Georgia Barnes, presenter and MasterChef Australia contestant, Regional Flavours

Never underestimate what you can accomplish when you believe in yourself ...

Ever since she was a little girl, Georgia Barnes has loved to cook. Food has always been a huge part of her family life, with Georgia growing up learning the basics in the kitchen from her mother and grandmother – both of whom she still draws inspiration from. Finding great joy from entertaining and testing her cooking skills at home, Georgia’s passion for food led her to audition for MasterChef Australia 2015, which has so far seen her make it to the top seven contestants in the lead up to the final. Having completed a Bachelor of Health Science specialising in Nutritional Medicine, Georgia embraces a well-rounded attitude to food, focusing on local produce and wholefoods, with the indulgence of a sweet treat from time to time. Before she shares her culinary knowledge at Regional Flavours presented by The Courier-Mail on July 18–19 at South Bank, The Weekend Edition caught up with Georgia to talk really good cake and kitchen experiments.

Congratulations on making it to the top seven on MasterChef Australia 2015! How has the journey been so far?
It’s been a total roller-coaster. A good roller-coaster though – not the kind that you get off and feel sick and have a sore head; more like, “Wow, that was crazy, I really want to do that again!” Definitely the best experience of my life!

We hear that your love of cooking stems from time spent in the kitchen with your grandmother. What can you tell us about her?
My grandmother, Mama, was the person who taught me the most about cooking and produce. She never wasted a thing and would transform very simple ingredients into the most humble and delicious dishes. I learnt so much from her and hold so many beautiful memories. When I think about food and my childhood, 90% of those thoughts involve her.

Did you have a favourite recipe of hers that you like to make?
There are so many favourite recipes, it’s hard to pick! I guess it’s all the classics where I just can’t go past her way of doing it … corn fritters, chicken gravy, chocolate cake and Monte Carlo biscuits.

You were born and bred here in Brisbane; what were you like as a child?
I am born and bred in Brisbane. As a child I was very giggly, cuddly and hands-on. I loved cooking, arts and craft, digging in the garden and have always had a love of animals and the outdoors. Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, I am still the same person!

You will be at Regional Flavours presented by The Courier-Mail on July 18–19 at South Bank. What can visitors expect to see from you?
Visitors can expect to see delicious desserts and some interesting flavour combinations that are achievable for the home-cook to recreate.

Are there any other events at Regional Flavours that you are looking forward to?
I’m really excited to check out the beautiful produce and see the lovely Matt Preston work his magic on stage!  

What has been your most memorable culinary experience?
When I was younger I travelled throughout Europe on my own for a few months. Corfu in Greece was sensational. The seafood was so fresh, so beautiful and it was prepared so simply but it was so damn delicious – combine that with the water, the sun and the people … I would say that’s a pretty fond culinary experience!

Do you have a favourite seasonal ingredient to work with at the moment, and why?
I am loving rhubarb! I’ve even planted some to see how it goes. I’ve been experimenting and using it with savoury flavours, but in saying that, at this time of year you can’t beat an apple and rhubarb crumble with vanilla-bean custard. Am I right?

Can you share a spot of advice with the home-cooks of Brisbane?
I think the best advice I can give Brisbane home-cooks is to suss out your local area for produce and ingredients. It becomes very easy to shop at the supermarkets for everything, but you’ll be surprised what you can find in your local area. There’s something really special about sourcing your own produce locally and cooking with it. The food tastes better and I reckon it’s good for the soul!

What’s your idea of complete happiness?
That’s a tricky question, but if I had to create a scenario for complete happiness, it would be lounging on a rug on a big open stretch of green grass with my favourite people, wearing comfy clothes, afternoon sunshine beaming down, a big cup of tea and a piece of cake – like a really good cake, maybe a spiced carrot cake with quality icing!?

What do you believe is worth fighting for?
Anything you believe in is worth fighting for. For me, it’s the people I love and happiness.  

How do you personally define success?
For me success isn’t about dollars, titles or possessions – it’s about that feeling when you’re lying in bed at night and you’re content with how hard you worked for something that now makes you realise how far you’ve come. I guess what I’m trying to say is, it’s about personal growth and self satisfaction.

Do you have any words of wisdom to share with our audience?
Never underestimate what you can accomplish when you believe in yourself.  

Perk-up … 
My local Refuelled Cafe, Wellington Point.
Relax … 
Wellington Point – grab the picnic rug, get comfy and take in all the beauty of Moreton Bay.
Dine … I love scoping out new restaurants – Brisbane is booming at the moment with lots of exciting venues!
Catch-up … 
Stoke Bar at Stokehouse Q, South Bank. Amazing view, great food and delicious wine.
Be inspired … 
Avid Reader, West End. I love book stores! Obviously I love cookbooks, but books in general bring all kinds of inspiration to my life. I’ll come home with a book and a know-how on origami.

MasterChef Australia airs Sunday to Thursday at 7:30 pm on TEN.


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