Rose Adam was a contestant on Australia’s cooking show, MasterChef 2015. She successfully made it into the top 24, and much recently into the top 10. Sahar Mourad caught up with Rose to understand her experiences and the competition on a more personal level.
Sahar: What inspired you to start cooking?
Rose: It was all the parties that we would have. My mum is an amazing cook and she’s been cooking since she was 14 back in our village in Lebanon, and she was the youngest in the family so she would cook for everyone. She’s amazing and she’s done so well and we would have dinners and it was all really beautiful. We would also have all these parties with family over with all the cousins and aunties and uncles, and we’d prepare these big banquets of food and it would just be so amazing to watch my mum and my aunties all in the kitchen with their gold bangles, cooking away. It was just so sweet and I remember thinking ‘this is so lovely’ because everyone was always so happy when they were eating and it was always about the food.
Everything is about the food and it was always centered around the food. Anything that happens, like in any person’s life, there would be a dish to mark it and that…that’s what really inspired me because I loved that idea of making people happy by feeding them. It was a really nice thought like it’s beautiful, generous and it’s all from the heart because when you cook for someone it’s because you really want to and I really like that idea. I feel so lucky that I’ve been connected to this Middle Eastern background. I’m really proud of it and I’m really happy that my family, my mum in particular, never really let any of that go.
I love my family, I think they’re great and I think that the heart of our culture is our family. I can’t imagine not having a big family because I always have someone around me to talk to, to play with, like you always have a friend and it’s really lovely.
Sahar: What inspired you to join MasterChef?
Rose: It was a couple of things and I always wanted to do it. I loved the show since season one and my mum and I would always watch every season, every episode together. We never missed it. I put in an application for season two but I chickened out. I was really nervous and I didn’t want to do it so I didn’t end up going. But my brother was very supportive of me and really wanted me to do it, so after he passed away I decided that it’s probably time to do it because he constantly encouraged me like ‘you should do it, you would be so good at it!’ and I would be like ‘no I’m too scared. I’m too scared.’ From then, I decided I should stop being scared to do things in life. I think that was the biggest thing because I always wanted to and it was now. If I don’t do it now then I’m never going to do it.
Sahar: How do you deal with being away from family and friends?
Rose: I struggled with it a bit from the start. I’ve never been away from my family so I never really realised how much I rely on them. I just have to constantly remind myself ‘what would they say if they were here?’, or if I’m really upset and I’m in elimination again like ‘what would they say, what would they be telling me.’ I keep reminding myself that they’d always be proud of me no matter what. But I have also made really good friends with the people I share the house with, so that was really good too and I have some good people I could talk to.
Sahar: You have been in a few elimination rounds, how do you cope with the stress and possibility of going home?
Rose: For me it wasn’t ‘hey I get another opportunity to cook. I’m going to learn something new’, that sort of came after. After I finish an elimination I was like ‘cool! That was another opportunity to cook and I did learn new things’. At the time it was ‘do I really want to go home?’ and I don’t really. I don’t want to leave with unfinished business. I don’t want to leave because I quit. For me that would be my biggest regret in life if I walked away from the competition because I gave up, because it was too harsh. I’m only going to have this opportunity once and I just have to keep reminding myself that even though it’s not working out exactly how I want it to and I’m not cooking the way I wanted to, I’ve only got this one opportunity and I’ve got to keep fighting and keep pushing and don’t leave until it’s your time to go and you’ve done everything you can. And when the judges say that my time is over in the kitchen then that would be it. I keep telling myself that over and over again. But being in eliminations so far has been good because I have learnt new things which have been really helpful.
Sahar: How do you deal with the negative backlash from the audience/viewers?
Rose: You know what? I don’t. I just don’t. I don’t read it. I don’t look at it. I completely ignore it and I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do but that’s the right thing for me. I’m the kind of person who surrounds themselves with the people who want the same thing for me that I want for myself. All that negativity I don’t want that in my life. I just completely ignore it and let me tell you that I get so much support from people. I get emails every day; I get messages every day on all my social media accounts from people saying ‘We love you! Keep going. Don’t stop’, and that’s really beautiful so that’s what I focus on.
Sahar: How do you use social media to connect with your fans?
Rose: We’re really lucky that we’re the first season to ever use social media while we’re on the show and I really just talk to them. I post up pictures of food that I practice making in the house, or pictures from episodes and I always try to respond to questions. It’s really nice being able to show them a bit of what’s going on, a bit of behind-the-scenes pictures, what we’re doing in the house today, or us getting ready for the weekend. I try to share that with my fans as I like to keep them updated on how things are going and that’s pretty much how I try to use it [social media]. It absolutely astounds me that people take the time to think about me and write me a message, it’s the sweetest thing in the world and I’m very touched. I’m very thankful and grateful for anyone who makes contact with me.
Sahar: What has been your favourite moment of the competition so far?
Rose: The most fun I’ve had in the competition so far is the Mexican Challenge with Ben and Andy. That was so much fun; genuinely it was the best fun. We had such a good day! Matt and I went and got the stuff from Coles, then we got back and everyone was just working really well together, we were really organised and we had fun! We had so much fun that day I think I laughed in between the stressing of cooking the corn and burning half my eyebrows off which for a Lebanese girl isn’t probably a bad thing, but we laughed, we had fun, we cooked beautiful food, and we won which was really nice. The Mexican Challenge has definitely been my highlight so far.
Sahar: During your time in the Masterchef Kitchen so far, what has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt?
Rose: I would say so far the most valuable lesson I’ve learnt is to never give up on yourself. I think that’s been the biggest thing because I’m so quick to be ‘you can’t do this. You are never going to be able to do this’, and I write myself off before I even give it a shot. That’s probably been the biggest lesson, to never write yourself off and never say to yourself that you’ll never be able to do something because you don’t know what you’re capable of. That was actually one of the things that surprised me when I look at some of the pressure tests I’ve done and I think at the beginning ‘I can never finish this, it’ll never be done’, and at the end I can’t believe I did that! I need to have more faith in myself and back myself a bit more. I need to give myself more credit because you can do this and you can do anything you want. You just need to put your head in the right space and go for it.
Sahar: What do you and the other contestants get up to once you’ve finished filming an episode?
Rose: When we finish from the kitchen it’s quite late, it’s never early and then we go home. We have rosters for family dinner every night and we all sit down together to eat the meal and every room is responsible for taking turns to cook dinner. So we get home, it might be your turn to cook dinner, so we all sit down and eat, talk about the day, what’s happening tomorrow and then we study. We pull out the cookbooks and learn new things, retry a recipe that didn’t work out and that’s pretty much what we do when we get back from cooking in the MasterChef kitchen.
Sahar: What is your favourite dish?
Rose: My favourite dish is a Lebanese dish wara enab, which is vine leaves. Hands down. Mum changed the recipe for us, and it has to be mum’s nobody else’s. Mum took the meat out for us to do something different, and instead of putting the lamb at the bottom she put tomatoes, and it just makes them really juicy and delicious. They’ve still got the meat beside them but there’s no lamb at the bottom. It is my favourite dish like if it’s my birthday I want wara enab, if I haven’t seen mum in a while then I want wara enab. Sometimes she [mum] calls me saying she’s making a whole pot of vine leaves and I tell her I’ll be there as soon as possible.
My favourite Lebanese sweet though would have to znood el set with ashta and pastry and they fry it. That sweet always takes me to my favourite place and it reminds me of Lebanon. My dad once took me to a fancy place there and that was the first time I tried it because my dad kept telling me try it and it was just so good and I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t tried it before! ‘Why have I been wasting my time on baklava?’ I absolutely love it because it always reminds me of Lebanon.☐