He entered the MasterChef kitchen as a 24-year-old social worker, and now Brendan Pang is a successful chef with his own range of frozen dumplings sold across the country and his third cookbook on the way.
Five years on from his first appearance on the reality show Brendan opens up to Yahoo Lifestyle about why he applied, his enormous post-show success, and what else he has planned for the future.
Why did you apply for MasterChef?
“I applied for MasterChef because within my family at that time, there was a shift from the careers that we all had into food,” he shares.
“So just before I had made the decision to apply, my uncle left engineering and started his own food business, my mum left retail and started her own cake business from home, and then I was living in Broome being a social worker and not really enjoying it. And then the opportunity came up to apply and I just took it. I was like, I'm just going to try, I don't really have much to lose, and then the rest is history.”
What was your experience like on season 10?
“I had no expectations, but I think when you go into the competition you just push yourself and surround yourself with this environment where you just want to learn so much and cook and do as best as you can,” he details.
“Being on the season was a good time in my life because I didn't really have much holding me back. I had just left my job and my house in Broome, I wasn't tied down by anything like a relationship or work, so I kind of just gave it my all.
“And I think leaving the show then, I was still so young and ignorant to the outside world, but it kind of worked in my favour because I was so willing to just do anything and everything after the show, like put myself out there, get experience in different kitchens and with different businesses and with other chefs and just see where it would take me.”
How did you navigate life after the show?
“My family are probably my biggest support and coming from a family of business people and entrepreneurs, that was quite helpful in the sense of me just being out there and trying to do my thing,” he says. “So the shift into food worked so seamlessly.
“Probably like 25 per cent of opportunities come your way, and 75 per cent of the opportunities that people would think had come my way [were] from putting myself out there, continuing to want to be in the food industry and have something for myself. Because I know very easily with a lot of contestants that have been on you can very much slip back into your old career and lifestyle if you’d like to.”
What was your experience like on season 12?
“I had started my business Bumplings back in Fremantle in Perth, and to leave everything and kind of just put yourself back in that quite stressful environment is a lot to think about,” he admits. “But I know how much the show has looked after me and how much I enjoyed the process and the friends that I made, so I kind of weighed that up and I thought it would be silly of me to pass up that opportunity.
“It was good, it was very different. It was quite refreshing. We had the new judges come on for their first time, so it was like a different energy on the show. It was great having my friends Reece [Hignell] and Jess [Liemantara] back on as well with me, so we had heaps of fun. And for me, it was a chance to show Australia what I had been working on in the past couple of years since I'd been on season 10.”
What stands out as a career highlight for you?
“I think starting my own food business was quite a massive highlight,” he reflects. “It was hard work and hospitality is a hard game to be in, I remember putting heaps of hours in. But it's at a point now where I'm quite happy with it and I’ve got a great team that I’m surrounded by.
“And then just building on that dumpling brand and business too, like I've got my own product now in Woolworths, my own frozen dumplings, and I’m writing my third book actually at the moment. So a lot has happened.
“I was in Singapore on the weekend and I was at a bookshop just looking for something else and I saw my book was in there and I was like, this is actually insane… Sometimes I get so stuck in my Perth bubble, but MasterChef Australia is huge worldwide and it's given me so much opportunity to do some great stuff.”
What are you most thankful to MasterChef for?
“I would say I'm most grateful for the personal growth that it has helped facilitate over the years,” he shares. “If I had not gone on, I'm sure career-wise I would have been the kind of person to still push myself and do something for myself. But just on a personal level, the growth that it's provided me has been huge.”
What else is on your bucket list?
“Being so young, I hadn't really been outside of Australia much and I'm trying to do that more and see the world and work where I can,” he details. “Hopefully I'll expand my Bumplings business so that other people in Australia can have it as well, it’s not that you just have to come to Perth for it.
“And getting my frozen dumplings out there. I think that's quite an exciting thing and just getting more people educated around frozen dumplings, because I've put so much effort into the quality of them and the freshness and the local ingredients.”
What’s your advice for future contestants hoping to replicate your success?
“My advice to contestants coming off the show would be to keep an open mind coming off and a great attitude in terms of where you want to go with it all,” he says. “It’s not just about receiving opportunities, you need to put yourself out there.
“Cook the food that you really like - I think for me that was my biggest thing, not trying to be something that I didn't want to be or didn't feel naturally was who I was. And just have fun, don’t take things to heart. I mean, be passionate about it, but it's also quite an exciting and new kind of experience and journey. Just embrace it all and take it all in.”
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