Reece 'Cakeboi' Hignell was eliminated from MasterChef: Back To Win on Sunday night, with the fan favourite leaving many viewers in tears as he exited the kitchen for the final time.
Now in an exclusive chat with Now To Love, the baking extraordinaire, 30, talks about why this season was "so much harder" than his first stint on season 10, his now iconic meeting with singing superstar Katy Perry and the unusual method he employed during challenges that meant he could more-or-less stick to his plant-based diet during filming.
Now To Love: The last 24 hours must've been hectic for you following your elimination. What was it like watching the episode back?
Reece: Watching the episode was interesting because I've already gone through that process before. I've really dealt with those emotions and what not, so watching it last night was a nice, reflective kind of moment.
You were one of the most beloved contestants this season. What's in been like to receive so many supportive messages from your fans?
It's actually been really lovely. It has been really crazy, so I haven't been able to look through everything, but it's really weird when people so many nice things about you!
You, Brendan [Pang] and Jess [Liemantara] are particularly close. What have they said since your elimination?
Jess is just beautiful - she was so kind to me. She's nearly 10 years younger than me and she calls me to check up if I'm ok. I'm like 'I'm the ones who's meant to check up on you!'
Obviously mine and Brendan's relationship is really close, we have a lot of smack talk but he was really nice about the whole thing. He was upset because he wanted me to win and I was like 'Yeah well I wanted to win! so thanks for rubbing that one in!'
You last appeared on MasterChef in 2018, how did this season compare to then?
It's just not comparable I think. This season was so much harder - I think from the very first cook we did with Gordon Ramsay we all realised how hard this season was going to be. That day I think maybe one or two people got critiqued for their dishes and we were like 'How are we going to make it past 24 let alone get to the end or win when everyone's cooking such incredible food?'
On season 10 it was like a yo-yo because we were all trying to adjust to the pressure of it all and this time everyone knew the pressure, everyone's ready and geared up, they've all been waiting for it and it was really hard.
I made a joke to the judges and I said 'I reckon the amount of effort just to get to the top five in this season I would've easily won season 10!' It's so hard competing against these people but I had the most incredible time and I enjoyed every moment of it.
We can't forget the iconic moment when you cooked for Katy Perry...
[Laughs] I've been asked about it so many times and I was thinking 'Hang on Reece, you didn't even win that episode!' But that episode, I just owned that moment, it's crazy. That day I was completely shocked but it's just turned into such a fun moment.
If you're standing there and Katy Perry calls you the tits, come on! Are you not going to go red and laugh?
WATCH BELOW: Khanh Hong's hilarious interaction with Katy Perry on MasterChef. Post continues after video...
What was it like the moment she walked through the door?
I remember so clearly, obviously I've had the chance to watch it again, but Jock was like 'She's been singing our theme song for the past 10 years,' and I was like 'No, she's not coming on MasterChef.' And then they were like 'It's Katy Perry!' and there was a delay, she must've been slowly walking up the steps and I turned to Brendan and went 'I don't believe them, I won't believe it until I see her,' and then she walked in and I was like 'What are you doing on MasterChef? What are you doing here?'
At that stage I was shocked, bamboozled, I was completely shook like no other! She glided in like she was meant to be there, like it was her show to be on. It was cool because you don't see stuff like that on Australian TV - someone acting clearly silly but owning it. I loved the way she interacted with us - she was genuine but really comedic at the same time.
So will you be sending over a congratulatory cake to the US when her baby's born?
I'll just FedEx it!
Aside from Katy, what were some of your other MasterChef highlights?
I really loved it when I won the back-to-back immunity and I branded that period Reece Week because I'm my biggest fan! I thought that was so cool, especially as I was able to do it towards the end and show everyone I'm here for a reason so that was a really big moment for me.
But also that meant the most to me was that I got to make my nan's sponge, so that was really cute because my nan passed away just before the episode, so it's a moment that will definitely go on for my family for a bit longer.
You're away from your family and loved ones for months while filming and then COVID restrictions happened. How did you go being apart from them during this time?
It was actually fine. I think the first time round it was a bit more difficult because you couldn't keep in as much contact as we could this season when we could chit-chat constantly on text and everything. I had no problems with missing my family or anything - that's the benefit of having technology.
You eat a primarily plant-based diet so what was it like in the competition when you had to cook meat and non-vegan dishes?
It was so hard. I like to only eat plant-based, but I do that for a health reason, but it was definitely hard to try and stick with that on the show because you obviously have to try everything that you're making with pressure tests and that and none of them were vegan.
The show was actually really lovely to me - they gave me a spit bucket! They were also really kind not to put that on TV. I didn't always have to eat it if you know what I'm saying.
Of the remaining contestants who would you love to see win?
I know who I want to win and that's Emelia. It's because we both have cake businesses and we both love old-school baking so I'm being very biased because if I can't win doing what I love then I'd like to see her win doing what I love.