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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 21 May 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 21 MAY 2016 13 How connected are you to your Greek heritage? Very connected. Growing up, it was really important to my grandparents that they kept traditions alive, despite moving to the other side of the world. I still speak to my grandparents in Greek. Growing up, I went to Greek school so I'm able to speak and read without any problems. I think Greek music is the best - it does something to you that only other Greeks will understand. Are you a fan of Greek cuisine? I love Greek food! Most people think that Greek food is souvlaki and dips, but it's so much more than that. It's about fresh ingredients and doing as little as possible to the produce to give you the most flavour. Plus, we have some of the best desserts in the world. What made you give MasterChef a go? I wanted to do something for myself. Growing up, it was really important to my family that we go to a good school, study hard and get a good job so we don't have to work as hard as our parents had to. I went through uni and had a good job, but I'd always wanted to have a career in food. In my mind, MasterChef was my last opportunity to fulfil my dream before settling down and having children. What sets you apart from the other contestants? I think my palate is different. Being able to understand and use ingredients that I watched my yiayia use growing up, knowing what to do with them and how to use them is a massive bonus. Things like rosewater, mastic and a lot of different spices; most contestants either don't like those flavours or have never used those ingredients before. My grandparents are from Cyprus, so our food has a lot of influence from surrounding countries which helps me to think a little differently also. How different is cooking in front of a camera to at home or at work? Wow! It's completely different, but that also depends who I'm cooking for. If I'm at home cooking for my husband and I, he tends to not bother me when I'm in the kitchen. If I was at mum's or yiayia's house, now that's a different story! They're always giving me their input as to how I should do things in the kitchen, the 'right' way, which is yiayia's way. Where do you see yourself after the show? This is a really tough question because there's so much I want to do. But first off, I would love to start my own business that specialises in sweets. #watchthisspace What is your strength and your weakness in the kitchen? My strength is that I have a great knowledge of food, about flavours that do and don't work together and cooking techniques. I would say my weakness is that sometimes when I get an idea, I stick to it. The pressure of the kitchen at times gives you tunnel vision and you can't think about anything else once an idea pops into your head. Who do you think is the most 'dangerous' contestant? Definitely Matty, without a doubt. He is probably the best cook in the competition. His food is always delicious, consistent, well thought out and well executed. His food knowledge and skill are unbelievable, and to top it all off, he is probably the nicest guy you will ever meet! NICOLETTE STATHOPOULOS, 19, STUDENT Although she might be MasterChef Australia 2016's youngest contestant, Nicolette's talent should not be underestimated. Cooking seriously since she was aged 11, the 19-year-old and her older brother enjoyed a childhood filled with many happy memories and lots of food enjoyed with their extended Greek family. Having worked in a cake store for the past five years, Nicolette juggled her job with her high school studies, plus activities including rowing and kayaking. Graduating in 2014, she excelled in hospitality and food and technology. In 2015 she began her tertiary studies at Monash University, undertaking a double business degree, majoring in marketing and management, which she has deferred in order to take part in the competition. Despite her tender years, Nicolette has clocked up many kitchen hours by doing voluntary work experience in some of Melbourne's best restaurants, including Mr Wolf, Cutler & Co, Ginger Boy and Bistro Vue. She has also spent time in Adriano Zumbo's kitchen in Sydney and at age 16, even managed a day in the kitchen at Rene Redzepi's world-famous Noma restaurant in Copenhagen while on a family holiday after meeting him at a Melbourne book signing. Nicolette loves how food brings people together and sees this as being a big part of what she wants to do with her life. With her sights set on travel to Paris to study patisserie at Le Cordon Bleu, Nicolette would love to one day have a pop-up dessert bar in Melbourne. What is it that draws you to cooking? I've always loved cooking from a young age, since I can remember I was in the kitchen running around with my yiayia, helping her prepare dinner for the family. How connected are you to your Greek heritage? I love coming from a Greek background, it’s something that has always connected me to family and food, especially around big celebrations such as Greek Easter and Christmas time. During Easter we always enjoy a week-long celebration that is filled with food and love. Are you a fan of Greek cuisine? I love Greek food, especially lots of meat. I’m fascinated by how food brings people together and the atmosphere. I go down to Oakleigh every couple of weeks and enjoy a coffee or mixed grilled meats with my friends I have gained through my Greek school years. What made you give MasterChef a go? I've been watching the show since it started. And I love a challenge - when I saw the auditions come out I just had to give it a go. Unfortunately, my grandfather passed away two weeks before auditions, which made me want to pursue MasterChef even more, to show him I can push myself and do something he would be proud of. What sets you apart from the other contestants? I am different to all the other contestants firstly because I am the youngest, but also for my personality and sense of humour. I'm probably considered the joker of the house, always cracking jokes. How different is cooking in front of a camera to at home or at work? At home I'm a lot more relaxed in the kitchen. I love cooking for big family gatherings so the portion sizes are very different. Where do you see yourself after the show? After the show I’d love to start running pop-up dessert bars showcasing my work on the show. What is your strength and your weakness in the kitchen? My strength in the kitchen is desserts, and my weakness would be seafood. Who do you think is the most 'dangerous' contestant? Everyone in the MasterChef kitchen has their strengths, and we all want to win, so we are all pretty dangerous at times.
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