MasterChef Australia judge talks to contestant Simon Toohey during a challenge in the show's new Back to Win season. Supplied by Channel 10.
MasterChef Australia judge talks to contestant Simon Toohey during a challenge in the show's new Back to Win season. Supplied by Channel 10.

MasterChef star shares his love for the Northern Rivers

THE Northern Rivers is a second home for MasterChef's Simon Toohey.

The Canberra native, who is currently competing against other all-stars in the reality cooking show's latest season, spent his childhood holidaying at Ocean Shores and Wategos Beach. His parents have lived in Coorabell for the past 15 years.

"We've holidayed there since I was born and then my parents decided there was no point continuously paying for holidays," he told the Star.

"We'd walk along Wategos up to Main Beach, get to The Beach Hotel where we'd sit and mum and dad would have a wine and my brother would drink sarsaparillas. Then we'd walk back as the sun was setting. It's one of the best memories … it was heavenly."

After finishing his studies in tourism management from the University of Canberra, Toohey moved to Byron Bay where he worked as a bartender at The Byron at Byron as well as Bayleaf Café.

A four-year stint working in London and studying gastronomy in Edinburgh followed, before he settled in Melbourne with girlfriend Georgia and applied for the 2019 season of MasterChef.

He said filming the 2020 season in lockdown during the height of the coronavirus pandemic was a blessing in disguise.

"At first, it scared the living daylights out of us. But then we realised we were being sheltered by the wonderful MasterChef people and the show allowed us to continue to work. I thanked my lucky stars we were able to be with people and have our lives within MasterChef," he said.

"We felt very secure and safe. We were able to watch news and be in touch with it all.

"I'm a very emotionally open human being, so not being able to hug someone was tough. Watching Jess (Liemantara) get eliminated and to not be able hug someone as pure as she is, it broke a lot of people's hearts. It was just the saddest thing. In the high drama we're in, not being able to share emotions is super tough."

On Sunday night(SUBS June 7), Simon will cook for a spot in the Top 10. It's an important milestone for contestants on the cooking show, which has seen a resurgence in viewership thanks to new judges Melissa Leong, Jock Zonfrillo and Andy Allen - one of the co-founders of Three Blue Ducks at The Farm in Ewingsdale.

"For all the stress you go through again the second time around, I'm glad it's been going well," he said.

"There really was as a lot of weight on the judges' shoulders and I can't speak highly enough about how good they are."

MasterChef: Back to Win airs Sunday 7.30pm on Ten/WIN.



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