The 13th season of the popular show kicked off on April 20, with judges Jock Zonfrillo, Melissa Leong and Andy Allen selecting 24 of Australia’s best cooks, from all walks of life, in the hopes of finding the next MasterChef champ.
Among the contestants to cook in front of the country this season is Victorian lawyer, Elise Pulbrook.
After seizing a second chance to make the top 24, with her “beautifully cooked” walnut pangrattato trout, Pulbrook hopes to wow the judges by putting her own twist on traditional Italian dishes.
Pulbrook is the product of a fusion of Italian and Sri Lankan heritage, with both cultures having a profound influence on her love affair with food.
My passion for food and cooking is in my blood,” the talented cook said.
Her maternal grandmother, Giovanna Caseta, migrated to Australia from the Sicilian town of Vizzini in 1952, with her parents, Giuseppe and Agata.
“They came with five children; their sixth, my Zia Lucy, was born one year after their arrival in Australia,” Pulbrook said.
Meanwhile, her grandfather, Mario Giuseppe Caligiuri, migrated from the Calabrian village of San Tommaso in the mid-1950s.
Raised by a hard-working single mother, a young Pulbrook has fond memories of spending many days in her grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s gardens.
“I still enjoy spending time in the kitchen with my nonna and I credit her for my obsession with cooking and feeding people as an expression of love,” she said.
Pulbrook’s favourite Italian dish to this day is her nonna’s pasta with wild fennel and walnut pangrattato.
Growing up, the ambitious foodie was also inspired by the Sri Lankan dishes prepared with love in the kitchen of her paternal grandmother, Helen Pulbrook.
“I remember really struggling to enjoy her spicy curries as much as my cousins did until I was in high school,” she said.
“I was determined to tolerate spice because I wanted to be involved in the family joy of feasting on her wonderful cooking.”
Surrounded by talented cooks, Pulbrook naturally picked up the tricks of the trade and learnt about all the secret ingredients to a great dish.
It wasn’t long before friends and family recognised her talent and encouraged her to apply for MasterChef Australia.
“Even my boss said she thought I could win,” Pulbrook exclaimed.
“With the new judges bringing a fresh dynamic to the competition, I was excited to give it a shot.”
Having won the judges over and made it through the first weeks of the competition so far, Pulbrook is navigating her promising food journey in front of a nation of viewers.
“MasterChef has been life-changing and I’m yet to know the true impact of this experience,” she said.
“My life will never be the same again!”
Pulbrook’s favourite part of the experience so far has been working with fellow competitive foodies in the team challenges.
“I feel like these occasions have been the days where I’ve really brought my best,” she said.
Pulbrook is determined to pursue her food dreams both on the show and beyond her MasterChef journey.
“I have a lot of ideas about what I could do after this, but I don’t want to put extra pressure on myself to figure all the details out right now,” she concluded.
“I have a strong passion for food security, food sovereignty and social justice, so whatever I ultimately do in food will involve advocacy.”
MasterChef Australia airs Sunday to Thursday at 7:30 pm on Network 10 and 10 Play on demand. To follow Elise Pulbrook’s journey, head to her Instagram page.