When the highly anticipated 14th series of MasterChef launched three months ago, it was received with excitement but also a touch of scepticism.
Fans and critics alike wondered how Channel Ten could successfully reinvent a decade-old TV show.
The answer was to bring back past contestants, and introduce new cooks with no TV experience or ability and demand they cook delicious, innovative dishes to crazy deadlines.
That meant a welcome return for the show’s inaugural winner in 2009: Central Coast former office manager Julie Goodwin, 51.
Chef and judge Andy Allen told The New Daily at the time that MasterChef Australia: Fans v Faves was surprisingly the “best season they’ve ever done”, and that Goodwin “makes the competition”.
She did just that.
Despite bowing out on Tuesday night with a burnt sticky date pudding on the final day of a Tasmanian road trip – a dish she says is a staple and was once on every restaurant’s dessert menu – Goodwin won the hearts of Australians with her stamina, cool head and sheer determination.
“I live with no regrets,” she told TND on Wednesday morning.
“If only I was able to pull off [the sticky date] last night.”
Goodwin’s fight in front of … and behind the cameras
When Goodwin was approached to return to one of Australia’s highest-rating locally produced TV shows, she was still working through much-publicised mental health issues dating back to 2020.
“When I got the phone call to go on MasterChef [again], I wasn’t at an optimal place. I was still trying to work out what I could manage. I wasn’t working full time.
“It was a big decision, but it wasn’t mine alone to make. It was a family decision … part of my preparation to go back on was to seek the blessing of my husband [Mick] and sons [Joe, 27, Tom, 25, and Paddy, 23].
“My family had been at my back and by my side throughout an incredibly difficult couple of years, so I can’t just say, I’ll go on the show without it potentially breaking me without that being a conversation.”
Goodwin sought professional counselling and worked with Ten’s production team to come up with “plans and strategies to help … [her] stay healthy”. And the recipe worked a treat.
Goodwin went from showing self-doubt and nerves in the first episode, to cooking with her heart and soul and eventually becoming a mentor and much-loved contestant who made a new batch of friends for life.
“The other thing that allowed me to relax was the contestants,” she said.
“Just how beautiful they were, how willing to share, not just their food knowledge but their feelings. We were able to stand around before going into the kitchen and bond over saying things like, ‘I think I’m going to wet my pants’. And also commiserate, celebrate together, give each other a high five. It was incredibly genuine.
“All of that worked together and made it an experience I loved.”
Although her favourite dish was quail with truffles and celeriac, British TV chef and restaurateur Rick Stein’s love of her coq au vin on June 12 (otherwise known, he says, as “love in a lorry”), made her “heart sing”.
“Geez, I had some stuff-ups,” she said.
“One of the worst decisions was putting a big cake in the oven instead of a little one … [and] putting a whole fish in the oven instead of taking the side off it.”
What’s next, Jules?
So, will Goodwin be back on our TV sets one day?
“I’d like to be. Who do I talk to?” she quipped.
“I don’t know what’s next, I’m enjoying my granddaughter (Delilah, 18 months old) … who knows what might bob along on the horizon and make some choices.
“I’ve got the luxury now of just being able to spend some time with my family, my own business, and … choose what comes along and whether it’s right for me.”
She told Australian Women’s Weekly in April: “A little human coming into the world is a beautiful gift. I have to say I feel too young to be a grandmother, but I couldn’t love Delilah more.”
And while some eliminated contestants complain of being burnt out or misrepresented after being dumped from a reality TV show, Goodwin is now “on a good path” and humbly shies away from being labelled a role model.
“I am wary of being labelled as a role model as everyone has their own story … and I would never want to say, ‘if you’re struggling with your mental health you need to find something like MasterChef and put yourself on the line’. That’s not going to work,” she said, with a laugh.
“We all need to find our own way through it, and just don’t stop reaching out and connecting. Connections with other human beings is what is going to get you through – isolating is not going to get you through anything.
“I feel like I am on a good path. I feel like I did something that was a bit bigger than what I should’ve done.
“I survived it, I thrived in it, and I am inspired and I am excited about what happens next.”