He could become the Jackson Pollock of the food world.
Newcastle’s Reece Hignell, 28, describes himself as a “massive food nerd”.
On Monday, Reece made it through the judges’ audition round to the top 24 of MasterChef by cooking his signature dish – frozen mandarin nougat with beetroot caramel, mandarin granita, biscuit crumb and thyme.
Part of his dish included a splatter technique that reminded Topics of the art of abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock.
“I am doing some art,” Reece said, of his dish.
“This dish comes down to presentation. I’ve done all my research and practiced it for months.”
Reece said instead of going out he spends his weekend “at home where I’m on the computer googling and learning new techniques and skills”.
“I think about cooking all day every day.
“In my spare time, I spend a lot of time practicing recipes and my plating skills. It’s really cool to put different concepts on my plate.”
To make it to the top 24 and win a coveted MasterChef apron, he had to get a yes vote from all three judges, George Calombaris, Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan.
As he prepared his dish, he told the well-dressed Preston and Calombaris to step back before he began to splatter sweet sauce onto a plate.
“I don’t want to get this on you,” he said.
Reece’s mentor on the show is former MasterChef winner Julie Goodwin, who lives on the Central Coast.
“Reece is a very organised worker. He’s very technical,” Julie said.
“He cooked with so much precision.”
She added that he cooked with “so much care”, which was “the complete opposite to me”.
“He’s calm, clean, collected,” she said.
Julie was Australia’s first MasterChef winner. Her audition dish was a lamb rump with a red wine gravy and mashed potato. When she first met the judges, they said: “We've just been auditioning in Perth and all they've made for us is lamb and potatoes and we're sick to death of it. So here's hoping that if you've got lamb and potatoes, it better be the best damned lamb and potatoes we ever ate”.
She spent the whole day freaking out.
As for Reece’s dish, Matt Preston said he loved it, before praising the “nougat through the zest”.
“For me, that is a yes dish, for sure,” said Preston, while sporting his traditional cravat.
George Calombaris said: “I love your nerdiness about food”.
He said everyone at MasterChef were “super food nerds”.
“For me it’s a wonderful yes. You’re a wonderful cook,” he said.
But judge Gary Mehigan expressed a bit of concern, which added some drama.
“To be honest, I think presentation is maybe not as good as it could be,” he said.
But he soon came around, saying “what I’m knocked out about is the flavour”.
“It’s a yes from me.”
On Facebook, Reece said making the top 24 was the “best day of my life”.
“Bring it on MasterChef season 10!”