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A Mother's Day Special with Rhiannon Anderson on Her Angel Mum and becoming MasterChef Runner-up

By Laura Rancie.

Not long ago I was invited to a glorious Italian breakfast with Guy Grossi at his newest Brisbane restaurant. There I had the great pleasure to meet a bubbling, vivacious soul who instantly made me feel like the two of us were giggling friends since high school.
I instantly knew I wanted to interview the mother of five, Rhiannon Anderson. What came through during our chat the following month, was a celebration of her angel mother and the joys that being a contestant on MasterChef 2023 has brought to her life. To acknowledge the indomitable spirit of Mothers everywhere, we bring you this special interview. 

Despite her exuberant exterior, the last two years have been bitter-sweet for Rhiannon in several unexpected ways. Rhiannon’s Mum had been sick for three and half years with ovarian cancer, so it was only 10 days that she got to live at her daughter's home, before being transported to palliative care for her last eight weeks.
Rhiannon remembers: "During those ten days at home we would spend our time having cuppas and chats. It was nice to get to hear a lot about her life that I hadn’t known. It was during those ten days that the conversation of MasterChef happened.” 
A Mother's Day Special with Rhiannon Anderson on Her Angel Mum and becoming MasterChef Runner-up

Rhiannon’s Mum Sue was a Chef when she was younger and when an inscription surfaced written by Rhiannon’s Auntie on a 1971 edition of a Vogue Australia cookbook addressed to her Mum, it was an emotional experience for the MasterChef runner-up.
It read: "Dear Sue, hope you enjoy the recipes and hope to see your name in print soon”.
Rhiannon recounts: "It was funny seeing at age 19, that my Mum wanted her own cookbook and her sister knew that. Even more, she wanted MasterChef for me, because she knew that was something I had always wanted.” 

Fast forward to last year when the producers of the hit Network 10 show told her she’d been accepted for the first audition in Brisbane, Rhiannon felt overwhelmed. She had recently sent in a video about herself while serving up butter chicken as her initial application.
"I was completely like, WHAT?? But at that time, still didn’t expect anything out of it.  I flew down, did the audition which was a mystery box challenge and came back saying that was the most stressful thing I had ever done in my life. I don’t know if I can do this.”
She was invited back the next day to cook her own dish and then again and again, until the official offer to be a contestant. "I had never lived away from my family, I never did the Uni thing where I lived on campus. I was quite scared about it all. It was something so different to my normal life, but also a very big goal of mine.”
A Mother's Day Special with Rhiannon Anderson on Her Angel Mum and becoming MasterChef Runner-up

On one of her auditions, Rhiannon made her classic Korean chicken with finger lime mayo with pickled cucumber on Korean pancakes. The judges told her if she got through, they thought she could do better, so she changed it to be served on bao buns instead. This dish became her first signature recipe on the show.
"My family were so sick of eating it and never wanted Korean chicken again, but I had to practise and practise on them, so it would be good on the show.

"Bao buns normally take hours to make but I had to get the recipe down to under 60 minutes. I was like a crazy person, where I had to also bone my own chicken, put me on the timer but then get friends to come and taste it because my family had had enough”. 

In regards to preparing for the show, Rhiannon hid it from her sister for the entire six months of filming. "I got a text from her saying, someone just texted me and said they saw you on a MasterChef advertisement. Are you going on?”
A Mother's Day Special with Rhiannon Anderson on Her Angel Mum and becoming MasterChef Runner-up

During those six months, she had been able to come home to Townsville for just two weeks over Christmas but her husband was in for disappointment. Instead of treating him to MasterChef stories and delicious lavish meals acquired from her time away, she opted to volunteer 11-hour days at a local restaurant under the guise of ‘work experience’. By that time, she was already top 12.

Even though Cairns is almost 350 km from Rhiannon’s home it’s an area she likes to get to. "I love going to Rustys Markets in Cairns to see what’s in bulk and abundance and what I can cook with. My absolute dream would be to travel around Australia and go into all the regions and promote the small little guys, whether it be a cabbage farm or a beef farm, whatever, but fresh local Australian produce. You can’t go wrong if you’re cooking with that.”
With so many great restaurants countrywide, I wanted to know where she had been lately that was noteworthy to recommend. 

A Mother's Day Special with Rhiannon Anderson on Her Angel Mum and becoming MasterChef Runner-up
Rhiannon makes 120 jars of mango and pineapple chutney, as a gift to all attendees, for her Ovarian Cancer Australia fundraiser. 

"I love Serai in Melbourne and recently went to Petermen with Jamie Oliver. The food there is next level. They’re very different experiences. Oh but I also love NOMAD in Sydney, and Nu Nu in Palm Cove. But if nothing else happens in my life, dinner with Jamie was the highlight.”

As for her time on MasterChef, the Queenslander leaves us with these comments:
"What I got out of MasterChef has been way more than I thought - the friendships, the positivity, the connection I now have with absolute strangers off the street. I’m taking it all with open arms and feeling so grateful and blessed for everything that happened and wish my Mum was here to see it but it is what it is. You’ve gotta keep moving on and I’ve always got her there pushing me to keep trying. I feel like I’m finally where I should be.”

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