After winning the fifth series of MasterChef Australia in 2013, Emma Dean has been a busy chef and kitchen renovator, recently working with Cosentino Australia, Scavolini and Smeg to achieve her dream kitchen. We chat with Emma about her new kitchen and the role it’s playing in her life post-MasterChef
“The Dekton Strato benchtop and splashback in my new kitchen not only looks stylish with a matt finish that adds depth and texture, but it’s also highly indestructible — plus heat and stain resistant. Its stain-free qualities are truly incredible. I have spilt red wine, turmeric, food dye and chocolate on the benchtop, and all of them wiped off, which also means the bench is easy to clean as well as hygienic. It’s perfect for busy people like me. It’s an incredibly hard surface too. I have dropped a heavy pan onto it and the benchtop just stayed the same — beautiful, clean and blemish free. After a busy day cooking, prepping and shooting my web series at home, it comes up better than new. You can also cook with kids without having to worry one single second. It’s a pretty special product that can change my benches from a prep surface into a studio surface!”
— Emma Dean, on Dekton from Cosentino Australia
What do you love about your new kitchen?
The beautiful clean lines and how easy it is to keep clean. I had a party recently and red wine was spilt on the benchtop. It wiped up easily with no stain left. It’s nice to have friends around and have them up on the stools, sitting around while I cook and chat. It’s really social now, rather than before when it was dark and there wasn’t anywhere for my friends to hang out. When I’m cooking, the neutral colour scheme allows my ingredients, produce and finished results to sing. I love the soft-close doors too. I just love how it’s a really quiet space — there is no slamming of doors and drawers. I love it!
What are some special design features of your kitchen?
My kitchen is just beautiful, functional and spacious, with wide Dekton benches from Cosentino Australia, lots of storage, soft-close drawers and cupboards, hideaway bins, a slide-out pantry and Smeg appliances. I love the Scavolini cabinetry with contrasting finishes — timber grain and gloss white.
How has your kitchen changed since your old one?
My previous kitchen was an impractical ‘50s kitchen with no charm to compensate and a few flat-pack retrofits. The colour scheme was orange and light green. The benches were so narrow that I could not fit my chopping board on it, and the drawers were so small my large chopping knife didn’t fit. I had nowhere to store my stand mixer, so I left it on the kitchen table. Now, I have more bench space and much more storage. I can put things away and the kitchen looks really tidy. My old kitchen was quirky, but it was time for it to go. I cooked my whole cookbook in there — it was a big effort!
Did you face any challenges while renovating?
Not really. It was a great, fun project. I trusted Scavolini and I trusted Cosentino Australia because it was within their expertise. I trusted them for a lot of the finishes. Scavolini actually matched the cabinetry handles to the Smeg appliances — I didn’t even realise until it was all in, and it was lovely for that reason. You can make renovations hard if you want, but sometimes you’ve just got to let things go and trust people — and that’s what I did.
I just love that Smeg fridge. Is there a story behind it?
I chose it to pay homage to my old kitchen. I liked that I could have a beautiful, functional and modern kitchen and still honour my old, single-fronted, Edwardian weatherboard cottage. It’s nice to reflect on that, and I like the colour. It’s really beautiful.
What are some of your other must-have appliances in your kitchen?
I love my Smeg steam oven: it’s incredible! It’s a 700mm-wide oven, but it still has the capacity of a 900mm. You can even fit commercial trays in it. It also takes less time to heat and takes up less space. My built-in dishwasher is pretty awesome. Of course, you can’t see it because it’s behind the cabinetry, but if I put it on the professional setting, my dishes are done in half an hour! I also love my Smeg Linear cooktop. It cleans beautifully and doesn’t smudge — I don’t know what they have done to it. It wipes down to perfectly new every single time. I have the cute Smeg Retro kettle and toaster as well.
Is that a reference to your old kitchen too?
Yes, it’s nice. It’s really lovely to be able to combine the new and the old. I have some old jars and things in my kitchen, so it doesn’t look out of place.
What do you like to cook in your new kitchen?
I love baking lots and lots of biscuits and cakes because I’ve got the bench space now and you can really spread out to do beautiful things. I also have big parties and I can now cook a slow roast or a lamb roast.
Does your new kitchen play a role in what you are doing now post-MasterChef?
Yes, because my job now is cooking and trying out new things. Last night, I was up until midnight baking a cake for Denis Walter at 3AW radio just because I promised him the next time I came in I would bake him a cake. It’s really simple now and easier to clean up.
What else have you been doing since your winning days on MasterChef?
I’ve been doing lots of cooking demos, including at the Living Smart Festival at Lake Macquarie, the Royal Melbourne Show and I’m also cooking for 120 at an annual fundraiser. The following week, I’m at a vegetarian festival. So I’ve been doing lots of festivals and demos — it’s really fun. I’ve also been filming a little web series that’s still in post-production. It’s just for fun on YouTube — a bit of creativity.
What’s next for you after that?
There are a few projects in the planning stage, but I can’t say anything yet.
You’re keeping us in suspense!
There are a few things going on, but I just really want to get my web series up and going, and set up an online cooking school. It’s really nice to have a new kitchen so I can do an online cooking school. I’ll have trial classes at the end of this year and continue next year, depending on how it goes. You never know anything until it’s final!