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Returning for its eighth season, MasterChef Australia fuses more big name international chefs, bright new talent and exhilarating challenges to keep you on your toes. 24 home cooks will earn the honour of wearing a MasterChef apron as the judges Gary Mehigan, Matt Preston and George Calombaris share their unique skills and insights with the contestants.

Together, the judges will nurture, inspire and coach the cooks to amplify their skills in the kitchen by leaps and bounds. For Season 8, Vue de monde’s Shannon Bennett reprises his role as a mentor for immunity challenges throughout the competition, and extraordinary guest judges include Marco Pierre White, Nigella Lawson and Heston Blumenthal.

Photo: Channel 10
Photo: Channel 10

MasterChef Australia Season 8 premieres from 4th July 2016 (Monday) on Lifetime (Astro Ch 709) every weeknight at 8pm and in conjunction with the premiere, we spoke with one of the hopeful contestants who resonates very close to home – Theresa Visintin, who is originally from Singapore before moving to Canada and then Australia.

Being married to an Italian and having called several countries home, the 44-year-old mother and former actress brings a worldly view and palate to the competition. The talented lass who looks up to Jamie Oliver, Heston Blumenthal, Daniel Humm and more, hopes to work on a television food project to share her insights on ways to elevate the art of dining in.

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Q: Why did you decide to join MasterChef Australia and what do you hope to take from it?

A: I wanted to join MasterChef Australia because I was excited about the speed of learning that I’ve seen in other contestants. I wanted to experience that and take the level of cooking that I had to a higher level. I wanted to know what I could do; to see whether I had it in me to push myself to that next level.

Q: MasterChef Australia is full of suspense. What can the viewers expect this season?

A: With every season of MasterChef Australia, it seems to be getting more and more advanced in techniques and plating expectations. What was acceptable in Season 1, like baking a cake or making a tart, is different in Season 8. We are going to be really, really pushed to deliver dishes that are not as common in everyday cooking.

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Q: Who would you say are your biggest competitors on the show? What are some of their strengths you’d like to learn from?

A: I’ve got my eye on Matt Sinclair. He would very quickly come up with a plan when he goes in to cook. Also, that plan is very true to how he cooks at home and he doesn’t get pressured to feel like he’s got to play by another set of rules. He’s very true to making the food that he loves and that’s something I really admire him for.

It also gives him the confidence to cook well because he trusts his instincts and doesn’t overthink things, which is a dangerous thing a lot of us do. When they mention invention test, all of a sudden you think that you have to be inventive, but really, it’s more important to put up a good plate of food. Being calm about it is such a hard thing to do!

Q: Tell us about some of your favourite memories with food while growing up.

A: When I was a little bit older and we visited Singapore, my absolute favourite thing was Malaysian and Singaporean laksa. I loved the heat and richness. There’s nothing better! Just going to the market or stalls and having a delicious laksa is something I really loved.

Also, growing up my mom and dad would bring home takeaways from the Chinese restaurants; just eating Westernised Chinese food, I loved that! Fried ice creams were my favourite.

Then, coming across the Italian cuisine was all my mother-in-law. It was eye-opening for me; it’s beautiful.

Q: We know you used to do some acting. How did you cultivate your love for food and cooking? They are both very different things.

A: I’ve just done acting from a young age and I loved it; pretending and doing silly things. It’s fun to have permission and pretend to be somebody else and do something different.

Cooking has come from an emotional place. I met my husband at 18 and we didn’t have savings. When we had our children quite young, there was not a lot of finance and we would cook at home. My husband would pour a glass of wine, we would watch MasterChef or read a cooking book, then try to cook.

It’s definitely a favourite thing I like to do with my family. It’s more of an emotional bond. When I’m in the kitchen with my husband or kids, they cook all the time and I love it. It’s a fun thing that’s good for us to do as a family.

Q: Does being married to an Italian and having lived in several countries affect your cooking style and flair?

A: Yes, because the produce is different. We had a lot more lamb in Australia, whereas here in Canada I don’t eat much lamb. The cooking style and type of food that I love is the same. I still love grungy, tasty, easy, and simply made delicious food. I’m not into long recipes that take 10 days to make. My style of cooking remains the same.

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Q: Who are some of your favourite chefs you’d love to work with in the future?

A: I think Heston (Blumenthal) is fun. That would just be impossible but it would be fun. I love people like Curtis Stone. I love the television industry so I really do enjoy the lifestyle people like Curtis Stone show, like when they go around, travel and eat.

Poh (Ling Yeow) as well; she’s just a homely ex-contestant now. She cooks her home food but she integrates it with television. Those type of chefs really interest me because it touches on two things that I love – food and television.

Q: What are some of your signature dishes your family absolutely loves?

A: Laksa, for sure. They love spice, but they actually like simple food. They love pastas, stir fry and slow-roasted ribs.

Photo: Network Ten
Photo: Network Ten

Q: If you could choose one type of cuisine to enjoy for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

A: It would be Japanese cuisine. I love when I go out and eat Japanese food. It’s so light. It’s a bit of rice, noodles and soup. I really enjoy Japanese food because you could eat that everyday and not feel sick. You can’t eat pasta everyday, can you?

Watch Theresa Visintin battle it out with the other contestants on MasterChef Australia Season 8, premiering from 4th July 2016 (Monday) on Lifetime (Astro Ch 709) every weeknight at 8pm.

Carmen Chong
YouTube-obsessed and a beauty junkie at heart. Find her on Instagram: @carthemen