MasterChef Australia’s Montana Hughes On The ‘Stigma’ She Faces As A TikTok Influencer

Image courtesy of Channel 10
MasterChef Australia: Fans & Favourites contestant Montana Hughes
This year's MasterChef Australia: Fans & Favourites season promises some fresh, rising stars in food who have found new, innovative ways to cook up a storm.
Take Montana Hughes for example. The 24-year-old has not only taken notes while watching the last 13 seasons of MasterChef while growing up, but has plenty of cooking experience thanks to her impressive TikTok account.
The social media influencer from Queensland boasts over 238,000 followers on her popular @monmackfood TikTok page. It's where she regularly uploads quick, engaging videos showcasing her cooking tips and hacks that allow fans to easily whip up anything from the 'perfect steak' to iced coffee creme brulee and aquafaba mousse.
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But Hughes doesn't believe being a TikTok personality will necessarily work to her advantage in the MasterChef kitchen. In fact, it only adds to the pressure to perform and may potentially attract criticism from viewers.
"As much as I love my platform and what I've built, there is a stigma around a TikTok influencer," she tells Refinery29 Australia.
"I think a lot of people might, unfortunately, look negatively towards it and go, 'She just posts videos online, like what does she know?'"
Image courtesy of Channel 10
Montana Hughes on MasterChef Australia: Fans & Favourites
Hughes says there is more to her than her toastie and broccoli hacks that have landed her a legion of younger social media fans like other next-gen chefs on TikTok and Instagram also have. She's confident in her ability to create sophisticated and refined dishes that are just as rich in culinary techniques as flavours.
"I feel like I have something to prove because there is a big side of me that isn't those quick, easy recipes that I post on social media," she explains. "There's a side of me that really loves the intricate fine dining side of food. I want to show that, I want to prove that. I guess I do have something to prove and live up to."
If you were to ask Hughes what her most popular TikTok video has been since she launched the account during the COVID-19 lockdown, she'd say it's the pici pasta clip uploaded in August last year. It has over 8.5 million views to date.
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@monmackfood Pici pasta (not beans) 🥬 Written recipe on IG tomorrow! #pastatiktok #cookingvideo #foodtiktok #foodie ♬ original sound - MonMackFood
"All of a sudden it just blew up," she recalls. "I had so many messages in that video being like, 'I made this with my kids, it's something that we make on rotation in our house.' The fact that I can inspire people through just one video, it's pretty awesome."
It took Hughes a while to muster up the confidence to post her first video in 2020 but once she started, the drive to continue sharing her kitchen adventures kicked off.
"It's definitely something I'm very glad I started and just had the confidence to do because it was put off a lot of times," she admits, "just because of fear of friends saying, 'What's she doing?'"

"I feel like I have something to prove because there is a big side of me that isn't those quick, easy recipes that I post on social media."

montana hughes
When Hughes enters the MasterChef kitchen, she'll be going up against 12 favourites, who are former MasterChef contestants, plus 11 other amateur home cooks like herself.
Judge Melissa Leong is a firm believer that Hughes' fresh approach to food will work in her favour and give some of the favourites a run for their money.
"She's literally grown up watching the show for the majority of her childhood," says Leong. "And what she's cooking at home just for fun for her friends would blow your mind. So, bringing that level straight off the bat as an amateur into the kitchen has its own impressive nature."
Leong, who launched her own blog when food blogging really took off around 2005, says the way in which social media platforms have allowed home cooking to evolve over the years shouldn't be shunned, and it's only going to add to the MasterChef experience this year.
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Image courtesy of Channel 10
MasterChef Australia: Fans & Favourites judges Melissa Leong, Andy Allen and Jock Zonfrillo
"You look at the food, and the quality of home cooking then was very different to what it is now," she explains. "It's really wonderful to see that social media has aided the sharing of food and the sharing of food knowledge in a way that maybe we couldn't have envisaged back then."
Melissa Leong returns to the Channel 10 reality show in 2022 as a judge alongside Jock Zonfrillo and Andy Allen.
In terms of the contestants, the favourites include Julie Goodwin (Season 1), Billie McKay (Season 7), Sashi Cheliah (Season 10), Alvin Quah (Season 2), Michael Weldon (Season 3) Mindy Woods (Season 4), Christina Batista (Season 5), Sarah Todd (Season 6), John Carasig (Season 7), Aldo Ortado (Season 10), Minoli De Silva (Season 13) and Tommy Pham (Season 13).
The fans are Ali Stoner, Jenn Lee, Chris Tran, Daniel Lamble, Dulan Hapuarachchi, Harry Tomlinson, Keyma Vasquez Montero, Matt Landmark, Max Krapivsky, Melanie Persson, Montana Hughes and Steph Woon.
Image courtesy of Channel 10
The cast of MasterChef Australia: Fans & Favourites
MasterChef Australia: Fans & Favourites premieres on Easter Monday, April 18 at 7:30pm on Channel 10 and 10Play.
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