A day with Ben Ungermann – Masterchef Australia 2017 runner-up

A day with Ben Ungermann – Masterchef Australia 2017 runner-up

I was lucky to attend the Ben Ungermann, runner up of Masterchef Australia 2017, masterclass with The Healthy Food Studio last week.

He won our hearts on Masterchef Australia by being the overall nice guy and not to mention those good looks!

Ben is the embodiment of how working hard leads to great success and satisfaction.

We got to know him as the ice cream guy on Masterchef Australia, when in real life he never made a dessert before the show. He went in as a savoury cook. The producers advised the contestants that they should work on their weaknesses. Ben’s was dessert. After full days of filming he would study desserts for a further 4-5 hours – pastries, ice cream etc. When it was his turn to cook in the house on their rare days off, he would make dessert. That’s how he mastered his weakness and it’s arguably now one of his strengths.

Ben Ungermann plating

He admits that he was one of the weakest cooks going into the competition, but by working hard he improved quickly and, in the end, came in second by only 1 point. He’s such an inspiration to just keep my head down and work hard. It will pay off. I mean, he opened his own ice cream parlour after the competition. Pretty impressive for someone who only started doing desserts recently.

Ben is currently on his world tour which will end in line with the launch of his first cook book. Instead of a conventional one, he’s gathering inspiration from every country that he visits on the tour. I asked him if he already has an idea of what kind of recipes he will include that was inspired by our beautiful country, he said that he would love to do something with Rooibos and some street food like Bunny Chow.

Eating his food was an experience, he’s an artist with food.

Ben cooks simple, comfort food that’s deconstructed to look fancy, but when you eat all the elements together, you are transported back to your childhood or just to a place of comfort. For example, his Dutch potato salad tasted just like my Ouma’s but it looked like a fine dining dish. Similarly, his Sambuca and liquorice ice cream dessert tasted like Liquorice All-Sorts and I was 10 years old again. Being able to deconstruct flavours in these ways into the different elements on a plate is awe-inspiring.

Ben Ungermann Healthy Food Studio menu

Ben Ungermann Dutch potato salad Ben Ungermann fish main course Ben Ungermann Sambuca and liquorice dessert

Some insight into the show

In addition to getting some great cooking tips, I also got to spend some time with him behind the scenes and even snag an interview. Whilst cooking Ben also gave us some insights into the workings of Masterchef Australia. Did you know that they cook and film for up to 12 hours a day and then go back to the house to study? The filming takes about 7 months! That’s a long time away from loved ones. The contestants are also put in a “bubble” from the outside world for the entire time…no phones, no internet, no news, and no alcohol!…no interaction with the outside world at all. No wonder they’re all buddy buddy – your competition becomes your family for the time that you’re there. Personally, I wouldn’t be able to be completely cut off from what’s happening in the world. I always wondered why contestants got overly emotional when they received letters from family or when they got an unexpected visit. I get it now.

Ben already loves our Biltong

Although it’s Ben’s first time in South Africa, he’s already fallen in love with biltong, citing he’s been eating it constantly! He has booked a trip back so that he can travel our country…he also won’t go to Cape Town on this visit and he would love to spend time there.

Ben is a super chilled man, laid back and truly an all-round nice guy. He’s exactly like he is on TV. It was refreshing to meet a celebrity that didn’t have a big ego.

Watch the video below for my interview with him. Apologies for the background noise.

Anne Dolinschek
Anne Doli
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