MasterChef’s Julie Goodwin reveals surprising career highlight

Julie Goodwin, the winner of the first Australian season of MasterChef in 2009, has revealed a surprising career highlight.

Video transcript

JULIE GOODWIN: She just sort of casually says, look, don't wear a skirt tomorrow because there's going to be a guy under your desk where you're cooking. And I-- I beg your pardon?


My family and I had been living in this funny little sort of shack while we built a house on this block of land, and we spent-- it was meant to be six months, we ended up spending two years in there. And I had no kitchen and it was really tough going, but I think it's character building. The boys have a great character after that.

And while we were in there, I just sort of said to my husband, we'd never had Foxtel or any kind of streaming TV before. And I said when we move into this new house, we're going to get Foxtel, you can watch all the sport you want. And what happened was I discovered the Lifestyle Food channel. [LAUGHS]

And, of course, I'm in my beautiful new kitchen watching Lifestyle Food all day long and I got hooked on the UK version of "MasterChef" with Gregg Wallace and John Torode and I loved it and I loved watching these people. Just a little civilized little cooking competition it was, where people would turn up for a few weeks, they'd cook, they went home every night and after about six weeks somebody was a winner. But they had all improved and learned things and looked like they had enormous fun.

And so when there was a contestant call for "Australia MasterChef" I thought, oh, look, I love that show and it looks like fun. And so I applied not knowing what it was going to be, like had no idea what it was going to be. I thought it was just going to be the same as the British version, which it was not. But my best friend said to me, you have to apply. You have to apply. And she pestered me right up until-- because the application was huge like, I ended up having to take half day off work to fill it in. It was huge.

And she said to me the day before it was due, if you don't fill that in, you're never allowed to talk to me about food again. So I went, oh, man, that's brutal. So I did, and now she takes a little credit. And when I got accepted, I didn't know until I made it to the top 50 out of 7,500 people. I got to the top 50 before they said, oh, by the way, you have to live out of home to compete.

And I remember that conversation with Mick saying, I have to actually live in a house in Sydney. What I didn't know until I moved into that house was that they were going to take my computer off me, and my phone off me, and I was not going to have any unsupervised contact with my family for quite some time. On the UK version, you don't see their house. You don't see their homes. But they put us all together into one house. Very big house.

And because they didn't quite know what was going to go to air, how it was all going to hang together because it was season one, they filmed us all day long. So there were cameras there in the morning, we got filmed putting our makeup on and brushing our teeth. There were cameras there at night. There was this whole thing like now, when someone's eliminated, everybody's there and they get to have a hug and say goodbye.

But in season one, everybody left. And then they would film us sitting in our lounge room at the house waiting to see who came back, and that person just vanished. He didn't get to say goodbye to them, it was-- they just disappeared off the face of the Earth. And yeah, so it was a very, very different experience.

If we were filming six days a week, we were doing work experience on Sundays in restaurants. They were placing us in restaurants to do work experience. And so it was big. It was really big. But I wouldn't change anything about it, because I actually think that some of the reason that I made it s the way through to the end was that I could tough out some of that stuff.

And some of it wasn't about the cooking, some of it was a head game, and you just had to be able to tough out those long hours and all of that. And back then I could do that. Nowadays, not so much. I don't want to. It was so strange. I had no luck. I had no idea what was going to happen when I applied. And yeah, it was so strange.

And the nature of the show is that people feel like they know you. Because you've been in their lounge room. And it was on six nights a week, season one. And so you've been in people's lounge room every night except for Saturday night. And so they feel like they know you, so I had like total strangers come up to me and kiss me on the face in the shopping center. You know just really overwhelming, not beautiful, nobody abused me to my face. The internet's a whole other thing. But it was amazing.

And my boys, they were in year five, year six, and year seven when all of that happened and they just took it in their stride. We'd be walking through the shops and people had stopped to chat, and you know my oldest son in side-- you want a photo, you take a photo? And people discuss with me what's in the shopping trolley, or they'll stop me in the aisle of the supermarket to ask for recipe tips. And it was just extraordinary. It was extraordinary.

I was really fortunate because at the same time as I won and we did win a cookbook I think for the first few years that's not on the table anymore, but at the same time I was given a job with the "Australian Women's Weekly" as a columnist and so they trained me. Because as far as food magazines go the "Australian Women's Weekly" these like top standard-- everything's. Triple tested, the recipes are all written very diligently. And so they trained me in the way that recipes ought to be written, so I had that support when I was writing my own cookbook.

But also in the nature of that book was that I went out to my extended family and my closest friends and said, what are your food memories, and what are the recipes that meant the most to you? And so I have-- in that book, there's quite a lot of mixed grandmother's baking recipes that I've had to modernize obviously, because grandma doesn't put all the details in and it's all in ounces and all that sort of thing. So I got to draw on the beautiful memories and resources of others to write that book. But I certainly had support from the "Weekly."

And once you get into the flow of that, it's a real discipline recipe writing. You can't just chop bits and pieces in and taste it, which is how I cook. You have to record everything. And so yeah, it was a real learning curve. But when I got that book in my hands, my Nan passed away only a few days after the finale went to air. And my mother-in-law only two weeks after that. That book contained so much of them. It was overwhelming to have that published.

So many things. I pinch myself, and still 14 years later, I still shake my head in wonder at some of the stuff that happens, some of the things that my family have been able to do because of "MasterChef." But in terms highlights, one of my favorite moments was-- because I was the resident cook on the "Today" show for a few years. And the producer rang me the day before I was due to come in and she just sort of casually says, look, don't wear a skirt tomorrow because there's going to be a guy under your desk where you're cooking. And I-- I beg your pardon?

She said just wear jeans or something, I'm like, what do you mean there's going to be a guy? Oh, she says, oh, you're cooking with Kermit the Frog tomorrow. I like to screamed and threw my phone, I had to go find the phone. And I started to cry like, I am I love Kermit the Frog. I've always loved Kermit the Frog. I supply the rainbow connection to my pregnant belly for all three of my babies.

And the next day I went and I cooked with Kermit the Frog, I completely forgot there was a human being under the desk. It was just me and my little green friend. And I just thought, look at me, if you could have told my four, five, six-year-old self that one day I'd be next to Kermit the Frog, having a chat with him, I just don't even know what I would have done. I wouldn't have believed it. It totally different.

I think the industry has evolved, certainly the production has evolved, contestant welfare is much more highly prized than it was. And you know, I had to make sure that things were going to be OK before I agreed to go back on it. Just because I was in a place where I didn't really think it would be great for my mental health to put myself under that kind of stress. But the production were very, very generous with me in terms of what, they would allow for me to do.

I said things to them like, I have to have eight hours of sleep. And I can't work till midnight, get up at 5:00. That doesn't happen anymore. And they're like, no, we don't operate like that anymore. I was allowed access to my psych, even though we were filming I was allowed to drive my car down to Melbourne so that I could get up early and go for a swim before filming, and things like that. So the contestant welfare is super high priority now.

There's lots of things but I really, really what "MasterChef" taught me and my husband is that you can have plans but you shouldn't be overly committed to them, because opportunities come and knock. And we made a decision back when I found out that I would have to walk out of my business, leave my home, leave alone with the boys, and live away from them to compete on this show. We decided that we didn't want to die wondering-- what if.

So my bucket list is short, because if I start writing it, I think it would be too long. And what I really want to do is just keep myself open to all the possibilities that are still out there for me. I honestly think that there are times when I'm doing something that has happened because of "MasterChef," something like I've worked with Oxfam on a great campaign. I've worked with Cure MND. I'm working now with Beyond Blue.

There are times where I think well what "MasterChef" did for me is not only give me opportunities for myself and for my family but it's given me a little bit of leverage to speak for other people and to have a bit of a voice in some areas that I think need a bit of amplification and a bit of attention. For me that's the privilege of the whole thing is just being able to have a voice in some of those areas.

Just get in there and be yourself. Be your true authentic self and that will be enough. And be open to possibilities and opportunities, grab it with two hands. If you are privileged enough to be a part of that production, just make the most of it. Because it's wonderful, and thousands and thousands of people would love to be in a position.