Mount Eliza resident Dani Venn is Back To Win. You may remember her from Season 3 of Network Ten’s powerhouse creative cooking show MasterChef, where she came in fourth place, but this time round she is competing against a bevy of brilliant chefs who are bringing their A-game and the heat is on. We chat over the phone and the excitement is palpable. This mother of two, who loves living on the Mornington Peninsula with her husband Chris and kids Harlow and Oscar, made the tree change from Smiths Gully two years ago and hasn’t looked back.
Dani explains: “I was in shock when I got a call from the producer who said, ‘Are you sitting down?’ before letting me know I was going to be part of Season 12. It’s been incredibly positive from the outset. MasterChef is an amazing brand and being in Season 3 really changed my life. You know that around 70 per cent of cooks on the show go on to work in the food industry? I went on to host my own show, Weekend Feast, did a radio gig on Nova FM in Melbourne and travelled across the country and internationally as an ambassador for various brands. I mean, what an opportunity. Back To Win has been exciting but nerve-racking too. Everyone is very competitive. Second time round it’s a whole different ball game.”
MasterChef Australia Back To Win’s 24 passionate-about-food former contestants will have their eyes on the prize that eluded them once before. The kudos of first place, cash and a trophy to boot. Mix in the three new judges, including Jock Zonfrillo, Melissa Leong and MasterChef Australia Series 4 winner Andy Allen, and viewers are sure to be salivating in front of their screens as the pots and pans fly and the ice-cream and sorbet makers get ready to rumble.
Dani continues: “It’s been tougher for me this time because I’ve got kids and it’s hard to leave them behind. My focus on food has really changed since becoming a mother. I’m very concerned with how food affects general health and well-being. I’m the director of Eat it Up Creative and the founder of The Wholehearted Cook. I’m also currently working on my first bricks-and-mortar food business, Go Go Bowl, which will focus on healthy fast food.”
How does this bubbly beach-going chef, who likes to visit a winery or one of the great Mount Eliza cafes in her down time, think the public will respond to the synthesis of new and old faces this season? She concludes: “I think they’ll love it. The new judges are very experienced and the show has evolved. This series is celebrating produce we have in our own backyard. It’s a new chapter for Australian cuisine and we all want to win it.”
Tune in to see Dani whip up a Mornington Peninsula storm in the MasterChef kitchen this month. Game on, people. Game on.
MasterChef Australia Back To Win premieres on Monday, April 13, at 7.30pm on Ten.