The "MasterChef Australia" Season 8 finale could have gone a very different way. If Matt Sinclair's recreation of Heston Blumenthal's verjus in egg hadn't cracked before the judges could perform that very exciting deed, he could have won. After all, he did have a three point lead over his rival, Elena Duggan. But it was the art teacher's day during the grand finale. The 32-year-old's masterful reproduction of the very difficult dessert won her the trophy, the title of MasterChef, a monthly column in Australia's Delicious Magazine and prize money of US $250,000.
Although Elena didn't shine early in the competition, the judges took notice of her dishes as "MasterChef Australia" Season 8 progressed. The art teacher from New South Wales presented a Spanish pork and rice dish that impelled judge George Calombaris to remark, "Whoever made this dish could go on to win the competition." And one is almost forced to wonder if he has the power to see the future.
Elena's cooks in this year's competition have always incorporated flavours that are robust, sophisticated and inventive. And according to the teacher, these techniques and skills became part of her cooking process only through practice.
I'm so full of gratitude. I don't know how I'm going to sleep tonight, my mind and all of my body is smiling. I'm over the moon to have made it all the way to the end and then through those three epic rounds. I'm blown away with the outpouring of love and support, and I'm so appreciative. #MasterChefAU
"You really need to practice, practice, practice! Especially on the things that scare you and are out of your comfort zone. If you don't know it or don't experience with that cooking technique or ingredient, undoubtedly those are the things you'll come across in a challenge!" she was quoted by Women's Day as saying.
Elena's win has allowed her to think further about her culinary dreams. But how did it all start for her?
Here are a few quick facts about the "MasterChef Australia" Season 8 winner:
- Elena was born on June 1 1983 in Noosa, Queensland. She obtained a Bachelor's degree in Fine Arts from UNSW and went on to specialise in teaching during her post-graduation. She also has a degree in Foundation Psychology from Macquarie University.
- She has a sister who, in fact forced her to apply to "MasterChef Australia." This season's winner revealed that her family has always been supportive of her culinary dreams and might just force her to cook often for family dinners.
- She married her longtime boyfriend Eric and the two don't share a child yet.
- Elena appeared for "MasterChef Australia's" Season 7 auditions but did not win an apron.
- She hopes to open a farm café where she dreams of growing her own produce.
- Much like the other "MasterChef Australia" contestants, Elena plans to gain work experience at a variety of places.