In last night’s surprising episode of MasterChef, 40-year-old Andrew Prior, an ex-insurance underwriter from Victoria, was asked to retire from the competition due to injury – with stress fractures in both legs, Andrew risked further complications if he remained on the show. We caught up with the passionate home cook to ask about his MasterChef experience, the decision to leave and what he has planned next.
Q: How are you feeling and managing your injury?
Everything’s good. My legs are all well now, it’s been a while since the Lygon Street episode. I had five weeks off my feet, on the lounge watching The Bold & The Beautiful and Real Housewives, and cooking Peter dinner because he wasn’t cooking for himself, but apart from the essential walking, I’ve been off my feet. I’ve had another MRI since then and they’re getting better. And I have been having hydro-therapy and am now swimming every day. I’ve also started Weight Watchers and it should all be good.
Q: Tell us a bit about your time on the show.
I was really starting to get into it. I think the first week was a bit confronting. You’re away from your family and friends and you leave your job, and you go into the house and have to share a room with seven other men. And there’s the snoring and other noises, and I’m approaching 40 so it was a bit full on at first. And of course, a lot of them are a lot younger, so there were lots of people walking around with no shirts on – apparently! It took a lot of getting used to, but after the first week I really started getting into the competition side of things, and was really enjoying my time there. When we went to the Barossa, even though I was in a lot of pain, it was a really great experience meeting Maggie Beer. Kids Week and cooking with Curtis Stone, and attempting to make that cake with Bernard, was just amazing.
Q: What was the highlight of the competition for you?
It would be the Lolly Bag Cake, it was just amazing. And I was doing really well, but my downfall was the cream layer with the eucalyptus oil in it. I was trying to follow the recipe methodically, but obviously I put in too much eucalyptus, and then I left it in the blast freezer. But that’s the thing about these challenges, these little things just happen. It’s all part of the fun. I’d never used a Thermomix before, and I didn’t know what a blast freezer looked like – I had to ask what it was!
Q: How do you feel now about the way you left the competition?
I was a bit upset when it happened, but I’m fine about it. The producers did the right thing and they made the decision for me. I like that, it meant that I didn’t have to make the decision to retire or leave, which I may not have done and could have hurt myself even more. It meant that I was in a different position to some of the other contestants – they were eliminated and I was retired, so I didn’t leave because of my cooking and I didn’t have that in my head. And then I had to go and sit on the lounge for five weeks, and all I could do was think about what I was going to do next. It gave me that opportunity; I didn’t have to go rush into another job or decide what I had to do. So that’s how Queenie’s Food Tours came about.
Q: Tell us more about your new venture, Queenie’s Food Tours.
I’m doing food tours of Melbourne and regional Victoria, then hopefully next year we’ll do a tour of Paris and Lyon. With the tours here in Melbourne, we’ll do bus and walking tours showing people the best of the Melbourne food scene. Our first tour will be a French one, and hopefully that will be in the second week of September. I love people and as much as I’d love to have a French bistro, I don’t picture myself being the chef cooking behind the scenes. I see myself as being out on the floor with people. It’s definitely still the dream, but this allows me to experience that dream sooner rather than later. And then there’s always the retirement issue. George did say to rest up and they’ll see me next year, so you never know!
Q: Who do you think will win the competition?
I would want Noelene to win, I think she’s been listening to the judges a lot more and with that will go from strength to strength. I think Rishi and Christina are definitely contenders.
Q: What three words best describe the MasterChef kitchen?
A dream kitchen.