MasterChef Australia reveals the 2016 Top 24
Who Will Be Australia’s Next MasterChef? The highly anticipated new season of MasterChef Australia has returned bigger and better than ever, with the best group of amateur chefs boasting the most amazing cooking the competition has ever seen.
Thousands of hopefuls auditioned, with judges Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt
Preston scouring the country to handpick Australia’s best foodies.
With an unrivalled passion for food and a strong desire to join the food industry, the
contestants will deliver some of the finest dishes in the history of MasterChef Australia.
An airline captain, a professional golfer, a pharmacy technician and a park ranger are among
the Top 24 who have claimed the coveted MasterChef Australia aprons for season eight.
There will be a who’s who of the world’s best chefs joining as guests, including domestic
goddess Nigella Lawson, Heston Blumenthal, Marco Pierre White, Curtis Stone, Maggie
Beer, Kylie Kwong and Luke Nguyen, to name just a few.
The ultimate winner will walk away with a life-changing experience and the title of
Australia’s MasterChef 2016, plus $250,000 and a monthly column in Australia’s leading
premium food magazine, Delicious.
Get set to see some inspiring cooking as the contestants fine-tune their skills, compete
under pressure, meet some of their culinary idols and face some of the biggest challenges of
their lives in their new home – the MasterChef Australia kitchen.
We are thrilled to introduce the MasterChef Australia Class of 2016:
Adam Mizzi, 30, South Australia, Adventure Company Owner
Growing up on a Sydney chicken farm, moving to Tasmania as a teenager and travelling to over
35 countries before settling in Adelaide, Adam Mizzi’s life boasts big adventure. With Maltese
heritage, there was always a Mediterranean influence in the Mizzi kitchen and Adam has fond
childhood memories of making pastizzis from scratch.
Anastasia Zolotarev, 26, New South Wales, Marketing Co-Ordinator
Born in Belarus, Anastasia and her family moved to Ukraine when the Soviet Union dissolved,
before making the tough decision to move to a better life in Australia, landing in Brisbane when she was just five. Anastasia has vivid memories of this culture shock, her exotic lunch boxes magnifying her differences with the other children. The family moved to Sydney after a year and Anastasia has embraced her Aussie home ever since.
Ashley McConnell, 29, Western Australia, Software Sales
Growing up in Rockingham, Western Australia, as the middle of three boys, Ashley recalls
spending quality time in the kitchen cooking with his mum, around age five, baking cakes and
making a mess in the kitchen. Ashley loved to cook and his mum bought him cookbooks over the years, encouraging his interest further.
Brett Carter, 43, Western Australia, Airline Captain
Born in Melbourne as the second of four children, Brett has probably been to more cities than
most people have had hot dinners thanks to his work as an international airline captain.
Travelling during his childhood due to his father’s role in the RAAF, the family lived in Victoria,
Queensland and the Northern Territory before Brett followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming an air force cadet in his teens and winning a flying scholarship.
Cecilia Vuong, 31, Victoria, Teacher
Born in the small Tuscan town of Travelle, near Florence, Italy, Cecilia’s culinary influences span
her Italian homeland, to traditional Chinese flavours from her father and uncle and Vietnamese
tastes from her mother. Cecilia successfully made it through the Judges’ Auditions for
MasterChef Australia Series 6 in 2014 but had to withdraw from the competition due to a head
injury she sustained on a snowboarding trip before her application.
Charlie Sartori, 24, Victoria, Professional Golfer
Growing up in Sorrento on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, Charlie Sartori was a sporty child
from the word go. Following his older brother onto the golf course, Charlie was a member at
Portsea Golf Club at around age eight. At the time he chose to get stuck into his junior footy and cricket instead and it was not until age 14 when he played a nine-hole tournament with a mate that the penny dropped for Charlie and he was hooked.
Chloe Bowles, 24, Queensland, Nanny
With a past working in events and currently employed as a nanny on the Gold Coast, food and
cooking have never been far from Chloe’s mind when she thinks about her long-term future. A
permanent fixture at the kitchen bench beside her mum from age two, Chloe has always loved
to cook and really got stuck in from the age of 10.
Con Vailas, 31, Victoria, Restaurant Supervisor
Growing up in a close-knit family, Con learnt most of what he knows in the kitchen from his
talented mum. Along with dad, who immigrated to Australia at a young age, Con has learnt the
values of family and hard work from his parents. With three sisters, Con says cooking was
always a big part of their family life growing up in Hobart, Tasmania, their Greek heritage
meaning that food was always central to bringing people together.
Elena Duggan, 32, New South Wales, Teacher
Having grown up in Noosa, Queensland, Elena loves being on, near or in the water. With her
family running a scuba diving business when she was young, there were plenty of good times
and holidays spent on the water and, of course, an abundance of seafood, which she loves to
both cook and eat.
Elise Franciskovic, 28, Queensland, Pharmacy Technician
Growing up in the Far North Queensland town of Cairns, Elise’s family home backed onto the
rainforest, meaning it was not uncommon to see cassowaries wandering into the house,
monitor lizards lounging by the pool and bush turkeys roaming in the yard. Elise is the middle
child in her family, with two elder sisters and two younger brothers.
Harry Foster, 21, Queensland, Cocktail Bartender
Harry is a walking advertisement for tourism and events in Queensland, having lived in many of
the Sunshine State’s northern towns and cities. It is fair to say that Harry knows how to cram a
whole lot into life. Born in Rockhampton, he was very young when his parents separated, after
which he lived with each of them at various times in Rockhampton, Rollingstone, the Sunshine
Coast, Cairns and Townsville.
Heather Day, 32, South Australia, Sales Manager
Interested in cooking from the age of four, Heather was taught to cook by her mum, dad,
grandmother and older sister. She got into cooking more seriously aged 14 when she became a
vegetarian, not eating meat again until she was 21. After graduating high school, Heather
pursued business studies, gaining an Advanced Diploma in Management (Hospitality) and a
Bachelor in Business from TAFE.
Jimmy Wong, 49, New South Wales, Sustainability Specialist
As the eldest of four children, Jimmy proves that the apple does not fall far from the tree when
it comes to a passion for food. Jimmy’s parents ran a grocery store and Chinese restaurant when he was young, where his late father worked front of house and his mother worked in the
kitchen. Jimmy will compete alongside his sister Theresa, who is also a MasterChef Australia
contender this year.
Karmen Lu, 24, Western Australia, Waitress
Currently working as a waitress, Karmen is very much at home in the high-vis vest and hard-hat
attire of the mining industry. Holding a Bachelor of Science in Mine and Engineering Surveying,
Karmen is now getting ready to don some brand new attire: her MasterChef Australia apron.
The eldest of two daughters, Karmen was born in Perth to parents who emigrated from Vietnam in 1982.
Matt Sinclair, 27, Queensland, Coffee Roaster
Growing up in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire holds great memories for Matt, of a happy family life
with mum, dad and elder sister. Inspired in the kitchen by two strong women in particular, Matt
credits his grandmother and late great grandmother Elsis, in part, for his passion for food. The
learning came full circle in 2014 when Matt catered for his grandmother’s 80th birthday.
Miles Pritchett, 46, Queensland, Park Ranger
Clermont in rural Queensland is a long way from the MasterChef Australia kitchen – over 2,000
kilometres, in fact – but that is how far Miles Pritchett is prepared to travel to be a part of the
competition. A jack-of-all trades, Miles completed a Bachelor of Environmental Science in late
2014 and now works as a ranger for Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.
Mimi Baines, 26, Victoria, Product Manager
Mimi enters the MasterChef Australia kitchen not only with skills nurtured by her beloved
grandmother, but with a competitive edge born from being a girl with two brothers. Having
grown up in Melbourne with mum, dad and two older brothers, Mimi always held her own with
the boys around the house and the three siblings enjoyed their sports, with Mimi excelling at
tennis, skiing and running.
Nathaniel Milevskiy, 29, Queensland, Paramedic Student
Growing up in Cairns on a diet of sports, it is a wonder Nathaniel had much time for anything
else. For Nathaniel, life was full of baseball, hockey, archery and many other sports. When mum
and dad, both teachers, accepted work in the US, it was the start of a grand adventure for the
family, who moved to Massachusetts. Aged 15, Nathaniel got in on the action too, being
awarded a baseball scholarship as a catcher at The Winchendon School in Massachusetts.
Nicolette Stathopoulos, 19, Victoria, Student
Although she might be MasterChef Australia 2016’s youngest contestant, Nicolette’s talent
should not be underestimated. Cooking seriously since she was aged 11, Nicolette and her older
brother enjoyed a childhood filled with many happy memories and lots of food shared with their extended Greek family.
Nidhi Mahajan, 30, South Australia, Call Centre Worker
Not fulfilled by her high-flying job in corporate insurance in Chandigarh, India, Nidhi was seeking more balance and a simpler life. In March 2013, Nidhi and husband Sumit, 33, a self-employed software engineer, decided that simply changing jobs or cities was not going to cut it. Lured by the Australian weather and lifestyle, they packed up and moved to the other side of the world, settling in Adelaide.
Olivia Robinson, 26, New South Wales, Restaurant Manager
Growing up, Olivia threw herself into every extracurricular activity, proving that she is definitely
a jill-of-all-trades. From music, dance and swimming to netball, gymnastics, choirs and bands,
she did it all. A gifted musician, Olivia has played saxophone for over 10 years and also plays
clarinet, a little piano, basic guitar and the ukulele. Also a keen singer, she has been a part of
Vox, a branch of Sydney Philharmonia, as well as writing and performing her own songs.
Theresa Visintin, 44, New South Wales, Mum
Theresa was born in Singapore before moving to Toronto, Canada, and then to Australia at age
10, later living in Western Australia for six years. Currently, she and her family are based in
Vancouver, Canada, for her husband’s work. Under her maiden name of Theresa Wong, she
appeared in several Australian television shows in the early 1990s including Home and Away and Paradise Beach. Theresa will compete alongside older brother Jimmy, who is also a MasterChef Australia contender this year.
Trent Harvey, 29, New South Wales, Electrician
Growing up on the family apple orchard in Batlow, New South Wales, Trent has lived and
breathed the wholesome country life with dad and a younger brother. With fond memories of
milking cows, catching rabbits and fishing for trout, Trent’s love for fresh produce goes way
back. As a teen Trent was into music and sports, especially loving his motocross racing, getting
on his first motorbike aged just three. He raced bikes from 10, reaching state and national level.
Zoe Konikkos, 31, Victoria, Sales Manager
Zoe has reached a now-or-never moment. Talked out of becoming a chef by her mum as a
teenager, she is now determined to make food her future. From a Greek Cypriot background,
Zoe’s paternal grandparents immigrated to Australia in the 1950s to flee the war in Cyprus,
while her maternal grandparents immigrated here in the 1960s to also seek a better life. She
describes her upbringing with mum and dad as very European, not speaking English until she
went to kindergarten.