Far removed from her life in Orange, Australia, Kate Bracks finds instant recognition and is enthusiastically cheered on as she steps into a small crowd of waiting journalists and food bloggers in Bengaluru. Here to lend her presence and a few of her signature recipes at the inauguration of Whitefield Baking Co, a quaint delicatessen at the Bengaluru Marriott, Kate Bracks instantly connects with talk of food, family and, of course, the charm of our city.
Sharing details of her escapades, including lunch at the hole-in-the-wall Queens and a trip to City Market, Bracks is quick to note that she probably wouldn't have made it across the Indian Ocean if it hadn't been for her win at MasterChef Australia two years ago. “I didn’t enter because I wanted to change my life and MasterChef gave me the opportunity to do that. I liked my life. I entered because I loved cooking,” recalls the former primary school teacher.
Seven months of gruelling challenges later, Kate Bracks not just found herself in the finale but also walked away with the title of MasterChef after skilfully recreating the prized Snowman dessert from the two Michelin star, Noma. That set the (snow)ball rolling for book deals, fame, fortune and champagne toasts, but Bracks did receive criticism from unlikely quarters. “When I first came home after winning MasterChef, my children were scoring every meal! And I would sometimes hear ‘I don’t think it’s your best, Mum’ when dinner was not up to the mark,” quips Bracks.
Still, Bracks’ journey from home-cook to MasterChef can be owed to the cooking she did for and with her family. Though a self-confessed fussy eater during her childhood, Bracks interest in cooking was piqued when her mom suggested she bake as an antidote to prevailing boredom. “I spent the whole day making a layered coffee cake. And it was ugly. But I was hooked,” says the mother of three.
All of eight then, Bracks started spending more and more time in the kitchen. “My fondest memories of childhood include my Nana’s Crumbed Lamb Cutlets, helping her make chocolate chip cookies with exactly three choc chips in each of them, and, of course, ice-cream,” she remembers. She has kept the learning up the whole time, picking up techniques and exploring different flavours. “One of the most unique combinations that I have stumbled across is Apple and Rosemary. We had a challenge at MasterChef to make a tart using both and the result was beautiful and delicious. I now make it point to add rosemary while baking, say, an Apple Crumble. Even Apricot and Thyme makes for a delicious combination.”
Living up to her reputation of being the Queen of the Desserts, Bracks brought out The Sweet Life, a dessert cookbook that caters to, both, beginners and experienced bakers. Apart from when she has to cook brussel sprouts, which she detests, Bracks says that the title of her book coincides with the theme of her life right now. “I am living the sweet life. Meeting people and talking food are my favourite things and that’s my job now. I pinch myself a little every now and then just to make sure it’s all real.”
As she prepares to get on with her whirlwind tour, Bracks gives a shout out to all the aspiring chefs and the home-bakers. Practice and reading extensively about food, she says, is what will lead you to the sweet life.
If you’d like to meet up with Kate Bracks and learn a few things about baking, click here to view her itinerary.