or even the pressure of taking home the coveted prize money of AUS$250,000 (Rs1,26 crore approx) didn’t stop winner Elena Duggan (32) from helping her opponent during the finale of MasterChef Australia season 8. The final two — Duggan and Matt Sinclair (27), a coffee roaster from Sydney — had to recreate Heston Blumenthal’s 91-step dessert verjus in egg for the final round.

Duggan helped Sinclair with his liquid nitrogen step, even though she hadn’t finished plating her own dessert. “You don’t want to see a friend in pain. I think he would have done the same for me,” says Duggan, a high school teacher from New South Wales, over a telephonic conversation.
Duggan emerged as the winner during the show that was aired last week on Star World.

Culinary journey
As the head teacher at Galston High School, Duggan would often bring her students treats from her kitchen. “That’s how I practised my cooking,” she says.


Her style is all about classic combinations fused with traditional recipes, but with a modern twist. “I like to add seasonal ingredients to my food. But my core philosophy is maximising flavours by minimising wastage. For instance, if I have cauliflower, I will use every part of it; if it’s a whole chicken, I’ll use the bones to make stock,” she says.
But ask her what’s her favourite comfort food and she says, “Avocado on toast, or tomato and cheese on home-made, gluten-free bread.”


Winning streak
Duggan had applied for season 7, but did not make it. But when she won the latest one, she was more relieved than elated. “I was so exhausted after such long cooking sessions. When I heard my name, I felt a sense of relief. Winning the competition felt like an acknowledgement of all my hard work,” she adds.
Right now, Duggan is busy creating recipes and spending time with family and friends. “I’ve started writing for Delicious magazine in Australia. My first article and recipe come out in November,” she says. Duggan also has offers to work in commercial kitchens in Melbourne and Sydney, and overseas in California. “Right now, I am taking baby steps to fulfil my long-term dream of having a farm café,” says Duggan.