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EXCLUSIVE: MasterChef’s Julie Goodwin reveals the “hardest days are behind” her now she’s back at the top

''I didn’t want to be back at the bottom of a dark place.''
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Julie Goodwin found her return to the MasterChef Australia kitchen “very hard” at first, but it didn’t take long for the winner of the first season of the cooking comp in 2009 to get into what she calls “a bit of a groove”.

Two months in, Julie, 51, tells Woman’s Day she’s really started to enjoy herself.

“There have been days when I thought, ‘Oh God, why am I putting myself through this?’ [But] I’ve never actually thought I need to stop. I’m grateful for the opportunity, grateful for the experience. I’m proud of myself for hanging in there. I honestly didn’t know if I’d be gone in minutes but the fact that I’ve stuck around – I’m thrilled!”

Cooking alongside her fellow competitors has been a very happy bonus.

“It’s really wonderful. We’re having so much fun. The cooking itself and not knowing what’s ahead for the day is quite stressful but they’re just such a beautiful group of people and we’re all supporting each other and doing it together.”

Julie thrilled fans by signing up for MasterChef again.

(Image: Ten)

It’s obvious returning to the show has given the star – who’s secured herself a place in the top nine – some of her spark back.

“It’s put me into a position where I’ve really got to sink or swim and I must have been at a point where I was ready for that to happen because it didn’t break me, it helped to heal me,” she says.

“I certainly hope my hardest days are behind me.”

Julie “absolutely” feared returning to the MasterChef kitchen for Fans & Favourites would affect her mental health for the worse.

“That was a massive discussion when I was asked to do it. I didn’t just say yes, I talked to my family, I talked to my psychologist, and it was a decision that was made in a very considered way because at the end of the day, I didn’t want to be back at the bottom of a dark place,” says Julie, who spent five weeks at a mental health facility in 2020 battling severe depression.

“That was a massive discussion when I was asked to do it.”

(Image: Instagram)

The reality star says she’s grateful to now have the “tools” to tackle hardships – including the pressure cooker that is MasterChef!

“We put things in place – if x, y and z starts to happen, then I’ll know that I’m not coping,” the mother-of-three tells Woman’s Day. “They’ve worked around the filming schedule to allow me to still have my psychology appointments and to get out early in the morning to do my exercise. They touch base with me constantly to make sure I’m OK.”

And while it is often fame itself that causes others to flounder, Julie says it hasn’t been a burden for her.

“Everything happens for a reason and 13 years ago when I won MasterChef it was quite wild how big that was but what that did more than anything was give me an opportunity to do some work for some causes that were important to me,” she says.

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“Now I have the opportunity to speak openly about suffering with ill mental health and just trying to normalise that. I definitely have had some beautiful feedback from people who’ve had their own struggles.”

Cooking, however, isn’t Julie’s biggest passion – that spot is reserved for her family, childhood sweetheart husband Michael, 51, sons Joe, 26, Tom, 25, and Paddy, 23, and her “joy” of a granddaughter, 17-month-old Delilah.

“We speak every day on FaceTime and she lights up when she sees me on the phone,” says Julie, who admits being separated from the toddler while filming the show in Melbourne has been hard.

“I’ve missed her enormously. My arms ache for her!” says Julie, who will be on birthday cake making duty when Delilah turns two in January. “I’m more of the savoury cook than the sweet cook, but I don’t mind doing a birthday cake.”

Julie with her husband and their grandchild.

(Image: Instagram)

In fact, while you’d think she’d be ready to throw in the (tea) towel and order a takeaway by now, Julie can’t wait to be back whipping things up in the kitchen – her own, that is!

“Being in my own kitchen, in my own home is just the loveliest thought,” Julie says with a laugh when asked what she’s looking forward to post-MasterChef.

“If dinner’s a bit late, then it’s a bit late and if somebody doesn’t like it very much, well, tough, no one’s going to eliminate me from my own house!”

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