A Delicious Story to Tell the Grandkids!
With a love for food and cooking, this Warners Bay resident dreamed one day of being a chef and TV cooking celebrity. Her passion started as a young girl spending most Saturdays with her Grandma in the kitchen watching her bake. However, her life took a different path as a wife, mum of four children, and a career as an HR specialist.
Despite this, her desire to be in the kitchen and create delicious food didn’t diminish, last year her dream became a reality when Steph De Sousa was one of 24 contestants on MasterChef season 11.
“MasterChef gave me the training to do what I want to do – without taking three to four years out of my life,” Steph said.
To be a contestant, Steph quit her job and temporarily moved to Melbourne.
“For five and a half months, I had to give up my life. It sounds like a long time, but it went in a heartbeat. It will be the incredible story I tell my grandkids.”
It certainly wasn’t an easy journey, though. When the debut show advertised for applicants, Steph was pregnant with her youngest child, Noah.
“I filled out the application then pressed delete; it wasn’t the right time”.
She watched the first season in 2009, followed by all the subsequent seasons and saw the standard get higher and higher. In 2016, she filled out the application without telling anyone. After she had emailed it, Steph told her husband, Neville.
“I didn’t dare to think I would hear back from them, as I didn’t believe I was good enough,” Steph said. Then she received the call for an audition and progressed to the final stage but didn’t make the show.
This only made her more determined. Every spare minute was dedicated to her wish. She became consumed by cooking and devouring cooking shows, books and travel – everything she did was all about cuisine.
“The next year, I tried and made it to the last stage again. I cried a lot. Then decided to give it one more crack – it was third time lucky.”
The experience ended up being more amazing than she imagined and created many memorable moments. “Legends Week was incredible. All these people, I had watched or bought their cookbooks, were there.”
Steph cooked two dishes that won the praise of Rick Stein. Her fried whitebait with patatas bravas sent him back to the streets of Spain and her roasted bone marrow with pine nut custard and slow-roasted tomatoes, he warned could pop up on his menu.
“For a food idol to say these things was mind-blowing.”
Placing in the Top 12, Steph said that being a contestant had opened doors to make things happen. One such event was cooking dinner for 150 people at the Living Smart Festival in Speers Point last year. With Steph as the local celebrity cook, within six hours, the event was sold out.
“At the end of the night, I walked up and down the tables; people said they enjoyed the food and wanted a photo with me to remember the night. It was like a full stop to the end of the MasterChef 2019 story.”
This story may be over but keep your eye out for Steph’s sequel. She has plans for her own cooking show, which was about to start filming in India, but like many things, it was put on pause due to COVID. At the moment, she is busily working towards a TV show based locally on home cooking.
“I don’t want to wait two or three years for my first show. So, I am working hard to find a way to create a local one. It is early days, and I am hoping it will come to fruition.”