author of The Sweet Life: The Basics and Beyond and winner of MasterChef Australia 2011 answers
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born in Sydney and given a wonderful childhood and schooling there too. I have two sisters and I’m the middle.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
When I was 12 I wanted to be a chef. I played ‘restaurants’, held dinner parties for my friends and loved to help Mum cook the dinner.
When I was 18 I wanted to be a primary school teacher. I’d always liked working with kids and didn’t like the hours that chefs kept so it seemed like the best fit for me.
When I was 30 I wanted to work in the food industry. With two children at the time I knew I couldn’t become a chef so I started to dream about other food-related possibilities. I used my stay-at-home-mum status to revel in local produce and look for any opportunity to cook.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
That seafood was completely overrated! Now I can’t get enough of it!
1) At the age of 16 my uncle asked me to cater for his work event. It was the first catering job I’d ever had and I loved it!
2) Moving to Orange in regional NSW and experiencing first-hand the wonderful local produce available on my doorstep. Thus began for voracious quest to learn as much as I could about food: how it’s grown and how best to cook it.
3) Being the winning contestant on Masterchef. Just being a contestant fed my love of food and cooking but having the opportunity to squeeze every possible experience out of it by being there until the very end and then to be presented with the opportunities that come from winning have been life-changing.
5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? Aren’t they obsolete?
There is nothing quite like holding a book in your hands! Sure, I use all manner of other media in day-to-day life but there is so much joy to be had from flicking through the pages of your favourite cookbooks. They will never be obsolete in my household!
Desserts and sweet food are my ‘happy place’ in the world of cooking. So my cookbook is a collection of all the recipes I’ve had floating around in my head: some for years and some as a result of my recent experiences. I’ve designed the book to be useful for cooks of all abilities. Basic dessert techniques are given as well as expansions on those techniques for those who’ve already mastered the basics. There’s even a chapter at the back for those ‘wanna-be chefs’ like me! And there’s a code to help you work out which ones are best for you. To keep my Mum happy, I’ve also given details such as prep times, cooking times and whether they can be made ahead of time. And for my own sheer joy I’ve given other ideas for those wanting to do a little creation of their own!
7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?
That people would acknowledge the source of all the wonderful produce we have in this world and to use the necessary act of eating to enjoy it and connect with others through it.
8. Whom do you most admire and why?
My husband, Luke. He has shown me (and all viewers of Masterchef Season 3) what it means to love genuinely. The self-sacrificial love that desires the best for others and goes to great lengths to give it. He is also my ‘ideas man’, my confidante and the one who keeps me accountable.
To use the gifts, abilities and experiences that I’ve been blessed with to bring about good and lasting change to people’s lives, no matter what the context.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
To ask respected others for criticism and then take on board what they say and work hard at doing what you do a little bit better each time.
About the Contributor
John Purcell (aka Natasha Walker) is the author of The Secret Lives of Emma trilogy published by Random House Australia. The Secret Lives of Emma: Beginnings reached the top ten on the Australian fiction charts and Natasha/John was the tenth highest selling Australian novelist and third highest selling Australian debut author in 2012. The trilogy has since sold over 50,000 copies in print and ebook and has been translated into French and Polish. John has worked in the book industry for the last twenty years. While still in his twenties he opened John’s Bookshop, a second-hand bookshop in Mosman in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Now he is the Head of Product and Chief Buyer at booktopia.com.au.