Meeting Kate Bracks and the launch of Whitefield Baking Co at Marriott
I have been a ardent follower of MasterChef Australia, have watched all the seasons aired till now, either on TV or on youtube. Season 3 was one of my favorite seasons somehow the chemistry and balance between the contestants in that season was outstanding, there were many of them I was cheering and hooting for throughout the airing but if there was one which had my heart was Kate Bracks, her happy and cheerful self and the fact that she was a mum played an important role I think, it was as if I could relate to a part of her.
So when we were having brunch at Marriot and Mathew (GM of the property) told us they are having Kate here for the launch of Whitefield Baking Co, I was so excited and when I got an invitation for the press meet for meeting her I did a happy jig.
The press meet began with Mathew introducing Kate Bracks and the Whitefield Baking Company and his vision for the same - freshly crafted baked goods and a homely feel to them which kind of resonates with my personal feel about baking too :)
Kate then addressed the crowd in her usual jovial and animated manner... Dont believe me, see these pictures below,we all struggled to get a single smiling still picture of her.
She did a demo on how to bake "Rasberry Hazelnut & Chocolate Muffins" for the media and said for her muffins are one of the comfort desserts. While she was doing the demo she spoke about her love for baking and desserts, her life as a mum and life in Masterchef (surprise :))
The muffins though amazing in taste I felt were more like cake rather than muffins... very light and a little high on sugar for a muffin... We did polish of one each though in a matter of minutes
Kate is such a warm person, she answered all my questions patiently over the email as well as in person. Here is a little interview I did with her.
When did you start cooking? Were you always interested in cooking from childhood or you clearly remember a time frame where you picked it up?
I fell in love with cooking at about the age of 8 when, during a long summer holiday, I was bored and Mum suggested that I cook something. I spent the whole day cooking a layered coffee cake, complete with piped frosting. At the end of the day I was hooked ... and have been cooking ever since.
From a home chef to Masterchef, how has the journey been? Whats changed and what are the top three things you have learned?
The journey from home cook to Masterchef has been a wonderful journey. I've learned so many things about cooking and myself. I've learned that I can do more than I ever thought I could, I've gained a deeper appreciation for the way all the senses are involved in eating (taste, texture, aroma...) and I've learned so much about how to get the maximum flavour out of food.
I read somewhere that you still prefer to be called a “Cook” rather than a “chef” though its humbling to hear, would like to know what makes you think so ?
I believe that a chef is someone who has done the hard yards in a commercial kitchen over a number of years. Although I have had many amazing experiences in commercial kitchens and under the guidance of some of the world's best chefs, I have not worked the long, hard hours to earn my stripes as a chef. But I have worked many hours in my own kitchen, testing and re-testing recipes, playing with flavour and texture and delighting in the art of cooking so I am very happy to call myself a cook.
How was the experience being in Masterchef like? I know it’s such a cliche question but I can’t help but ask it.
Being in Masterchef was one of the most difficult things I've done, but also one of the most wonderful! I've come away with a deeper passion for food, a much improved knowledge of food and cooking and some friends I'll have for life. But it did come at a cost: being away from home was difficult, dealing with the nerves was hard and pushing myself beyond my comfort levels day in and day out was exhausting. If I had my time over again, I wouldn't change a thing.
How has life changed after Masterchef, and on a lighter note has the food you eat at home changed after Masterchef too?
Life is far busier than it has ever been. While most of my work is based at home and doable around the kids schedule there is still a lot of travel involved (which I love but I always miss my family!). The food we eat these days has more variety and better technique but at the end of the day, I'm a working mum who sometimes just needs to get something on the table fast!!! And my kids still like their favourites, which would never rate highly on Masterchef!!!
You were known as the “Dessert Queen” on the show and your book “The Sweet Life” is about baking too, being a baker myself I would be very happy if you can may be share what baking means to you and your top three tips you would like to share with a aspiring baker?
Baking brings me comfort. It's to do with the aroma, the feel of it as you mix, need, create. And, of course, the end result - I've always loved eating sweet food! For fellow bakers I would recommend: 1) practice (like anything the more you practice the better you get ... and you get to your efforts which is always a good thing!); 2) make sure you have good tools - a good oven is essential for good baking; 3) Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy it - that's how I get the 'love' into what I cook!
You are a mother of three and being a mother myself I understand how difficult it is to leave the kids and go, so when did you decide that you wanted to enter Masterchef and was their any self struggle you had to go through to be able to convincingly say yes ?
When the time for the decision came I was arguing to my husband all the reasons why I couldn't go and he was arguing all the reasons why I could. So I am very blessed to have a husband who is so supportive of me pursuing my interests and take opportunities. When I entered Masterchef I never dreamed that I would win so I just kept taking it one day at a time and trying to soak up every moment of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Towards the end it got difficult (having been away so long) but my husband continued to support and encourage me and to him I'll always be grateful.
Your dream of B & B, how is it shaping up and when do you plan to open it? Tell us more about what does it mean to you.
A B&B; is a project I very much want to see to fruition. We now have a small farm on the outskirts of my hometown, Orange, which I hope will have a BB; on it one day. However to open a BB; right now (and to do it well) would take me away from my family too much and I"m not willing to sacrifice that right now. My top priority is to be a mum so I fit my work around that and I know that the BB; can wait a bit.
Since you mentioned that you started cooking at the age of 8, do your kids cook? If yes then what ?
Yes all my kids cook, I started cooking with them when they were little. I remember once when my son was 2 and we were making cake, I casually asked me so what goes inside and he said - flour, butter, sugar, eggs and CHOCOLATE. My 10 yr old now often makes porridge for breakfast and asks me whether I want some too. I think we underestimate kids and they are capable of much more.
In the end I will ask you a question that I love to ask most chef’s, whats your favorite ingredient to work with and whats your comfort food.
It's one and the same thing: chocolate. I know it's cliched but I think it is an incredible ingredient when it is treated well. A high quality chocolate makes baking a breeze because it has so much flavour and texture already and you really have to do very little to make it delicious ... and oh so comforting!
Thank you Kate for taking the time out for replying to these questions and thank you Swapna for taking this lovely picture of me with Kate.
While all this was happening, what also fascinated me was the lovely decor and the yummy things displayed at the WBC (Whitefield Baking Co), here are some of the things that caught my fancy.
I loved these lights
And some breads
The one thing that literally took my breath away were the fondant cookies that Mathew served on our first visit to Marriot, freshly out of the WBC... yummm... goey chocolate oozing out of chewy chocolate cookies, exactly my idea of heaven. All four of us on the table actually stopped talking the minute we bit into it :)
I had a lovely afternoon yesterday and here is wishing WBC good luck :)