For the first time in Australia’s ‘MasterChef’ history, 24 former contestants have returned to the cooking show for a chance to claim victory.
Derek Lau was a fan favourite in last year’s season, but knocked back the producers’ offer because of timing.
“I was approached to do it, and unfortunately felt it wasn’t the right time for me to get back on the show,” Derek told HuffPost Australia.
“There are things that I have been fiercely pursuing over the past year since I have been off the show, and at the time when I was asked I was right in the thick of all of it.”
Since appearing on ‘MasterChef’ in 2019, Derek’s juggled his day job in finance with guest cooking gigs outside of office hours. He was saving up to open his own restaurant, and came quite close to doing so in Melbourne.
After the economics didn’t add up, he had to “pull the pin” on that idea, but he later pursued the idea of a Bali eatery with business partner.
“We were really happy with what we had found, and were close to signing some further agreements when COVID-19 hit. So unfortunately that too is off the table and I am back to the drawing board,” he revealed.
With the hospitality and food industries struggling amid the coronavirus crisis, Derek said it may have been a “good time” to return to ‘MasterChef’ after all.
“In hindsight, a lot of those opportunities have unfortunately dried up as a result of COVID-19 so it might have been a good time to go back on the show,” he admitted.
“The one thing I think of about all of this, is some words that Matt Preston said to me as I was leaving, which was really not to rush into anything and to take your time.
“So everything is meant to happen for a reason and I have been doing the right steps to get myself into the restaurant industry at some point.
“Pushing on with these ventures is really why I didn’t consider going back to MasterChef this year. I know what I want to do and just need to keep chipping away at it. It’s just finding that perfect inception point.”
Having said that, Derek confessed he’s still watching the 2020 season.
“I’m really looking forward to see what Poh is going to bring to the table,” he said.
“Since leaving the show I’ve had the opportunity to cook with her and I absolutely love how her brain works and the flavours that she thinks of. She’s not about making things look pretty, she’s all about flavour and that’s exactly what I love.
Whatever contestant wins, they would be so deserving of the title, however I would be so happy to see her get up.”