Gary Mehigan has been a judge on MasterChef Australia for eight seasons. He lives in Melbourne, where he runs The Boathouse restaurant.
The bravest thing I have ever done is... Going into business. It was a moment of madness and as the years go on I still learn and make mistakes every day.
When I’m working hard I unwind by… Walking my dogs. I hate to sound cliched, but those very present moments of awareness are important. My wife said to me years ago: 'You are here, but you are not'. So I changed. I make sure I am there when I am there.
A perfect Saturday at home is spent… Pottering in the kitchen. It is a world away from the professional kitchen – no deadlines, hassles or expectations.
The best meal I’ve eaten abroad was… About five years ago my wife and I went to Spain and treated ourselves to a meal at Mugaritz, which is the seventh best restaurant in the world. It wasn’t specifically the food, it was the place too. It was in the countryside out of San Sebastian and we were frantic when we arrived, because we’d got lost. It was a late summer’s afternoon and we sat our flustered selves outside under a big oak tree with a local aperitif and what looked like little warm pebbles, but were in fact tiny potatoes baked in a clay shell. It was at that moment that I went 'wow' about where we were, what we felt and what we were about to enjoy.
My top indulgence is... A foodie holiday. Food is part of everything I do. I pretend I want to take a scenic drive, but there is always a restaurant, a cheese shop or a chocolate factory at the end of it. When I plan an overseas holiday, it’s never about the Pantheon, it’s about the pasta.
My signature dish at home is... Roast chicken. It sounds terribly boring but I consider it a meal for all seasons – it changes from a chicken with all trimmings in winter to serving it with a really fresh salad in the summer.
If I could give my 16-year-old self one piece of advice it would be… Lose the fear of being wrong or making mistakes. Fear holds us back. I have learnt from MasterChef that once the contestants get used to being criticised and grow from that experience, the results are often incredible.
The quality I most appreciate in other people is… Empathy – we are living in a world that is not full of it right now. My parents always reinforced the idea of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.
The book that changed my life was… Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, by Richard Carlson. It has very simple ideas that stop you getting caught up in something you don’t need to.
My ultimate holiday getaway involves... India. It is a source of fascination for me. I’ve been six times now and it is always a crazy, hectic, colourful, noisy place. It is a juxtaposition of poverty and wealth and all the very best and very worst of humanity but the food culture is outstanding. Travelling from the north to the south you encounter different people, different languages and different food.
The person whose work I admire most is… George [Calombaris]. I know he is my fellow judge and maybe I am a bit skewed, but he really is one of Australia’s best restaurateurs. There is probably only a handful who are as successful and driven as him. George has an expanding franchise and six restaurants. I admire that single-minded love of food and hospitality.