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Master of the chefs

**By Lucy Chesterton At 35, Sarah Wilson's big break as a major TV personality has come later than most. Here the MasterChef host explains why age is no barrier.** What made you stand out from the crowd in the MasterChef presenter audition?
I was pretty much myself in the audition. In fact that's what I got told later — that they were looking for someone really natural. They didn't want your typical TV host. I'm really happy to say that my age — my sheer years on this planet — and my experiences put me in a good position to be able to do this show. Network Ten tend to want to move away from the same old faces that get slotted into show after show. They wanted someone who fitted the brief and who was natural with the subject matter. I went into the audition with low expectations but one way or another it worked out that I got the job, which was a beautiful surprise. Why was your age an advantage in the audition room?
Casting directors can either go for the person who looks a certain way and who ticks all those boxes or they can go for people who actually know what they're talking about and who live and breathe the subject matter. I'm 35 and I have a background in journalism. I think a 21-year-old would struggle to draw life stories out of people who range in age through from 21 right through to the great grandmother we have on the show. I've always said that I wanted to be a point in my journalism career where I've actually had life experience because to be able to tell other people's stories you have to have your own story. Have you encountered any quirky cooking styles on the show?
The contestants we've got are really food mad, and just yesterday we had a celebrity chef who is a fan of talking to the food, which means having a conversation with food while you're cooking it. When the burnt butter sauce is just about to turn and brown at the right point it will bubble in a certain way and that's the food's way of communicating with you, and it's up to you to listen. I think that's a really nice way of looking at it. What are you like in the kitchen?
I'm a really intuitive cook. I make lot of "cupboard surprise!" If I have three tins of sardines and I will go ahead and make something with sardines. That's the way I cook, rather than the way men tend to cook where they get hold of a recipe and go and buy the ingredients from scratch. I cook very much based on how I feel, then I have a look and see what ingredients I've got. Why is MasterChef the hottest new show on the box?
This is a show that is a particular kind of show. It's about food on one hand but it's also about human drama and telling human stories. The show makes good television because it really pricks people's interest and they'll think about trying to do things they've never tried at home. There was one French lady who made a mayonnaise with soy sauce in it! What are your favourite stand-by recipes for busy women?
I cook a lot of soups. I'm a great soup fan and just because I'm so busy they're great to freeze and you can still have an instant meal when you get home. I make celeriac soup with fennel and Arborio rice. I love making Greek stifado, which is usually made with red meat but I make it with tuna. I cook with spices instead of herbs because I really like rich Indian and Moroccan flavours which also suits where my health is at coming into winter. Different bodies need different things but spices usually go with heavier richer, denser, foods. Spices are fantastic for your health when you know what works for you — certain spices don't work for certain people. If you have digestive problems spices are fantastic. You can work with aniseed or fennel seeds which is great for women who have stomach issues. What are some common nutrition mistakes you think women make?
A lot of women eat light foods thinking that's what healthy for them but then they have cravings for chocolate. Salads are great for you but they won't satisfy you.

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