‘Gotta Give A Present To Myself’: How MasterChef Winner Brent Draper Will Spend His $250K Prize

Image courtesy of Channel 10
MasterChef Australia 2023 winner Brent Draper
When Brent Draper decided to return to MasterChef Australia this year, his goal was to simply do his best. It had been two years since he voluntarily bowed out of the 2021 season to focus on his mental health. While winning had undeniably been a huge dream, he didn't imagine he would actually claim victory at the very end.
But, that's exactly what the tradie-turned-foodie did last night, winning $250,000 in a very emotional grand finale. The 32-year-old plans to use the huge cash prize for various personal and professional goals, but cheekily says he's been given strict instructions by his wife Shonleigh on how to go about doing that.
As someone who loves fishing and the great outdoors, Draper says the first thing he'll spend some of the winnings on is a brand-new boat.
"Look, it's it's a massive amount of money and it's going to set the little family up big time," Draper tells Refinery29 Australia. "Obviously I've gotta give myself a little present, so I'm gonna get a little boat for myself.
"I've been capped by the wife on how much I can spend, which is fair enough," he laughs, acknowledging that the money will definitely help when expectant Shonleigh gives birth to their second child.
"I also really want to do a cookbook, with mental health [content] in that book. So, the funds are going to really help me boost that up and get that going."
While he doesn't have immediate plans to open a restaurant or pop-up eatery like other Masterchef contestants have in the past, Draper says he wouldn't rule it out altogether.
"It's never out of the option, but I am just going to ride the wave," he explains. "I've got a couple of things that I'm very keen on straight away, and the beautiful thing about MasterChef is that the opportunities that come after it are amazing."
After taking time out over the last two years to work with a doctor and psychologist on his mental health, Draper cooked up a storm this year, which took him to the very end of the 2023 season.
In a very dramatic finale that involved two highly technical and sophisticated challenges, he came out on top, while co-star Rhiannon Anderson finished as runner-up. Of all the judges, Draper was unquestionably closest to Jock Zonfrillo, who passed away at the end of April. It made watching last night's pre-filmed final ep, which ended with a tribute to Zonfrillo, a particularly emotional experience.
"It was always going be bittersweet. I always knew this day, and episode, was coming," Draper reflects. "Obviously the show has to end eventually and that'll be the last time we see Jock on MasterChef.
"It was a beautiful send-off, and it's just such a tough one for me personally. I never really had a Nonna or anyone who showed me food," he adds.
"My food mentor was Jock. It was quite late because I was sort of 30-odd when I met Jock in the first season. I clung on to him as my food mentor, and the person who I would want to celebrate this with would be Jock. So, it's always playing around in my head a little bit.
"But he's done us proud and he's Mr MasterChef and we will always remember that cheeky smile and the way he wanted the best out of us."
Having learnt so much from Zonfrillo and the other MasterChef judges Melissa Leong and Andy Allen, Draper says he'd definitely return to the show in a guest capacity to help future contestants if he ever received the call asking him to do it.
"If you've got the passion there, then just go for it. Worry about everything else later," Draper shares as his advice for other home cooks hoping to break into the food biz.
"Life's short. If it lights you up, do it, because obviously I'm a prime example that amazing things happen."
Image courtesy of Channel 10
MasterChef Australia 2023 grand finalists Rhiannon Anderson and Brent Draper with judges Andy Allen, Jock Zonfrillo and Melissa Leong
This year's season of MasterChef was different to last year's season MasterChef Australia: Fans & Favourites, which featured 12 returning contestants from previous seasons and 12 amateur home cooks.
The contestants were Adi NevgiAlice Han, Amy Tanner, Andrea Puglisi, Antonio Cruz Vaamonde, Brent Draper, Cath Collins, Declan Cleary, Grace Jupp, Jessica Perri, Larissa SewellMalissa Fedele, Phil Conway, Ralph Kahango, Rhiannon Anderson, Robbie CooperRue Mupedzi and Theo Loizou.
Now fans of the popular cooking franchise are gearing up for a fresh spin-off, MasterChef: Desserts Masters.  With Melissa Leong and internationally renowned chef Amaury Guichon stepping in as judges, the new program will air on Channel 10 and 10 Play later this year.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing depression or anxiety, please contact Lifeline (131 114) or Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636). Support is available 24/7. 
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