WEST Perth criminal lawyer Benjamin Bullock has the right ingredients to wow audiences and impress the judges in the latest series of a popular cooking game show.
The 27-year-old from Glen Forrest developed an early love and appreciation for sustainable food from his father, who worked as a sheep and wheat farmer.
“I don’t know if mum would like this, but I think I may have learnt to cook as means of survival,” he joked.
“The thing is, mum hates cooking and from a young age I took an interest in food and cooking with my aunt and my grandmother.”
Bullock said growing up in a family with Greek and Australian influences meant holiday and family celebrations were big affairs, with food a primary focus.
Meat featured large on the menu and the ability to present a traditional roast was not lost on the MasterChef contestant in his first audition for the Network 10 show.
He secured his place in the popular series with his version of the family favourite, augmented with Tasmanian mountain pepper berries and Geraldton wax flowers, and on Monday night he went on to reach the top 24 in the competition.
“I do cook daily for myself, and often for family and friends; it’s a hobby and a passion, I ‘blame’ MasterChef for that because I was about 16 years old when I watched the first season and cooked the Christmas feast.
“I smoked a barramundi in paperbark and cooked a pig’s head as seen in the show.”
After graduating from Guildford Grammar in 2006, Bullock studied law and commerce at Murdoch University and in his final year was one of six students nationally selected to compete for the Law Student of the Year Award, the pinnacle of his academic achievements.
Bullock broadened his education further through travel, taking a year off to drive across the US in a van for three months with his best mate.
The trip cemented his love of big, bold flavours and he learnt to cook Texan-style barbecues before trekking through Canada where he worked under a fleishmeister (a German meat master).
“Food was a huge part of the journey, I learnt a lot about spices before we travelled across Europe where the food was more refined and then into South-East Asia for some exotic flavours,” he said.
With meat a staple of Bullock’s childhood, Hills Gazette was curious to know what would be on the menu for a vegetarian or vegan at a dinner party organised by the young lawyer.
“I don’t discern between any food type and the dishes I like to cook for vegetarians and vegans are cauliflower steak, vegan curry and for dessert a raw, caramel slice, which is sugar free,” he said.
Following a year of tasting and experimenting with cuisine styles gave Bullock the confidence to experiment with cooking techniques.
Life is good for the co-director of a law firm, but food remains his passion and he cites French-born, Mundaring chef Alain Fabregues (formerly of The Loose Box) as his food idol.
“Cooking is my creative outlet and maybe that’s why I’m attracted to it.
“I like Alain’s approach to cooking because it’s good classic, proper food, from the paddock to the plate; he has the connection to land and is committed to sustainability.”
Bullock is likely to find any pastry and dessert cooking the most challenging parts of the competition because he prefers to avoid creating dishes loaded with sugars and fats.
To compete in Masterchef, the would-be chef delayed a solo motorbike ride from Perth to Perth (Australia to Scotland) to raise awareness of depression and boost funds for the charity Beyondblue.
“For now, I’m learning about cooking and in five years’ time I hope to open a small restaurant focussing on fresh, locally-grown seasonal, sustainable and organic produce,” he said.