After months of intense challenges, heartbreaking eliminations and a nail-biting finale, Emelia Jackson was crowned the MasterChef: Back To Win champion.
The 30-year-old cake queen, who placed third in the sixth season of MasterChef back in 2014, stayed cool, calm and collected throughout the series and sailed to victory after nailing her third course meal.
Now Emelia chats exclusively to Now To Love about her bittersweet victory over close friend and runner-up Laura Sharrad, her future plans and the unlikely contestant she was most intimidated by when she returned to MasterChef HQ.
Now To Love: Congratulations on your epic win! Did you have a viewing party last night?
Emelia: No, I'm in Melbourne so it was just me and my boyfriend Craig and then we had my family on Zoom. I planned a viewing party, but we're in lockdown again, so I had to cancel it. It was what it was, but it was still so exciting. I've been waiting for this to air for seven or eight weeks now and I've been brimming with excitement!
You were the bookies' favourite to win, did you have lots of people asking you for clues and hints?
Relentless! Relentless amount of people.
It seemed pretty neck-and-neck until the dessert. Did you have a moment where you were thinking 'I've got this' when you were cooking or were you just in the zone?
I was so in my zone. I had no idea because I really couldn't hear any of the judges' comments during the service at all, so I had no idea how my food was being received. The only thing that made me really excited was there was a big camera in front of me and I could see the judges eating all of my entree - they all cleaned their plates and I was like 'That's a good sign.'
That motivated me for main and dessert but I just had no idea - I was so worried about that beef and the fiasco with the pressure cookers that I thought that could've really shot me in the foot.
You were in the finale with Laura who you're very close with. It must've been extra tough competing against such a good friend.
It was really funny, because we were so excited to be in the grand final together and we really thought it was the dream outcome for us, until that moment when we stood there being judged.
I thought 'Maybe it would've been better to have someone I wasn't so close with standing next to me.' It was so exciting for me and heartbreaking for her and it was really tough.
I felt really bad for celebrating how happy I was because I was so upset that my great friend was devastated, it was really a tough line to balance on.
As soon as the borders open will you two have a reunion?
A hundred per cent. My partner's taken two weeks off at the end of August/start of September so hopefully borders are open by then.
We were planning on going on a road trip to Adelaide, but we'll just have to wait and see.
You aren't allowed to keep the MasterChef trophy but your parents made you your own replica to keep. What's the story behind that?
I have no idea how they got it done. My dad organised it and he said it was an exceptionally hard thing to get made because how do you even go about getting a massive metal plate made? They dropped it on my doorstep last night after the finale - I opened the door and saw this big package sitting there and I thought that because it was a big square box that maybe they'd got a massive photo or something that I was going to have to hang in my house but it was the trophy.
I was so excited. I just really want to have people over and have cheese on it and go 'What's that under the Camembert, oh yeah that's my name on it!'
It must've been disappointing that you couldn't celebrate with your family and partner on finale night when you were in the kitchen.
It did suck, I really wanted them there, but I was also kind of relieved that they weren't there because it was like another layer of pressure to perform in front of them that I probably didn't need. They sent us all beautiful little video clips.
I really would've loved for them to be there just to celebrate and be a part of it but I think I was able to stay more focused especially not having my mum there, because she, like me, is a bit of an emotional wreck. She would've been there crying the whole time.
You were running your cake business out of your parents' kitchen. Will you be using some of the prize money to get your own cooking space?
My original dream was to convert my garage into a commercial kitchen, but now I think I just want to build a separate space away from my home.
But the first thing I'm doing with the money is releasing my line of packet mixes - the first one I've released is the financiers that I made for the final dessert course - and I really want to expand that. I want to create a line of packet mixes that are genuinely delicious and super easy to create at home.
There have been some great challenges and guest stars this season. Aside from winning, what was your MasterChef highlight?
Definitely that very first episode when I presented my eclair to Gordon Ramsay - I definitely thought it was just an eclair and wasn't expecting the feedback I got for that at all.
One of my all-time favourite challenges was when Matt Stone and Jo Barrett came into the kitchen and we did a team challenge early on before corona hit. It was savoury versus sweet and we had a sweet team and it was so good - Jo Barrett is an amazing pastry chef and it was amazing to have that experience.
The contestants were all so close with one another and it seemed like a lovely environment, but was there anyone in particular that you were intimidated by during your time on the show?
I was most intimidated by Laura. I know everyone probably thinks that I would've said Reynold but I was definitely most intimidated by Laura.
Her experience in the food industry is incredible - she's worked at Orana which is a three hatted restaurant, she's worked at Hentley Farm, she owns her own amazing restaurant in Adelaide and she is a gun. She got pegged as this pasta cook early on, but that's so far from who she is and she really intimidated me with her skills. Her being there shook me!
She received a lot of hate online for cooking pasta, what did you make of all of that?
It was honestly so annoying to deal with and to hear that's how narrow-minded people are. I think that if you own a pasta restaurant and you're on a TV show where you want to promote that pasta restaurant, isn't it natural that you'd make pasta?
I wanted to promote my cake business so I made a lot of desserts but I think Laura made pasta maybe five times at the start of the series and all of them were so incredibly perfect. But then she made such a variety of fantastic foods throughout the series and for some reason the pasta thing stuck.
It is a bit of a downside about putting yourself out there and that public scrutiny - people can be really nasty and I'm sure if you met them on the street they'd be lovely to you, but they seem to think it's fine to say nasty things on the internet, which is really really disappointing.
WATCH BELOW: Emelia Jackson's emotional speech on MasterChef Back To Win. Post continues after video...
Have you had much experience dealing with trolls and negative online comments?
The first time around in season six I got a lot of bad social media trolling off the back of it and it really affected me, it really shook my confidence for a really long time. During this season I was pretty immune to it or Laura copped most of it until the end when I started talking about my confidence and really backing my skill set.
People did not love that on the internet, which I find kind of ridiculous because if you're on a cooking competition, I don't understand why you can't say I'm good at cooking. If you're on a competition, why can't you own that you're good at what you're doing?
Apart from negative comments, what was your toughest or most challenging moment this series?
I think that my toughest moment was that grand final. I think I really walked into it once again full of self-doubt but telling myself 'Just do the best you can do.'
Usually what would happen is at the start of the cook I'd be really nervous and then get into it and forget about the nerves but for some reason in the final the start of the cook happened and I just got more and more nervous as the cook went on. At no point did I stop being nervous in that cook!
That was really hard trying to keep a lid on that - I like to be really firmly in control of my emotions so it was really challenging for me to keep a lid on it the whole time.
People were intrigued by your 'mystery boyfriend' Craig as he doesn't have much of a social media presence. What was his reaction to being Googled and having stories written about him?
We had a big laugh about it because my mystery man is so not mysterious! I loved all the articles saying 'her unknown partner' and I was like 'Unknown to who? He's known to everyone in my life!'
He doesn't feature much on my Facebook or Instagram mainly because I use that platform to promote my business more than anything. I found the whole thing very funny and I think he was quietly chuffed by it all as well - all his friends thought it was absolutely hilarious.
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