As things are heating up in the MasterChef kitchen, we had the opportunity to sit down with contestant Grace Jupp, a local foodie and old friend of The Ninch.

Grace chatted to us about her experience stepping away from her gig at Main Ridge Olive Co to film the latest season of MasterChef, some of the unexpected challenges she’s faced so far on the show, and some of her favourite spots to visit on The Ninch.

So, Grace, we've known you as a foodie from way back. Did you ever think you’d find yourself on MasterChef?

I don't think I could have ever imagined I would find myself on MasterChef; it's a crazy position to be in! But I've always loved food and the hospitality industry as a whole, so it feels more normal and natural than it might otherwise. Still, it's totally wild to be here.

I bet! You mentioned that you're from a hospitality background. Tell us about it!

I moved to the Mornington Peninsula when I was 18 and landed my first gig at Commonfolk. From there, I moved to their sister cafe, Merchant and Maker in McCrae, then on to Store Fifteen, before eventually ending up in the cellar door at Rare Hare. I loved the people I worked with and being around good food, good wine, good coffee.

How did you find yourself on MasterChef? What was the application process like?  

Well, I didn't seek it out necessarily! I was having lunch at Merricks General Store, who happen to stock some of our products, and I noticed Andy, one of the judges from MasterChef, sitting on the table next to me. He was having lunch with his wife, and I just thought I'd say hello, and tell him I'm a big fan of the show.

We started chatting, and they were both so beautiful and encouraging. They told me that applications were closing that week and that I needed to apply! So I did, not thinking that anything would necessarily come from it. I figured it was just a bit of fun!

But something did come from it, obviously! And you managed to land a coveted spot on the show. What's it been like filming so far?

It's been unbelievable being part of the cast this year. My Dad has a film industry background, so I've spent some time on sets growing up. It's such a fun place to be. There's a really creative energy, and everyone is so excited to be there. There's a lot happening, but there's also a lot of downtime. For me, it really is the best of both worlds combining film and food – and working with creative people from both industries. It's definitely my vibe.

What have been the biggest challenges?

The challenges are legit! I don't know, as a viewer, it's easy to imagine that there's some sort of trickery going on, and that contestants might have more time to come up with a dish. But we're just waking up every day and trying to bring the same energy and creativity to every cook, regardless of what happened the day before. It's definitely challenging! I also got sick recently whilst filming, which made things extra hard.

Sounds stressful! How do you usually spend your time outside of MasterChef?

Outside of Masterchef, my husband Tim and I run Main Ridge Olive Co. We produce extra virgin olive oil and naturally salt-brined table olives. We both work full-time in the business, growing the olives, making the oil, and selling it too. We've actually just launched a new olive brine product, which is fabulous for martinis!

Outside of work, we have two boys who keep us super busy. Life is always very interesting with two young kids! We love exploring the Peninsula as a family and are lucky that we also get to travel for work.

How has living on the Peninsula shaped how you think about food and the things you cook?

The Mornington Peninsula is known for its wine and agriculture – and we're knitted into that as producers ourselves. It's influenced how we see food and our appreciation for quality produce. We're all about supporting local farmers. When you're dealing with your own produce every year, you get a better understanding of what everyone else is pouring their heart and soul into.

We love to support places like Mossy Willow and Torello Farm. It's really interesting how working in the agricultural industry changes your perspective on sustainability, and the importance of knowing where your food comes from.

Absolutely! Speaking of supporting local, where are your favourite places to eat and drink on The Ninch?

There are so many great places to choose from! If I'm taking friends somewhere for a special celebration, we'll head to Rare Hare, and have a sneaky drink at Flaggerdoot beforehand. You can't go wrong! For lunch? I'll head to Merricks General Store any day of the week.

I also recently went to Ouest France for the first time and loved that. There are just so many good spots.

Is there anywhere that you haven't been yet that you'd like to try?

Tedesca is currently number one on my list, having recently won best restaurant in Australia! They use our olive oil, so I'm super keen to eat there and see what they're doing with it.

I'm also really keen to head out to Ten Minutes By Tractor. My husband Tim worked there many moons ago, but we haven't eaten there together yet! So that's definitely on the list. And I've heard fantastic things about Moke in Flinders. The list goes on, but I'll cap it there for now!

What about the best places to pick up local produce?

My two favourites are Torello Farm and Tully's Corner Store. They both have great variety and really support local businesses and growers. You can find our olive oil there too, but that's not the only reason!

I love that when you go into Torello, it's the farmers themselves that are selling the produce. And Tully's just feels like an extension of that, though they sell produce from the broader Peninsula.

Nice! So, you've lived on the Peninsula for a while now. What is it that you love the most about the region?

It's definitely all about lifestyle down here. It's got such a small-town vibe. Everyone knows everyone; everyone's connected. That could be a bad thing, but because of the people here, it's a really good thing. You get to know your barista and producers and bump into someone on every corner. It's so nice seeing all the familiar faces and just being able to have a chat.

Then there are the beaches, the walking tracks, the wineries… it's so easy to make a day of it. You can go to a winery year-round, and it's either going to be beautiful and sunny in Summer, or it's going to be super cosy with the fire going in winter.

Any advice for any other locals who are thinking about applying for the show?

If this is something that you really want to do, just go for it. It's a long process to get on the show, and they really make you work for it, but you will have the most incredible experience and meet the most life-changing people. I mean, I cooked for Jamie Oliver!! It's ridiculous. But the biggest thing I got out of it was a group of friends I will have for a lifetime, which makes it worth it in every way.

As for advice to get on the show? I don't know. Maybe hang out at Merricks General Store and hope you run into Andy?

Love it, thanks Grace! We can't wait to see how you go on the show. We'll be cheering you on as our very own homegrown MasterChef!

Thanks guys!

MasterChef Australia: Season 15 airs 7.30pm Sunday to Thursday on 10 and 10 Play.

Images supplied by Network Ten.