‘I Need To Do Something For Myself’: Billie McKay’s ‘Very Hard’ Decision To Return To MasterChef Australia After Becoming A Mum
The 30-year-old says competing on the Fans & Favourites season has allowed her to reconnect with her passion for cooking after she — like many new mothers — had to take a break when she gave birth to daughter Ada in 2020.
After winning the show in 2015, McKay worked at UK celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal's Michelin-starred restaurant, Fat Duck, for six months before coming back home and working on her family's dairy farm.
"Then I got older, got married and had Ada. I'd just been loving the farm life and working on the farm. But always in the back of my mind, I knew how much I loved cooking and wanted to work in food," she tells Refinery29 Australia.
"But it didn't really happen. I was loving the farm and not really knowing how to get there," she explains.
When she received the phone call from MasterChef producers asking her to appear on the revamped season starring 12 returning contestants (favourites) and 12 amateur home cooks (fans), McKay understandably felt conflicted to begin with, but ultimately recognised it could be an opportunity to reinvigorate her culinary career.
One of the things that made the "decision very hard" was the fact that her daughter was only one-and-a-half when filming started.
"I just thought, 'Oh god, I don't know how I can actually be away from her for an extended amount,'" says McKay.
"But I guess [returning to MasterChef] also came at a perfect time as well. Being a new mum, it takes up a lot of your time and you put a lot of your own hobbies even and dreams aside to make sure that child is fed and watered. But I think she was at a good age where I knew I could leave her and she'd be fine. I just thought. 'Yeah, I need to do something for myself right now.'"
Throughout this season, McKay has dished up some of the most impressive meals and has been tipped as as one of the frontrunners to win when the show wraps up in just less than two weeks.
"It sounds cliche and a bit boring, but it really has made me fall back in love with cooking and given me a bit more of a direction now," she says, "so I'm eternally grateful for that."
The previously eliminated contestants are Sashi Cheliah (Season 10), Michael Weldon (Season 3), Christina Batista (Season 5), John Carasig (Season 7), Aldo Ortado (Season 10), Mindy Woods (Season 4), Minoli De Silva (Season 13), Tommy Pham (Season 13), Ali Stoner, Jenn Lee, Chris Tran, Dulan Hapuarachchi, Harry Tomlinson, Matt Landmark, Max Krapivsky, Melanie Persson, Montana Hughes and Steph Woon.
MasterChef Australia: Fans & Favourites airs Sunday to Thursday at 7:30pm on Channel 10 and 10Play.