Maggie Beer has firmly established herself as a favourite guest judge on MasterChef Australia – but what inspires her to come back, year after year?
The star, 74, opens up to TV WEEK about why the cooking competition is her number-one show, but why she'd never encourage a loved one to apply...
What is it about MasterChef Australia that you love?
I love the people and that they're there to change their lives. They have a dream and have decided to do something about it. I admire them enormously; I find it absolutely inspiring.
Which contestants have impressed you most this season?
I'm not going there! [Laughs] It depends on what the challenge is as to who is impressive. It's interesting how it takes some time to settle out – that's a good thing, because it means the standard is really high.
What do you think it takes to win MasterChef?
The right attitude and mental state in terms of being able to think things through. And not being caught up by the fear of the clock.
Which judge is the most fun on set?
I'd never hear the end of it if I chose one over the other! There's so much fun, so much warmth and camaraderie [between them]. They bounce off each other and that's why they can stay fresh and involved.
Would you encourage any of your own family to go on the show?
MasterChef is a great learning tool, but if I were advising a family member, I'd tell them to think seriously about whether they have the temperament to do it. It's not for everyone, and that's why I admire anyone who does it. It can be a real ride emotionally.
Have you always wanted to work with food?
No, but I was brought up in a household where food was an important part of my life. I was 34 before I started cooking; I've never been trained – it was just a set of circumstances that showed me I should be.
You spend so much time around food. Are you ever tempted to order a takeaway?
Never! I always cook from scratch, every day. I just have no need. I have a huge garden and pantry, and produce always at hand.
MasterChef Australia airs Monday to Thursday, and Sunday, 7.30pm, Network 10.