Meet The New MasterChef Contestants

You’ve seen the trailer now meet the seasoned professionals (including two non porn stars named Coop Woodstone and Rhys Badcock) Marco Pierre White will be shouting at on MasterChef: The Professionals this year…

Akuc Isaac Chol, 27, NSW

Born in Sudan to an Eritrean mother and South Sudanese father, Akuc is
the eldest girl of 11 children. Her family fled to Egypt when she was
just six years old and lived there for nine years before moving to
Australia as refugees when Akuc was 15. Akuc studied commercial cookery
at TAFE before beginning her apprenticeship at Spice Temple, where Neil
Perry rated her among the best junior talents across all his kitchens.
She finished her apprenticeship at Lochiel House in the Blue Mountains.

Anthony Bantoft, 33, QLD

Private chef to the rich and famous, Anthony has cooked for the likes of
Penelope Cruz, Sean Connery, Tommy Lee Jones and Andre Agassi, to name
but a few. Based out of Palm Beach, Florida, his job as a private chef
sees him work on super yachts and travel extensively around the globe.
He began his apprenticeship in Cairns at the age of 15 and was running a
restaurant at the age of 23.

Bonny Porter, 23, NSW

Bonny, 23, found out she was deaf in one ear at age three, and lost the
hearing in her other ear when she was just seven. But she has not let
that hold her back in any aspect of her life. Currently working as a
chef at Sydney’s Rockpool Bar and Grill, where she has been for the past
year, she started her apprenticeship at Park Hyatt in Canberra,
completing her training at Manly Wine by Gazebo.

Cameron Bailey, 26, NSW

Cameron began his apprenticeship at est restaurant under the master
guidance of Peter Doyle. From est, he went to Icebergs where he worked
under Rob Marchetti. It was a big change, which in no time saw him
cooking signature dishes for the likes of Elton John and Gordon Ramsay
and controlling the pass coordinating 15 other chefs. Two years later
Cameron moved to London and worked with Michelin-starred chefs Marcus
Wareing and Anthony Dimitri. He is now a freelance chef in Sydney.

Cassie Delves, 19, NSW

As a child, Cassie’s love of food developed and she spent weekends
tending to her fruit trees in her back garden. This was just the
beginning, and her real appreciation for food grew when her family began
to travel, with her first round-the-world trip at just eight. Upon
returning to Australia, Cassie began her apprenticeship at a local
bistro in Kiama, NSW, at 16. Cassie did her second year at Bilson’s
where she was mentored by Diego Munoz, her culinary hero. She completed
her apprenticeship at Justin North’s Becasse.

Chrissie Flanagan, 33, NSW

Chrissie has been out of the kitchen since the birth of her two gorgeous
daughters, Lucy (aged five) and Ivy (12 months). As a recently
separated single mother, she feels it’s now time to get back into the
workforce and set a good example to her daughters. Her career began at
age 16, when she undertook a traineeship in kitchen operations. After
completing her apprenticeship she worked and travelled overseas, having
worked at the two hatted Bel Mondo, The Book Kitchen, Wokpool, Bathers
and Fourth Village Providore.

Coop Woodstone, 37, NSW

Coop started as a kitchen hand at 18 and was quickly promoted to line
chef. He got his first head chef position in London at age 24 and has
held positions of head chef, executive chef and restaurant consultant
since then. He was head chef at fine dining establishment 360 Bar and
Dining, Bistrot Marlo and The Storier. In 2009 he started his
own business, Evoke Private Dining with wife Beth. Together they have
three children, Viena (aged six), Neve (three) and Sebastian (12
months). Viena has a rare brain tumour and has had to undergo two
surgeries in the past year. For Coop, it’s the greatest hurdle he has
had to overcome, and it is Viena who inspired him to audition for the
show. Coop has a nine year old daughter from his first marriage, Jada,
who now lives in Canada with her mother.

Kiah Blanco, 27, QLD

Born in Innisfail and growing up in Mission Beach in Northern
Queensland, Kiah is half Torres Strait Islander (his father’s side) and
has a strong connection to the land. He uses local ingredients that he
finds anywhere from rainforest to reef and his cooking reflects his
surroundings. Kiah got his first job working in the kitchen of a pizza
restaurant where his mum was a waitress and has worked in numerous
resort restaurants since including Lizard Island in Far North Queensland
and most recently Bibesa in Mission Beach.

Kylie McAllester, 27, VIC

Kylie started her apprenticeship in Lorne working under George Biron,
who introduced her to obscure sorbets, foraging and a local approach to
food. She did the second year of her apprenticeship at One Fitzroy
Street and was running her own restaurant on the Sunshine Coast with her
fiancé Ben when she was just 25 years old. They have since sold the
restaurant and moved back to Melbourne, where Kylie is studying
nutrition and Ben is a chef at Vue de Monde.

Luke Southwood, 43, NSW

At 16 and living in Barcelona, Luke spied a notice in the window of a
small restaurant, looking for cooks. He applied, got the job, and cooked
in Barcelona for six years. Luke moved back to Australia in 1991 and
was employed by Maggie Beer at Pheasant Farm restaurant. He later had
his own catering company but when this closed he moved to Byron Bay to
be Head Chef at Dish restaurant. In 2010 Luke was working in what he
dubs an amazing job as a catering manager at Sanctuary Byron Bay, when
he was involved in a terrible car accident that saw him have to quit his
job. He has been recovering ever since.

Matty McKenzie, 25, QLD

Matty’s culinary career took off with gusto when he was accepted into
Jamie Oliver’s first international restaurant, Fifteen Melbourne,
Australia. After successfully graduating from Fifteen Melbourne at the
age of 21, Matty landed his second chef position at Melbourne’s Vue de
Monde. From there, his career soared, with an offer to fly overseas to
Hakuba, Japan, to launch the innovative Bar and Restaurant created by
Australia’s first winter Olympic gold medalist, Steven Bradbury. Matty
then moved to Brisbane, where he was appointed head chef at the famous
historical Old Government House Queensland and is currently employed as a
private chef and hotel ambassador and works in the private fine dining
restaurant Prive 249 of Brisbane’s Sofitel Hotel.

Michael Demagistris, 31, VIC

At 18 Michael began his apprenticeship at DaMunvio, continuing it at
Kingston Heath Golf Club. Following this Michael was chef de partie at
Jacques Reymond, where he was pushed hard and taught the finer side of
cooking. Michael has been head chef at Sorrento Golf Club for the last
seven years. He met his wife Tamara when they worked together at
Kingston Heath Golf Club and together they have two children, Elle (aged
five) and Luca (six months).

Nathan Brindle, 23, NSW

An artist, competition fisherman and skateboarder, Nathan began his
apprenticeship at age 15 when he left Nowra for Sydney restaurant
Lucio’s. He ran a catering company called River Deli and then worked at
Sepia for 18 months. Nathan is currently head chef at Blancmange in

Nick Whitehouse, 41, NSW

Originally from the UK, Nick arrived in Sydney in 2009 and has worked at
restaurants Koi, Wildfire and Flying Fish. Nick says his main qualities
are that he is calm under pressure and organised. Nick was the personal
chef for the Red Hot Chili Peppers on their UK tour and had to do most
of the work from a van or from the side of stage. He lives with his
partner, Angela and daughter Emma (aged two) and says his greatest
achievement is becoming a father.

Rhett Willis, 33, QLD

Rhett began his career in Brisbane where he served his apprenticeship at
a range of establishments which gave him a rich diversity of cooking
experiences. After proving his professional and creative talents at the
prestigious Icebergs in Sydney under celebrity chef Robert Marchetti, he
was offered the role of head chef at the exclusive Astra Lodge in Falls
Creek, where he created an award-winning menu. He has been head chef at
Jellyfish restaurant for four years.

Rhys Badcock, 29, NSW/WA

At 14 Rhys moved from the Sunshine Coast to Byron Bay to be with his
father. Since starting his apprenticeship at 18, he has gone where the
work has taken him. Beginning his apprenticeship at Driftwood Estate, he
moved onto Cape Lodge where he worked with Tony Howell, whom he credits
for teaching him to cook. He has since worked as a certified chef at
Dunk Island, a sous chef at Bespoke in Brisbane and as head chef on the
Kimberley Quest for the past three years.

Sarah Knights, 27, NSW

Sarah left high school in Year 10 to begin her apprenticeship and has
been working in professional kitchens since she was 15 years old. She
moved to Sydney in the third year of her apprenticeship, working at est
under Peter Doyle. Sarah worked at Bistro CBD, then Bistro Ortolan,
before travelling overseas to work as a private chef to an English
family. This took her on board a super yacht where she met chef Scott
Wade, who is now her partner. Last year Sarah and Scott returned to
Sydney together and Sarah began work at Uccello and is now in head chef
at Plunge restaurant.

Tracey Holderness, 47, NSW

Yorkshire-born Tracey has left her entire family in England to follow
career opportunities to Australia. Her 28 years in the industry have
given her some incredible experience including a stint at The Dorchester
Hotel. She was Commis Chef at 90 Park Lane Restaurant when it was
awarded a Michelin Star. As Chef Garde Manager on the QEII Cruise Liner,
Tracey was one of the first female chefs on the luxury cruiser. Other
career highlights include working as the executive sous chef at the
Olympic Games in Sydney and cooking a State banquet for Queen Elizabeth
II and the Sheik of Bahrain.