Conor Curran was an immediate favourite with MasterChef Australia viewers, as the 29-year-old restaurant manager and self-proclaimed “raging mess of chaotic energy” served up not only mouth-watering dishes but an infectious love of life to go with them.
It’s an outlook that Curran, who became the eighth person eliminated from the reality cooking show, credits to his challenging formative years and the support he found in good people.
“I was bullied really heavily in school and I went through a deep, deep depression for many years being a queer child in a Greek family,” Curran told The Latch during his elimination interview.
“I remember hitting rock bottom and coming out of it because of a lot of really good people around me. And the moment you taste the bottom, you realise how good the top feels. And I’ll never forget that because no matter what’s happening in life, it’s been worse.”
For Curran, the experience in the MasterChef kitchen not only provided him with the confidence to no longer doubt his culinary abilities but set him up with more great mates to add to his support network.
“We call ourselves the ‘Three Muske-Queers’ meaning myself, Dan (Dumbrell) and Tom (Levick),” Curran said of his enduring friendships. “And those boys are my life. I credit them for keeping me sane and saying the right thing and all the banter and ribbing and so much love underneath.
“I couldn’t thank them enough and I get them for life. I would swap my top dishes for them, any day.”
Curran’s love of cooking has been part of him for as long as he can remember and makes up some of his happiest memories. The Victorian resident recalls having a cooking set as a child and being simply “enamoured” with eating and making food, which led to his decision to pursue restaurant management as a career.
While his dishes were often inspired by his Greek heritage and beloved YaYa (grandmother), Curran certainly came into the competition hot with his cooking style that he dubbed “Con-fusion” due to its chaotic and unpredictable nature.
“It’s so new to me,” Curran said of his experience in the kitchen. “And watching the episode back last night I sort of teared up because I didn’t realise how much progress I made such a short amount of time and I could see the hours behind the scenes that I put in, in each episode.
“And I take that away with me, that I was so new and I came so fast, so quickly and put up top dishes against people who have been cooking for years upon years. That’s just mind-boggling, it still blows my mind it happened.”
The dish that ultimately saw Curran leave the competition — albeit on a high — was his green olive ice cream that he says he has since perfected. Speaking about his final cook, Curran told The Latch some of the extenuating circumstances that contributed to his downfall.
“I was utterly exhausted,” he said. “You guys don’t see it but I had done the most cooks out of everyone there because I was in immunity cooks, I was in elimination cooks. I was tired.
“I really, really loved the dish, I just didn’t execute it. But the flavours are really great, so I wouldn’t change anything. Looking back, I could say I could have done a million other things and hindsight is a beautiful thing, but no regrets — ever.”
Curran has big plans to open a sandwich shop called Sit Down Dora after his mum, with a hidden speakeasy named Shut Up Mike after his dad, and is currently working on a modern Greek cookbook which he says has never really been done before.
And he now has the extra boost he needed to take these next steps, thanks to his time on MasterChef Australia.
“I never thought I could ever cook very well,” he said. “And so that was a really new thing for me. I just I guess I doubted myself and I now don’t and I think you saw that on my face last night, there’s a moment of me going ‘I deserve to be here and I am capable’”.