The
Inspiration
Project

WITH BRENDAN CORR

GUEST Kate Bracks

Episode 27

Episode Description:

On this episode of ‘The Inspiration Project’, Brendan Corr talks to Kate Bracks the winner of the 3rd season of MasterChef Australia. Kate shares why she decided to go on MasterChef and how God played an important role in her winning the show.

Kate Bracks Episode Summary

  • What was Kate doing before her MasterChef experience?
  • Why food is so important to Kate
  • The process leading up to being a contestant on MasterChef
  • How God has been part of Kate’s life even while on MasterChef
  • What is Kate’s purpose in life?
  • What it was like being a Christian in that heady world of reality TV
  • Kate not calling the Dalai Lama “His Holiness”
  • Life after MasterChef

Kate Bracks Episode Transcript

Sponsor Announcement:
This podcast is sponsored by Australian Christian College, a network of schools committed to student wellbeing, character development, and academic improvement.

Introduction:
Welcome to The Inspiration Project, where well-known Christians share their stories to inspire young people in their faith and life. Here’s your host, Brendan Corr.

Brendan Corr:
Well, hi there, everyone. Welcome to another episode of The Inspiration Project podcast where we’re bringing you stories of successful Christians who’ve been able to find a way of bringing faith into the success of their life. This morning, I’m delighted to be talking with Kate Bracks. Kate has become a bit of a household name across Australia. She became a national celebrity in MasterChef Season Three in which Kate featured in 2011, winning that particular competition. Kate was previously a school teacher and moved into MasterChef, enjoyed the life of the national celebrity for a period of time, and did lots of different things, finds her way back into teaching. Mother of three, living in regional New South Wales. Kate, thank you for your time this morning. Can I start by asking you, were you a master at the chocolate crackles in primary school, was that the beginning steps into a MasterChef career? How did that begin for you?

Kate Bracks:
Yeah, if it had anything sweet in it, I was a master at it. So, I was actually an incredibly fussy eater unless it came to sweets and baked goods, and then I would eat just about anything. So, yeah, I think my journey into food was definitely by a love of those sorts of things, and a willingness of my mum to give me free rein in the kitchen to play.

Brendan Corr:
So, it started pretty early for you. You were an inventor in the kitchen and exploring…?

Kate Bracks:
Yeah, I remember a really long summer holiday when I was bored and mum said, “Why don’t you cook something?” And I spent hours one day cooking this layered cake and at the end of the day thought, “Yep, that was really great. I’d love to do that again.” And I think that was probably my earliest memory of thinking I really love cooking.

Brendan Corr:
And what was it about the cooking that … Is it the produce, the thing that’s there on the table for everyone to enjoy? Is it the process? Is it the community that you create by people enjoying food? What is it that attracts you to that?

Kate Bracks:
I think it’s multifaceted for me. I think absolutely the produce that I have in front of me, and preferably do very little with it to make it taste amazing. The taste. The sensation that you get from tasting new and different flavours is something that’s very motivating for me. But absolutely, the gathering of people, it almost always centres around food of some kind, and I think it’s the wonderful expression of love when you can put something down that you’ve made and that you’ve spent time preparing, putting that down in front of people builds community, and at the end of the day, people are always going to be more important than the food, and so, for me, that’s a big draw card of enjoying the cooking is doing it for people that I care about.

Brendan Corr:
We’ll come back to that. I want to ask you about how food fits into a life of faith, but we’ll put that off for a moment. There’s a common expression, you hear it thrown around most seasons of MasterChef, if not every episode of MasterChef and other cooking shows, about cooking with love. Do you think there is some truth to that, that when it is invested with passion, it changes the way the food tastes?

Kate Bracks:
I do. And I think when they first started saying that in our season, I kept saying, “Yeah, but what is that? What is that? Like, if I could just put love in that would be all right.” And I think really at the end of the day, it was a learning process for me of what that meant. And look, when I was first cooking in the MasterChef kitchen and they were saying these things, I didn’t have that sort of sense of cooking for people I love, because I didn’t know these judges and I felt there was a threatening sort of element to it, I suppose. And so, I think that as the process drew on, I understood more and more what that meant, probably culminating when they actually brought our families in to cook for them, and I think that was where I went, “Oh, my goodness. This totally changes it.” When I cook for the people that I love, there is so much more joy that happens around the actual process of cooking. Whether that translates to the final product or not it actually becomes a little bit irrelevant because it’s the sharing of the food at the end that I think adds that ‘cooking with love taste’ that people start to experience. And I think that as my journey with MasterChef went, I became attached in relationship to these people, to the judges, to the other contestants, and so I think that grew through the course of the competition, that I actually wanted to cook for them as well, not just to get through to the next round, or not just so that I wasn’t embarrassed on national television, but actually you could start to set aside the cameras and the people, and you just started to hone in more on just the cooking.

Brendan Corr:
It’s really interesting that you mentioned that. I hadn’t necessarily made that connection in that phrase, that the cooking with love wasn’t just the love you have for cooking, the love you have for that process there, for that activity, and your self-expression of love in the creation of the food, but the actual relationship, intended relationship that’s going to be shared that brings another dimension to it.

Kate Bracks:
Well, to me, that’s what it actually means. It’s less about my personal love of cooking, although that does come through I suppose, but it’s more about who I’m cooking for.

Brendan Corr:
Yeah, I can see that.

Kate Bracks:
And it’s interesting, I’ve chatted to a lot of different people over many years and something that’s stuck in mind is that some people who live alone have said to me that since they’ve been on their own they’ve lost the love of cooking, and I think that sort of marries in with that idea of when you’re just cooking for yourself you tend not to put as much love into it, perhaps wrongly, perhaps we should be putting just as much love into it for ourselves as well. But I think when we share it with others, to me, that’s what cooking with love is about.

Brendan Corr:
That’s not a self-indulgence, it is a generous service that’s done.

Kate Bracks:
That’s right. That’s right.

Brendan Corr:
You’ve got a happy life in regional New South Wales and at some point the idea enters your head that you’re going to sign up to be in this national cooking competition. What was the process that led you to make that application, or to send in your audition video or whatever it is that you had to do to get on the show?

Kate Bracks:
It still makes me giggle because it kind of happened a little bit by accident. So, my husband is one of those men who just has his finger on the pulse in everything, and before season one came to our TV screens he came and said to me, “There’s this show coming called MasterChef. I think you should go on it.” And I remember saying to him, “I’m not going on TV that’s ridiculous.” And he said, “Well, just watch a version of it in the UK.” Because that’s where it had started. And I watched online, with one episode and thought, “Oh, my goodness, that looks like so much fun.” And so I went online and filled out their application form. It was really short. But the last one was, would you be willing to be away from your family for up to, I think it was three months? And I at the time had a one-year-old baby, and so it was like, “No way. I’m not being away from home at all.” So, I didn’t send it in, but then I watched it, and I watched season one and two pretty avidly because it just looked fun, and it was a new genre of reality TV where it wasn’t about the people being nasty to each other, it was actually about people building each other up.

Brendan Corr:
No open criticism, any of that stuff.

Kate Bracks:
Yeah, yeah, exactly. And then I remember at the end of season two, an ad just flashed up on the TV screen, applications for season three open now. And I just thought, “Wow, I wonder how this has changed.” Because what started off as this little show that nobody had heard of had become two years a very big feature programme on our televisions. And so, I literally went online more to check out how the application had changed because I’d filled it in a couple of years earlier, and it had changed substantially. It was much, much longer and more detailed and it used one of those processes where that at the time was quite new, but now seems quite ordinary, but you had to fill in every field before it would let you go onto the next page. And so, as my three-year-old slept, had her little daytime naps, I’d fill in another few questions, more out of curiosity because I was just interested to see what they were asking in the little inner workings of a show like this. And then the submit button was in the same place as the next page button, and in my, you know, child’s delirium, the delirium of having children- … that every last bit of energy out of you, I just hit submit, and I remember sitting at the computer going, “… Oh, no.” But I thought, “Do you know what, it doesn’t matter. There’ll be thousands of people that will actually apply for this, so I won’t hear anything.” And I didn’t even tell my husband that I’d done it. Like, I just thought it was nothing. I thought it would be totally out there. And so, when I got a phone call to say, well, I actually got an email to start with to say, we want you to come into an audition, I had to confess up to my husband and say, “Um, so turns out I accidentally applied for this.” And I said, “But it’s okay, I’m not going to go.” And he said, “Why not?” And I said, “Because it’s ridiculous. I don’t need to go on TV on a show like that.” And he said, “Oh, for goodness sake, Kate, you’ve been given this opportunity, you’ll get to see the inner workings of MasterChef, you might even get to meet the judges, go on, why don’t you just give it a go? Plus it’s a weekend away from the kids.” And at that stage, I was thinking, “Ooh, that sounds very appealing.”

Brendan Corr:
Take that. Yeah.

Kate Bracks:
I needed a bit of a rest was what I was naively thinking. So off I went to this audition really without a care in the world, just thinking, “Oh, this will be a bit of fun.” And so then-

Brendan Corr:
So, did you have a strategy? Did you have, this is my go-to dish I’ve got to prepare and thought through?

Kate Bracks:
I remember feeling the pressure of oh gosh, I have to actually cook something good. And I remember, I actually used it really as an opportunity because we’d been to a local fine-dining restaurant and had the most beautiful pork terrine and I remember thinking, “I want to try and make something like that.” And so I just did a big experiment and had a go. And for that first audition dish we actually had to take it in with us, and so I just had a little play around in the kitchen and took that in with some, I think some brioche and some … Like, very, very simple, basic kinds of things. But it did taste good, so obviously, got me through to the next round. And yeah, so there were a few rounds of auditions and in my season they didn’t show any of the auditions, they weren’t filmed. Yeah, and so then I went and did the audition, came home and thought, “Right, well that was fun. That was that.” Again, I really didn’t think there’d be anything to it because they travel around the entire country doing these auditions. So then when I got a phone call to say that I’d made it into the top 50 I was a little bit shocked and a little bit taken aback, and I remember I was on my mobile phone in a local sports store with the kids and I just stepped outside and I said to this lady, “Look, I’m really sorry, I’m just going to have to think about that. I can’t just say yes, straight away.” And she was really surprised, she was like, “What? What do you mean?” I said, “Well, I’ve got kids. I don’t know how I can just extract myself from life. I’m not sure that I can do this.” And she said, “All right, I’ll give you 24 hours. This time tomorrow.” So, I went home and had probably the most agonising 24 hours of my life trying to weigh up, do I go or do I not go? In my mind, I wasn’t going. I thought, “That’s ridiculous.” But both my husband and a very good friend, a very good Christian friend who I was adamant would definitely tell me this was a ridiculous idea and don’t be silly, both of them were saying, “No, you should go. Absolutely. You go, we’ll support you.” So, Luke’s philosophy was, “Look, God’s obviously opened this door, you might as well walk through it and see what’s happening.” And this gorgeous Christian friend was the same. And I remember sitting down that night with my Bible doing what you’re always told never to do, which is to just grab your Bible and just open it. … quick, tell me something God. And I did it three times. And the first time it was the verse that I just honed straight in on was go and make disciples of all nations. I was like, “Oh damn it, go.”

Brendan Corr:
Go, yeah.

Kate Bracks:
And the other two ones were both about going and people going out into the world. And I remember walking into Luke and saying, “I think I need to go. And so, we just prayed about it and I said, yes, and off I went. And at each step of the way, I kept ringing Luke and saying, “Oh, my gosh. I’m still in.” And it was, yeah, it was quite the journey.

Brendan Corr:
Let me push forward with that a little bit because obviously, you started this whole process with an awareness that it was a door that God was opening. Can I ask you to tell us how did God become part of your life?

Kate Bracks:
Great question. So, I grew up in a family where we went to church. We didn’t read the Bible much at home, but we went to church more probably as that was the right thing to do, and when I was in high school I watched my older sister start to take her faith a lot more seriously. And I probably would’ve said absolutely without a doubt that God existed, but I don’t think he really had any claims on my life until after I’d left school. I’d moved away to England for a gap year, so a working holiday and pretty much totally ignored God that entire year. Came back and continued on, began university and the same sort of thing, probably for another year or so. Just would’ve said, “Yeah, absolutely I believe in God.” But he didn’t really have any impact in my day-to-day life. I’d stopped going to church. And then one time it was literally I was getting ready to go out one night and I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, you know one of those moments where I think I was kind of at that age of crossroads of trying to think, yeah who am I? Who do I want to be? And I remember looking at myself thinking, “Who are you? Who do you want to be? You’re at this age now where you get to decide?” Do you want to be a follower of God, or do you not? Because you need to actually make some decisions around that. You can’t keep pretending to be when it’s not real.” And so that began a bit of a journey for me of investigation. I certainly didn’t make the decision quickly or lightly because by that stage I was aware that even though I had grown up in a nominally Christian family and was going to church every week, I didn’t want to assume that that was actually the only explanation for life.

Brendan Corr:
Sure.

Kate Bracks:
Interestingly at the time, my sister was taking her faith pretty seriously and my parent’s faith was definitely growing, so I could see that, but for me, personally, I didn’t want to just assume that that was the only option, so I began reading prolifically and talking to people. I’m sure to the point where they would’ve gone, “Oh, here she goes again.” But I really want to understand different viewpoints of life. So, I read about Buddhism and Islam, and just all different secularism, all sorts of things that were pretty prominent at the time, and at the end of the day, I think what I discovered was that the Christian faith was the only one where it was about what God did for us rather than about what we have to do either for ourselves or another being. And that really struck a chord with me when I realised, “Huh, it’s actually not about me and what I have to do.” I think throughout my childhood and teen years when I acknowledge that there was a God, I wrongly assumed that meant I had to follow his rules and it was all about doing the right thing in order to make him happy, and this discovery, sort of in my early 20s, really flipped that on its head and I went, “Actually, none of us can do the right thing, it’s about what Jesus has done so that we can be made right with God despite our sin.” And so that was quite a shift for me and really quite appealing. So then I actually decided I wanted to go back to church to find out more. I wouldn’t have said I was completely committed at this point, but I was just intrigued. And I spoke to my oldest sister who was by this stage living in Perth and said, “Can you think of a church that I could go to that you think would be good for me as a uni student?” And she suggested a church, and so off I went and I dragged my little sister along, and we heard the first in a two-part series on grace, but the thing was that it was a university church, but there wasn’t a single soul in there. Like, it was empty and it felt so dead. And I remember coming home and saying to my sister, “I really want to hear the second part of that talk, but gosh, I’m not going to that church because it was totally empty.”

Brendan Corr:
Can’t endure it.

Kate Bracks:
Yeah. And so we went back the next week, and it was bursting at the seams with uni students, the week before had been holidays where most of the colleges had been closed. And so we ended up settling into that church, and I got into a Bible study group with, actually, it was a friend of my older sister’s who led that group and that was a massive period of growth for me when I questioned and wrestled, and eventually I remember I just coming to God one night saying, “Okay, I know I have to make this decision.” And it’s hard because there were things that I needed to give up in my life that I wasn’t sure were going to be comfortable, but I realised that the pull that I had of the conviction of knowing that God was real and that God really did have a claim on my life was strong enough to me to choose him. And yeah, and I’ve been growing ever since.

Brendan Corr:
It’s interesting, obviously, you’re talking about an emerging into an understanding, and even though you were going to Bible study, even though you were going to church, even though you agreed with all of the thinking you still had that moment of, I’ve got to choose, I’ve got to make a decision.

Kate Bracks:
I’ve got to choose. Yeah, absolutely. Yep.

Brendan Corr:
That was the moment of being an enquirer to being a disciple.

Kate Bracks:
Exactly. And realising that there were going to be ramifications for that choice, that it would mean that … So, at the time I was going out with a guy that I’d been going out with for a number of years, he was not interested in God or his faith at all, and so I knew I had to let that relationship go. That was a massive thing at that time. And then there were other things, like going out and partying pretty hard and realising that was not in line with who God wanted me to be, so I was going to have to let that go. Didn’t mean there weren’t going to be other great things there, but it did mean I had to let go, I had to make a choice that really there was a cost involved, but at that point, I was so convinced of who God is and what he’d done for me that I didn’t really even care too much about the cost, it was just a no-brainer, it was, no, I’ll do this. This is what I’ve got to do.

Brendan Corr:
So, you mentioned before having a moment where you looked in the mirror and asked yourself the question who do you want to be, what did you say when you looked in the mirror after that decision? What was it that you saw differently about yourself and about your place in the world?

Kate Bracks:
I think the biggest shift was probably feeling like I didn’t know what my purpose was and why we are here as humans prior to that, and so going along with that is all sorts of questions of then, well, what do I do with my life, and what does it mean, and what’s the point? Through to after that decision, just having a quietness in my spirit of those questions are answered. Those biggest questions about life, who I am? Why I’m here? What my purpose is? They’re answered and therefore everything else starts to make sense. That’s the biggest shift. So, then you look in the mirror and go, “Okay, well what I see is not perfect and there’s lots of work that needs to be done, but actually I know who I am, I’m loved by God.

Brendan Corr:
Amen.

Kate Bracks:
Yes, I make mistakes, but I’m forgiven and therefore life has meaning and purpose beyond just me and what I do.”

Brendan Corr:
Yeah, and direction. And which means, down the track, you could mistakenly make that submission and then say, “This is a door I know God is opening, I believe God is opening for me. And for all the uncertainty of it and the unpredictability of it, I can step in and know that there is meaning of it in this event also.”

Kate Bracks:
That’s right. And actually, God is bigger than my thinking. So, I may not know exactly what’s going on here, but he does, and so, therefore, there’s a safety in that, there’s a comfort in that. And that was something that I noticed very early on, probably as I got to know the other contestants. Some of them were there with a very desperate desire to win this thing because that’s what would bring them meaning and purpose in their life, whereas for me, it was not so much that, it was actually God’s opened this door and I don’t know where he’s taking me and I’m very scared about this, but you know what, he’s got me, so it’ll be okay whatever the outcome is.

Brendan Corr:
Yeah, which in your elimination cooks must have been some sort of consolation, I guess, when you had the black apron on.

Kate Bracks:
Totally. Well, sometimes in the elimination cooks I was thinking, “Oh, good, finally, I’m probably going home now.” Then I’d call Luke after and say, “I’m still in.” The idea of winning was actually quite terrifying… I wasn’t really planning to be in there to win. I just felt like it was more, God’s opened this door, walk through it and see what happens. And it wasn’t really until we got down to the final five that I thought, “Oh, my goodness-

Brendan Corr:
It could happen.

Kate Bracks:
… imagine if I actually win.” Being, what’s that going to mean for life? And that was a whole new kind of scary.

Brendan Corr:
So, what was it like being a Christian in that heady world of TV production and the argy-bargy of how it all works?

Kate Bracks:
Yeah, look, to be honest, I think it’s actually like it is to be in any real-world setting. You know, we live now in a very secular society and if we’re engaged in our society, I don’t think there’s a huge amount of difference. There’s certainly some pressure points, but I think people all around us in society feel those same pressure points if they’re in secular workplaces. I think the challenge to me was how do I be a Christian when I know that the others around me are not, and what does that look like? And for me, I was very conscious that I didn’t want to be boxed into the cliched Christian and set aside, right, well you’re irrelevant. So, my approach, rightly or wrongly, was I just prayed. I prayed to God that if he wanted me to have conversations with people that he would need to start the conversations and I asked him that he would then give me the awareness to hear what they were really asking and then the boldness to respond truthfully. And that was my prayer, over and over. I was also incredibly fortunate to have a husband who prays diligently and who did for me the whole time I was there and a number of friends who were also praying a lot. And so, actually, in my time away, I lost count of how many conversations I had about God, like, oh-

Brendan Corr:
With the other people in the crew?

Kate Bracks:
With the other people in the house, with the producers, but I did not start one of those conversations.

Brendan Corr:
Wow!

Kate Bracks:
All I did was I kept praying that God would work and that he would make me aware and to be able to respond, and that he would give me the words. And I think, for me, even to this day, it’s a period of my life that I was so aware of God working. I think God works all the time. I don’t think he ever stops working in our lives, but we go through periods of being super aware of it and times when we’re less aware and it was definitely a time when I was very aware and I attribute that to the fact that I was completely dependent on him and praying to him very regularly. And I find that those times in my life when I’ve been less diligent in sharing my life with God in prayer, they’re the times when I don’t seem to see him working so much. And I think it’s not because he’s not working, it’s just that I’m not as reliant on him. I keep thinking it’s me that’s doing it. And yeah, I think it’s really important to rely on him when we are in those situations, where we are surrounded by secular thinking and people with some very strong opinions that oppose ours. Well, it’s actually not up to us to change their hearts, it’s up to God and so we need to be prayerful about that all the time.

Brendan Corr:
Such a great example that you’re describing of how to do that. So, you’re there, you’re being the salt and light in that space, it ends up you come to the finale, they announce you as the winner, what change did that bring? That must have been another extraordinary transition point of your life, what did it mean for your family?

Kate Bracks:
Yes. Extraordinary transition and I just don’t think there will ever be an experience like it. Everything sort of changed at that point in terms of our family logistics and the life that I thought I was going back to was very, very different. And initially, there was an element of sadness about that in some sense, but I also didn’t really have time to dwell on that, it was pretty busy, it was pretty busy. It was ridiculously busy. Chaotic. So, from the moment that I won, there are a lot of media obligations for a good 48 hours. So, I think the following day I did 64 interviews within the space of one day. Like, it’s insane. It is really quite ridiculous. And that gradually sort of reduced a little bit, but as things sort of calmed down on that front, other things heated up a bit. And you are contracted to obligations prior to winning, and when I signed that contract, I’ve learnt a lot about signing contracts, when I signed that contract way back at the beginning of the MasterChef journey, it did say, the winner and the runner-up will be required for I think it was, what was it, eight months of filming and then two years of obligations after that. And I remember looking at that and thinking, “Well, that’s fine because that won’t be me.” Signed away. At that point of winning it was like, “Oh, right, yeah, that is me.” So, the next two years were pretty insane.

Brendan Corr:
Two years.

Kate Bracks:

Yep. So, there was a cookbook deal which was both a joy and a challenge. It was a wonderful privilege to have, but it came at a time when there were so many other things. So, I was travelling pretty much every week for at least six months, and then it was every second week for another couple of years. And so that became like there were so many fantastic things that happened out of that, and again, I could see God working through that. I did a lot of work in churches actually sharing my story and my faith in churches and feeling incredibly privilege to have been able to do that, but it did take its toll on me just in terms of the amount of travel away from home and family and I’ve always been the kind of mum that wants to be with her kids, and so I found that really hard. So, after two years, I actively sort of started to pull back because the reality was that the more you do the more you get asked to do, and so it was actually building exponentially, and I thought, “This is actually not what I wanted. Not what’s good for our family.” And so, it was at that point, at that sort of two-year mark that I went, “Hang on, this is actually not sustainable for us.” There was a fair bit of pressure to move away from Orange to move back into one of the capital cities, either Sydney or Melbourne, but we had actively made the decision to move into regional New South Wales, so that was never going to be something that we wanted to do.

Brendan Corr:
So, at the end of that period, Kate, you innocently signed the contract at the start of the process, yes it’s going to be fine, you lived the hectic, frantic life of national celebrity, recognised anywhere you go, invited here, there, and everywhere, your life not your own for two years.

Kate Bracks:
Yep.

Brendan Corr:
Comes to an end. You make a decision with your family that it served its purpose, or that’s the season over. Looking back on that, what do you think was the purpose of God in your life to expose you and your family to that period?

Kate Bracks:
Oh, look, I think there are so many things that I could see him doing through that. Obviously, the opportunity to tell others about God, that it would be up in the thousands of people that I had the opportunity to share who my experience of God is, with. As our family, it was pretty testing, particularly on our kids because they were quite young, but it opened up so many opportunities for us to teach them about how God uses people, and ordinary people because they didn’t see me as a celebrity-

Brendan Corr:
… just mum.

Kate Bracks:
… just ordinary people. Yeah, for his purposes. And how he actually used them, by enabling them to be able to cope so incredibly well, which they did, with me coming and going, and all these interruptions into our family life, was able to show them, as well, how God sustains them and how God, yeah, used us as one small part of his purpose in this world. So, it opened up some wonderful conversations with them and some teaching moments with them.

Kate Bracks:
I think, as well, for me, and for Luke, it really solidified our faith that God, not solidified our faith, it was pretty solid before, but it affirmed in us yet again that God sustains us.

Brendan Corr:
Amen.

Kate Bracks:
And that actually, he’s the one that carries us through, and that he remains faithful no matter what, and that we can trust him. You know, it was an enormous amount of trust that we needed to put in him and he came through every single time. You know, like it was such a great time of deepening our personal faith and trust in him. So, that’s something I will always be incredibly grateful to him for.

Brendan Corr:
Some big lessons that you’ve learnt?

Kate Bracks:
I think that whenever he pushes us outside of our comfort zone, it doesn’t have to be in this kind of a situation, but I think he sometimes nudges us outside of our comfort zone so that we will learn to trust him.

Brendan Corr:
Yeah, I understand. You mentioned before that you went into that process not wanting to be pigeon-holed into ‘the Christian’ and all of that stereotyped and to be pre-judged by others based on that, you maybe, I don’t know whether this is true, but post the whole experience, is there a chance that you are now pigeon-holed as the MasterChef in that?

Kate Bracks:
Yeah, look, it is. If I could choose for it not to be, I probably would. I’ve never been somebody that’s been interested in celebrities or celebrity, it just doesn’t interest me much, and so, to then find myself in that position and then with it continuing. So, people still do recognise me, it doesn’t happen nearly as much, but it still is something that happens. And yeah, there certainly are times when I think, “Okay, I’d be quite happy for this to just all be done.” Because in my head I’ve sort of gone, okay that’s that season.

Brendan Corr:
You’ve moved on. Mm-hmm

Kate Bracks:
But I also think again it’s one of those things that, you know, sometimes there is a bit of a cost to following God and maybe that’s one of the costs that I’m going to bear, and that’s okay because it really is first-world problems, there’s people who carry far greater burdens for God than that, and so, while I don’t love it, it certainly, it’s doable, it’s just one of those things that it’s just part of life now.

Brendan Corr:
Well, I’m interested to know now because you’re understanding of celebrity is an interesting one having felt a regular person in the street that’s become a national name, recognised here, there, and everywhere, also encountering world celebrities in that sphere and then moving back into a regular life, it must give you a different perspective of the essential humanness of people regardless of what stations.

Kate Bracks:
Absolutely. I’ve met some people who by the world’s standards are successful in every way, you know, they’ve got money, fame, wealth, and yet, when you have a conversation with them you realise that there’s still an emptiness there. And there are some very broken people still that appear to be at the top of their game, and so, that’s been a very eye-opening thing for me to see that and to again, have it affirmed that who the world says we are is actually unimportant, and that everybody has worth and value because we’re all made in God’s image and that’s an incredibly empowering thing, particularly when dealing with all walks of life, which you do when you have this sort of experiences I’ve had, to see each and every person as somebody made in God’s image is I think an incredible privilege to be able to see the depth and breadth of God’s creation and how he works in all people’s lives.

Brendan Corr:
I was going to ask you about one instance, Kate, of you, meeting a celebrity that I’m conscious of, and they’re meant to be a Christian holding those views about the commonality of our humanness, you had an exchange with the Dalai Lama.

Kate Bracks:
I did.

Brendan Corr:
And it was reported that you didn’t want to refer to him as his preferred title, “His Holiness”. Tell us about how that worked for you and how hard it was to hold your values in the face of what must have been some pressure from those around to toe the line, and how your understanding of our common humanness informs that?

Kate Bracks:
That happened towards the end of my time on MasterChef. I think we were down to sort of final seven if I can remember correctly, and we were travelling to Melbourne and we had no idea what we were doing in Melbourne, and I remember sitting on the plane and I saw the person next to me with a newspaper. We weren’t allowed newspapers, or magazines, or any kind of general media in the house, so we hadn’t seen a paper, or the news, or anything like that for a long time. And I noticed this person on the plane with a newspaper and the Dalai Lama was in Melbourne, and I remember thinking, “Oh, right. Oh, that’s interesting.” Didn’t think anything more about it, and so when it was announced to us that we were cooking for the Dalai Lama I was, yeah, a bit gobsmacked. And my first thought was actually, “How did they get him to agree to that? It’s just MasterChef?” Anyway, I would’ve loved to have been a fly on the wall when that conversation took place. Yeah, and so, I guess for me by that stage though, I had already seen God work over, and over, and over, in my experience there, and when it came to it, so it was one of the rare challenges where we found out about the challenge, and then there was a substantial break before we actually cooked, and that was because we needed to meet with one of his people to talk about protocols and all of those sorts of things. And so, there was this big meeting with about 200 people in the room. So, it was all the convention staff, as well as all the MasterChef crew, and then us contestants. And I remember saying to a producer once it had been announced that we were to refer to him as ‘Your Holiness’. I remember saying to one of the producers, “Do you mind just finding out for me if there’s something else I can call him that would be just as respectful?” And then this meeting’s called, and he says, “Oh, well, you can ask, there’ll be a question time at the end.” And I thought, “Oh, great, in front of 200 people, thanks a lot.” And I think that was the only moment where I felt like, “Oh, I don’t want to do this.” But, I did. His advisor was actually remarkably nonchalant about it all. I just said to her, “Look, I’m just wondering if there’s anything that I could call the Dalai Lama other than Your Holiness but that would still show respect because as a Christian, I’m not comfortable calling him Your Holiness?” And she just looked at me and said, “Oh, sure, you could just call him Dalai Lama, he wouldn’t mind at all.” And that was the end.

Brendan Corr:
That was that.

Kate Bracks:
So, I thought there was no issue. But then when we went to present our food, I didn’t realise that it was going to be such a big thing in the community. And also, there was never normally a journalist on set, this was a very rare occasion. Obviously, we’re cooking for the Dalai Lama, it’s a big deal, and so a journalist was in there. So, it was her that picked up on it, but because we didn’t have any access to any media, I wasn’t even sure- … what the angle of her story was. So, it wasn’t until much later that I found out that it was actually a deal in the community because she interviewed all of us about our experience, and when she interviewed me she just asked, “Can I just ask why you didn’t call him Your Holiness?” And I just said, “Well, as a Christian, I believe that God’s the only one that’s holy and no matter how lovely he is, I can’t in good conscience call him Your Holiness.” And I guess that’s where it came from, it was a conscience thing. At the end of the day, I answer to God, and like I said, all humans have equal value.

Brendan Corr:
Amen.

Kate Bracks:
… as to what we’re taught in the Bible and therefore, as lovely as the Dalai Lama is, and he is, he’s a lovely gentle man, I can’t in good conscience call him holy when only God is holy.

Brendan Corr:
Amen.

Kate Bracks:
And so, for me it wasn’t really even a big deal, it was more just, okay, well I can just call him Dalai Lama and that will be fine. It wasn’t until she put the angle on the paper article that it got picked up and spread around. And it was some weeks later when I found out. My husband knew but he refrained from telling me that there was a big deal in the community and it wasn’t until, yeah, I actually saw it. It was funny because we moved, when we got down to the final two, they moved us into a unit so that we weren’t in this big house on our own and there were TVs in our bedrooms and the house coordinator who was with us looked at this and it was 11 o’clock at night and we were all tired and we’d just landed in this place and he was supposed to arrange for these TVs to be removed and he just looked at us and he said, “Oh, I won’t tell if you don’t tell.”

Brendan Corr:
Don’t bother.

Kate Bracks:
And so, both Michael and I were in our room the whole night watching TV because we hadn’t watched TV in months.

Brendan Corr:
And you were catching up, yeah.

Kate Bracks:
And I was on the phone to Luke and there was a show at the time called Can of Worms. Which the idea, the premise was that they would present a question to the audience and the audience had to say, yes, or no, and there was a bit of controversy.

Brendan Corr:
And you were it?

Kate Bracks:
And they discussed me calling the Dalai Lama, Dalai Lama instead of Your Holiness and did I do the right thing or the wrong thing, and so I’m on the phone to Luke and I’m just like, “Hang on a second, I’ll call you back.” And I watched this and that was the first I knew that it had been a bit of an issue.

Brendan Corr:
Well, we were very thankful and very proud of you, Kate, those of us who share your views. One last question before I let you go, why is it that you think food is such an important part of Christian fellowship and Christian practise? What is it that you think sharing that meal together does for connecting human hearts?

Kate Bracks:
I think partly it’s the way God created us to be. I think he created us, obviously, to need food, as a basic need, but also as a creativity and as a way of connecting with other people, and I think we see that both outside Christian-spheres as well as within them. I think, as well, there’s numerous mentions in the Bible of feasts. God’s always used feasts to bring people together as ways of celebrating, and so, I do think it’s a God-given gift.

Brendan Corr:
Amen.

Kate Bracks:
… to bring people together around food, and there is just something whether it’s to do with, I don’t understand it fully, to be honest, but whether it’s something to do with his creative power and our creativity and it comes together and something that we’re doing where it’s a basic need because I think our basic need is obviously, one of our basic needs is eating, but one of our basic needs is connecting with other people and I think food just come together in a way that just seems right and I look forward to the day when we will feast in heaven, as is, you know, mentioned in the Bible.

Brendan Corr:
Fantastic. Yeah, and I think we’re back to where we started, looking at that notion of it’s not the love of the process, or your self-indulgent love, but a generous giving and making what you have available for others…

Kate Bracks:
Right.

Brendan Corr:
… that’s the heart of our faith.

Kate Bracks:
Just as God has done for us.

Brendan Corr:
Do your family still get the odd MasterChef treat rolled out at dinnertime? Do you have a favourite?

Kate Bracks:
We do have some times, particularly when we’re on holidays there might be a few little extra treats along the way.

Brendan Corr:
Where you can lash out.

Kate Bracks:
My kids are now at an age where they quite enjoy cooking and I’ve got one daughter in particular who’s loving baking at the moment.

Brendan Corr:
Good.

Kate Bracks:
So, yes, we’re getting quite a few little baked treats through her as well.

Brendan Corr:
So, “Baking with Bracks” coming along, that’s awesome.

Kate Bracks:
Yeah, yeah.

Brendan Corr:
We were absolutely delighted to see such an authentic and true-hearted Christian represented on our national media. You carried all of that with such grace, and such ease, and such self-assurance that it’s wonderful to hear the source of that through this conversation was a deep abiding understanding of your place in God and his place in your life. I pray that forever you know the assurance of his love and his call upon you.

Kate Bracks:
Thank you.

Brendan Corr:
And may he bless your family richly and abundantly.

Kate Bracks:
Thank you. I appreciate that. And look, it really was only by God’s grace that any of that happened, so he’s the one that needs the praise now.

Brendan Corr:
All praise. Amen.

About Kate Bracks

Kate Bracks won the third series of MasterChef Australia and was thrust into the reality TV spotlight. Kate is a mother of three children and has returned to school teaching after the whirlwind of celebrity appearances after MasterChef. Kate lives with her family in Orange, New South Wales, and attends Orange Evangelical Church.

Photo of Brendan Corr

About Brendan Corr

Originally a Secondary Science Teacher, Brendan is a graduate of UTS, Deakin and Regent College, Canada. While Deputy Principal at Pacific Hills for 12 years, Brendan also led the NSW Christian Schools Australia registration system. Brendan’s faith is grounded in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and a deep knowledge of God’s Word. Married for over 30 years, Brendan and Kim have 4 adult children. On the weekends, Brendan enjoys cycling (but he enjoys coffee with his mates afterwards slightly more).