Day 5: Judgement Day. It would have been easier if we had have been judged more quickly. Instead, we were sardined into a bus at 5:45am, poured into a darkened loungeroom set, and left to stew in our own juices for hours.
I actually started the day in a positive frame. The way I saw it, we were all brilliant and the judges would have a hard time making their selections. Each time a contestant wished me luck, I would congratulate them – for being fabulous – but that weirded some people out so I stopped and gave my snaps silently instead.
Larissa was first up. When Sandra wouldn’t believe that she didn’t get through, the cracks started to show in me. I really felt for Larissa. She spoke so eloquently and graciously in her final interview. I was so proud of her and I hoped that I would do the same in her shoes.
Contestant after contestant was judged. Some alone, some in pairs, threes and fours. My food mentor was through, as was my creative neighbour from the final challenge. There were constant surprises, a steady flow of cortisol and seratonin.
It was mid-afternoon when Jackie and I were judged as a pair. We were miked up and given an umbrella to get us through the rain and the long walk past the familiar thin bars and razor-wire.
Neither of us made it. Gary, George and Matt were honest in their summation and fair in their judgement. They were encouraging and generous with their advice and I really appreciated that.
I left the judgement hall with a light heart. Yes, I was a little disappointed, but that was nothing compared to my elation, which I tried to hide from the cameras: now I could return to my partner and son!
One of the producers asked if I would be back next year and I responded positively, then I made a mental note that I could not put myself or my family through this process again, let alone 3-4 months of absence for Top 20 challenges. There is so much I would have missed in my little boy’s development: saying ‘mummum’ for the first time; his first crawl; his first ‘high five’; baby cuddles everyday. I would have missed half of Xander’s life so far.
I was happy with what I had achieved. I made it into the top 37 from over 7,000 applicants. I couldn’t help but be proud of that. The judges had the unenviable task of culling our group to 20, which would have been difficult given the awesome talent and passion on the ‘reject’ bus.
I stopped feeling so magnaminous as we approached the hotel stay of shame. Those who didn’t make it to the Top 20 and couldn’t get flights out that night had to change hotels. Yes, I am serious. We were actualy shipped off to a lesser hotel. At the Marque, we had a lovely contact person who looked after our every need. At the new hotel, which shall remain unnamed, we had to guess what/who we were booked under. It smelt funny, the furniture had stains in odd places, and the area was kind of far from everything cool. We had become outcasts in a matter of hours. Them’s the breaks, I guess. Showbiz can be cold.
I got over this by taxi-ing to dinner with my gorgeous Sydney friends and their food club, ate cheap and oh-so-tasty Vietnamese food at Nhat Tan and taxied back. A car was picking us up at 7:30am.
What we had been put through was a week-long stress test. I was not prepared for the reality of reality television. We had very long hours with little sleep, poor nutrition during filming and no exercise – all in an artificial environment with insufficient water and bathroom breaks. Most of us had not cooked at all during the first few days, and then had to cook something outside of comfort. I had to express for an hour first thing in the morning, last thing at night and at every break I could steal in between. I was physically and mentally exhausted. It took me weeks to recover from this ordeal.
Still, I look back at this time fondly. I made some great friends, some of whom are in the Top 20. I learned so much about food, about behind-the-scenes TV, about myself. Oh, and I got to keep my apron 🙂 These are the things that made the experience worthwhile for me.
And when I saw my partner and Xander waiting for me as I stepped into Perth airport after my week away, I nearly cried. The judges had clearly made the right choice for me. I was home.
Even with the mini-interviews and a crew filming me at home for a day following the final 20 announcement, not much beside my shoes made it to the final cut. Thank you to all my beautiful friends and family for sticking with me throughout my television ordeal in spite of the airtime I received. You are the best.
My hearty congratulations go to the Top 20 – you are all awesome and deserve the accolades you receive.
Thanks so much for reading! See you next post, my last one focused on MasterChef, where I detail my learnings from the show,