“Cooking Was Just a Hobby”: ‘MasterChef 2021’ Winner Justin Is Still Processing His Victory

Justin Narayan winner masterchef

In a huge finale episode, Justin Narayan was crowned the winner of MasterChef Australia 2021, taking home $250,000 in prize money.

Narayan beat out fellow finalists Pete Campbell and Kishwar Chowdury to take the top spot in the competition, after completing Peter Gilmore’s intense five and a half hour pressure test in which the contestants had to recreate his intricate squid noodles and golden chocolate crackle dessert.

The youth pastor from WA was cheered on by his fiancée and family, including his father who had a health scare during his son’s time on the show.

Narayan told the judges and his fellow contestants that it would take him a while to process his epic win.

Chatting to the talented chef following his victory, The Latch asked Narayan what he is working on now, how his dad is doing, and whether his best mate Pete made it to his wedding.

The Latch: What was it like watching your win back? How long did it take to process it all? 

Justin Narayan: “I definitely felt all of the pressure and got all of the emotions watching it back!

“And now, having watched it back, I’m going to need another minute to process it all again because it is just such a surreal feeling!.”

TL: Obviously, people enter the competition because they think there is a chance they could win, but at what point did you truly start believing in yourself that it was a possibility? 

JN: “Um, I chose not to sort of think about it too much. I just took the competition one cook at a time and tried to do my best with whatever cook I had in front of me, and then just went from there. And that kind of landed me where I am now. So I thought that was a good approach.”

TL: Were there ever any days or cooks that you felt like you just couldn’t keep going? How did you push through? 

JN: “I think I felt pretty good throughout the whole competition. I don’t think I felt the fatigue of the competition or anything at any point.

“I had a lot of good mates and the judges made it really fun. I found the whole process really enjoyable, it was a good ride.

“There were definitely moments where my dad wasn’t doing too well where I thought I needed it to be over there because it’s more important than this. But he ended up getting better.

“He wasn’t 100%, but he wasn’t in the hospital anymore, which made it a little bit easier to keep pushing.”

TL: How is your dad doing now?

JN:  “He’s doing much better now and in good health. He had to make a couple of lifestyle changes, which is fine, but he’s still kicking. And it was really special to have him there for the finale.”

TL: How special was it to bring your food and culture to Aussie audiences and what kind of responses have you had from people who might have reached out to you to tell you what your appearance on the show has meant to them? 

JN: “It was really special, I absolutely loved the type of food I grew up eating and I love learning about Australian natives and the incredible produce that we have here. And so to be able to marry that towards the end of the competition is really cool.

“It’s been really, really encouraging to receive all these messages. People are very kind and encouraging.

“I think reality TV like that should be commended for what they’re doing to, I guess, educate society around different cultures and their food and what it means and where it started and where it’s going.

“It’s a really cool thing to be a part of.”

TL: What stopped you from pursuing a career in food before now? 

JN: “Cooking was just a hobby. It was something I just used to do for mates, or something I’d do on the weekends, and I just enjoyed it.

“I never thought it would be something that I could get paid to do, or that I would create food that people would pay money for.

“I just never thought it was that good. But all my friends were like, ‘it’s pretty good, you should try something with it.’ And my fiancée and my parents kind of convinced me to sign up for MasterChef. And I was like, ‘ok, I’ll do it!’ And it escalated from there.”

TL: So what you’re saying is that sometimes succumbing to peer pressure is a good thing? 

JN: (laughing) “100%!

“Peer pressure, when it is the right people and when people have good intentions for you, bring it on!”

TL: What was a piece of advice you received from the judges that perhaps we didn’t see on the show. 

JN: “There was a lot of sneaky stuff off-camera where the judges will just come up to you at the end of a cook, and be like, ‘Hey, that was that was really good, you were really close.’

“And they would just kind of give you that extra bit of feedback and give you that extra piece of encouragement, which I think for me meant a lot and is what gave me the confidence to keep cooking and keep pushing myself.”

TL: You have such a great sense of humour – would you consider hosting your own cooking show? What format would that take? 

JN: “That is definitely on the cards. I’m working on creating some content at the moment and I’m excited to get that out. There are a couple of delays with COVID, but I’m going to make a couple of tweaks and get it out to the public as soon as I can.

“It’s just myself producing and creating it, which will be done through YouTube. And you can stay up to date with everything on my Instagram. And then I have a website and that will have a blog, recipes, videos, and a whole bunch of random things.

“But personally, it’s something that I would love — to entertain people and inspire them to cook.”

TL: So, Pete told us that he didn’t earn a spot in your bridal party but did he make it to your wedding? 

JN: “He did make it to the wedding, which was awesome! It went really well, it was honestly the best day of my life.”

TL: Who else from MasterChef came to your wedding? 

JN: “Brent and his partner, Amir and his partner and Minoli made it as well!”

TL: What are you up to now that you are the winner of MasterChef Australia 2021? And how are you going to spend the $250,000?

JN: “I’ll keep learning and try and get experience in the kitchen. Just keep going. And hopefully, one day, work towards opening up my own spot, which would be really cool.

“I’m thinking about what kind of spot I want to open. I love a little bit of everything. I’d love to do something with fine dining, but I’d also love something more casual, share plates, that would be fun. A cafe, who knows? I don’t know if I’ve narrowed it down to just one thing. These are all things to think about I guess.

“But hopefully, I’ll just keep entertaining people, keep them smiling and hopefully do something to help them too.”

Follow Justin on Instagram @justinnarayan

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