Billie McKay has fought out the toughest battle ever seen in the MasterChef Australia kitchen to be crowned the 2015 winner. Coming from behind, Billie won against friend and fellow finalist, Georgia Barnes, scoring 82 points to Georgia’s 80.
In addition to winning $250,000, an Alfa Romeo Giulietta and a monthly column in Australia’s leading premium food magazine, Delicious, Billie was also offered a job at guest chef Heston Blumenthal’s UK restaurant, The Fat Duck.
Blumenthal, who had set the incredibly challenging third round pressure test to recreate his famous grape-inspired botrytis cinerea dish, was so captivated by Billie’s talent and composure under pressure that he asked her to come and work for him at his flagship restaurant.
Heston Blumenthal said: “What an incredible series. It was such a tough competition. Offering Billie a job was totally spontaneous, it was a gut feeling on the day.
“It was the way she considered everything methodically through the final and the speed and the way she moved round her kitchen and her work. If she was panicking at all, her body language didn’t show it. A real attribute in the thick of service, I’m not sure if she wants to pursue a career in a professional kitchen, I just felt it would be a good idea for her to explore,” he said.
Former restaurant manager Billie, 24, from Ballina, NSW, said: “I don’t know where to start! It’s an unbelievable feeling not only to win, but to have this offer to work at The Fat Duck is beyond my wildest dreams.
“The whole MasterChef Australia experience has been the biggest learning curve of my life. I owe a lot to Gary, George and Matt, I can’t thank them enough,” she said.
“To Georgia, to have come all this way with her has made the experience so much more amazing as we’re such good mates. I’m always amazed at her creativity and how genuine, fun and happy she is, even when things weren’t going her way.
“I’m completely blown away to have been offered a job with Heston. I would never have dreamt at the start of the competition that was even a vague possibility. From Ballina to Bray, who would have thought,” Billie said.
“My biggest thanks must go to my mum and dad, my partner Hadyn and my sisters Georgie, Rosie, Frankie and brother Joe. They always had positive support for me, believed I could do it and that helped me believe it too.”
As the class of 2015 cheered them on from the gantry, Billie and Georgia tackled three intense rounds of cooking. The first was a mystery box composed of the finest Australian produce on offer, delivered by the farmers themselves. In round two, their families and loved ones arrived, and Billie and Georgia were able to showcase the skills learnt throughout the competition for their special guests.
The third and deciding round was the hardest and most demanding pressure test ever set in MasterChef Australia history. Georgia and Billie had to cook Heston Blumenthal’s botrytis cinerea, his famed dish direct from The Fat Duck.
With 55 steps and 17 elements, cooked over five hours and with 15 minutes to plate up, it was the final mountain the girls had to climb. Billie stormed home in a powerful final cook to rein in Georgia’s four-point lead and overtake her to secure the win.
Having come so close to victory, Georgia Barnes, 27, from Brisbane, is now excited to embark on a new career in the food industry. She received $20,000 as runner-up, in a season featuring the most talented bunch of amateur cooks the competition has ever seen.
Former health product representative Georgia was thrilled to see her close friend Billie rewarded for her immense talent and effort.
Georgia said: “To Billie, what an amazing girl. I’m so excited for her and couldn’t have asked for a better friend to have been through this crazy adventure with.
“I’ve got so many ideas running through my mind for the future. I’d love to get into presenting and doing food demonstrations and events, I’ve had a taste of it now and I love the buzz of teaching people. Food styling and writing is also a passion I really want to pursue. I can’t wait to get started,” she said.