After three previous attempts to appear on MasterChef, Montana Hughes finally made it onto the cooking competition this year and finished in ninth place.
The TikTok influencer from Queensland, who was the youngest competitor on Fans and Favourites at 24 years old, narrowly missed out on a spot in the top 24 for season 11 but never gave up on pursuing her dream.
“I still went into every application and every audition process with the same mindset,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle following her elimination during Tuesday night’s episode.
“I mean, I don't think I was ever not going to do MasterChef. It was something I wasn’t going to give up on and if the show didn't want me for me, then it obviously wasn't meant to be.
“I think ever since I wanted to do the show, every time I cooked I mentally prepared myself and almost treated it like practice like, ‘Okay, what would I do differently? What am I learning from this?’. So it’s just been a massive build-up to something that I've wanted for such a long time.”
Speaking about the moment she was finally cast on her favourite show, Montana admits it was quite a surprise when she learned that she would be competing against some of her culinary idols.
“There were pros and cons to the format,” she reflects.
“It was definitely another layer of competition and the favourites have done the competition before. They know all the tips and tricks we don't know and they’re pretty much professional chefs and have their own restaurants.
“To compete against them was such a task, but it was also a blessing because I get to call these people my friends. I've got all these connections in the food industry to help me on my next step and that’s something money can’t buy and something I'm so blessed to have.”
'So much fun'
The content creator went on to describe the experience as “an absolute dream”, despite being sent home earlier than she had hoped.
“I love a challenge and love a game and being competitive, so to do that and apply that to food, which I'm so passionate about, was so much fun,” she adds.
“But I also didn't realise how stressful it would be. I mean, I'm usually pretty level-headed and usually pretty good with stress but something about being in a competition and wanting something so badly just messes with your head a little bit.”
Post-show, Montana is looking forward to refining her skillset and getting back into social media to connect with her impressive online following.
“I think before going on MasterChef, it was sort of a hobby, something I didn't really think of as a career,” she admits. "But I think now I really want to make that something and get fully into it. I’m so excited.”
Never miss a thing. Sign up to Yahoo Lifestyle’s daily newsletter.
Or if you have a story idea, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.