‘MasterChef Australia’: NOMAD’s Jacqui Challinor Puts Cooks to the Test

jacqui challinor masterchef australia

This week on MasterChef Australia: Secrets and Surprisesit’s home cooks versus the pro cooks. Each night, contestants will battle it out with not one, but three professional cooks in the hope of avoiding elimination. First up is NOMAD head chef Jacqui Challinor, along with Brendan Katich, head chef of NOMAD Melbourne, and pastry chef from NOMAD Sydney, Lakhan Bhounsle.

Who Is Jacqui Challinor?

Despite never wanting to be a chef, Jacqui Challinor’s love of food and cooking inevitably led her to the kitchen, where she dominated from a young age. In 2007, after an apprenticeship at Sydney’s organic café group, Challinor joined the highly coveted Sydney hospitality group, Merivale, making her way through restaurants such as Mad Cow and Felix. It wasn’t long until she secured her first head chef position at Xanthi Bar & Restaurant, but the pull of a new restaurant proved too strong.

In 2013, Challinor joined NOMAD, where she was inspired by the restaurant’s local produce ethos of cheese, charcuterie, and bread making. By 2014, Challinor was head chef, and has continued to be at the helm of the hatted restaurant as executive chef. She even led the charge of the NOMAD Melbourne team when it opened in 2021.

jacqui challinor masterchef australia
Photo: Jacqui Challinor

The Voice of Hospitality

Challinor’s story is one that has graced just about every news outlet. Over the years, she’s spoken about the fire that tore through NOMAD in 2020, how COVID forced hospitality to move to takeaway, and in most recent times, she’s been lifting the lid on cost perspective and the key to retaining staff. Challinor’s activism continues to have a ripple effect on the hospitality industry, marking Challinor as a voice of hospitality.

Activism isn’t Challinor’s only side hobby; charity is a big part of Challinor’s identity. Over her career, she’s been involved in several charities, including raising over $50,000 in the OzHarvest CEO Cook Off and #CookForTheBush — a concept founded by Challinor and the NOMAD team in response to the NSW Bush Fire crisis.

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Photo: NOMAD

Who Owns NOMAD?

Rebecca and AI Yazbek co-own NOMAD Group, which includes NOMAD Sydney and NOMAD Melbourne, as well as Beau, and Reine & La Rue.

Who Is Brendan Katich?

Brendan Katich is a Melbourne-born chef who got his start in the subterranean establishment, Ezard, which unfortunately closed during the 2020 COVID lockdowns. However, Katich has found himself back in the same subterranean spot, which now houses NOMAD Melbourne, where he currently holds the role of head chef.

Who Is Lakhan Bhounsle?

Lakhan Bhounsle is a self-taught baker who is currently the pastry chef at NOMAD Sydney.

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