Life after MasterChef: How the show redirected Matt's life
MATT Sinclair had watched celebrities Heston Blumenthal, Nigella Lawson and the brusque Marco Pierre White stroll through the doors of the MasterChef kitchen. But the 2016 runner-up's enduring memory of the show was watching his parents and his wife Jess walk into the kitchen on grand final day.
He thought his parents were overseas. The home cook had already battled fellow season eight contestant Elena Duggan in two rounds of MasterChef's grand final, which aired earlier this year. At the time he saw his family, he was in the lead.
"I thought 'if family come it will be my sister and Jess.' And then my parents came through and I just lost it,” Matt said.
"I think it was a really beautiful way to show them what I'd been a part of for six months while I was away.
"I guess for them, on that day, to see my capabilities and style of cooking and how I'd evolved as a cook and as a person, it was, regardless of the outcome, the most incredible way to wrap up that chapter.”
Although Matt, 28, did not end up with the top gong after coming undone over a complicated dessert, the television show has launched him down a career path with food at its core.
And for the coffee roaster turned cook, food and family go hand in hand. His first memory of food is tied to his great-grandmother, who used to look after him as his mum had to go back to work when he was young.
"She was from the old school. She was a big, jolly lady and she was a classic grandmother,” Matt said.
"If there were no lollies in the house she would beat together butter and sugar and then turn it into little balls and then freeze them, and they would be our lollies.
"Parents these days would be going 'you can't do that' but as far as I know I don't have any major health issues. They're the memories that are the closest to my heart. I would love for her to be able to see what I'm doing now.”
Since his appearance on the show, life has been non-stop cooking for Matt and Jess, 32. The couple quit other work at a Sunshine Coast restaurant, where they met five years before they married, to focus on building their business, Ten Piece Cutlery.
Matt, along with business partner Michael "Moe” Rickard, opened the business at the Eat Street markets in Brisbane a few months ago, and have plans to expand on the Sunshine Coast.
Matt said he relished the recipe creation aspect of the business but Moe, a chef of 15 years, was the man who knew how to turn a single dish into hundreds for the starving public.
"The whole dream about the business was around long before MasterChef was. I'll never forget the first phone call from the producers,” Matt said.
"I was going around to Moe's house to chat about Ten Piece Cutlery. I said to him, 'I just had a really strange phone call. People from MasterChef rang me and asked if I wanted to go to an audition in Brisbane.
"I had his full support. He just said 'these opportunities don't always come around. Give it a shot, see what happens'. And here we are.”
It has also been a baptism of fire for Matt and Jess on the social media front as both learn how to harness those channels to promote Matt's cooking. There is an e-cookbook and YouTube cooking demos in the pipeline.
Jess, too, has found her own niche in the organisation of the business.
"The social media stuff has really opened my eyes. The support that is out there for him is really amazing,” Jess said.
The former hospitality worker said the couple had not really had a chance to sit back and take stock of all Matt had achieved on the cooking show.
"It's amazing when we're brainstorming and dreaming together,” she said.
"The momentum builds and anticipation builds and you want to strive even more when you have someone else in your corner. It's a team effort and it's definitely my job to amp him up all the time and keep him motivated, as it is his job with me.
"It's a different lifestyle now. It's a different way of working together, it's a different communication we've had to build. But it's all learning and we're on the same page, which makes it easier to work together all the time.”
Jess and Matt had been married for four months when Matt left the Sunshine Coast to start filming the show in November last year. The honeymoon was put on hold so Matt could go on the show, and Matt joked there were plans for a romantic holiday in 2027.
Matt said that without the support of his family he would not have felt comfortable leaving Jess alone for what turned into a six-month period.
"It's amazing to have someone like Jess who has that same passion. I can bounce things off her and I cook things and ask for her genuine opinion and she'll tell me. I don't want someone to say to me 'oh yeah, that's great',” Matt said.
"She's worked in the industry her whole life so she understands balance of flavour and balance of texture and putting things together.
"She is like my backstop. Everything I do will go through her and I know that I'll get some honest feedback.
"Whether I like it or not sometimes is another question,” he said with a laugh.
And they are not only set on creating recipes. Jess said they were also cooking up plans for a family.
"Why not go all in at once? There's no reason why we couldn't juggle that - people do it every day. Watch this space, I suppose. Hopefully in the very near future we'll have a growing family. Now that he's home, it's easier,” she said with a laugh.
Jess said she was really proud of her husband, and was still quite taken aback by how much of Matt's personality shone through on MasterChef.
"There's not many people I know who've had the chance to chase their dreams and follow them through and create exactly what they want to do,” she said.
Matt had advice for others teetering on the edge of trying something new or different.
"I like quotes. It sounds cliched but different quotes really resonate with different people,” he said.
"I read this and it really hit it on the head for everything that I have experienced and everything coming up in the new year. 'If you can't beat fear, do it scared'. I love that. You're always going to have that, the small percentage inside that is going to make you think 'I can't do this'. Do it anyway. I can very very happily and confidently vouch for that kind of attitude.
"Because I was still s*** scared going into MasterChef. You're constantly rolling up every day not knowing what is happening. And with so much competition because everyone is getting better. My advice is just do it.”
As Matt continues to build inroads into the food industry, Weekend readers will also have a chance to try some of his tasty recipes as he joins our foodie team once a month. Matt said he loved cooking simple, spicy food with fresh herbs, and the odd soup too.
"My aim is to be around in the food industry for a long time. And to continue to reassess myself and try to continue to grow - be a part of the industry in a positive way. I don't ever want to become complacent,” he said.