Denise Valdez Has Big Plans Post-MasterChef
The globe-trotting chef already has a lot on her plate.
When Denise first plated up her Lamb Birria with Bone Marrow Tostadas for the judges it was clear the 37-year-old from Victoria had serious skill. And she was ready to learn from the best.
"Having somebody's feedback that's completely unbiased ... that objective criticism was something I wanted," she told ten daily.
Denise blew the judges away with the flavour profiles of her dishes and the way that she used authentic flavours to honour her Mexican heritage, but surprisingly that wasn't her initial strategy going into the competition.
"For most of the time I was on, I cooked Mexican food. It wasn't the main aim, showcasing cuisine that doesn't get featured as much, it was never the agenda."
In fact, one of her highlights turned out to be getting the opportunity to cook her braised Maryland chicken for the judges. "It was nice to cook a dish and show people I can cook things other than Mexican," she smiles.
On Thursday night's episode Denise had to cook alongside her teammates, after losing the group challenge earlier that week. The eleven chefs were asked to cook something inspired by the dishes that made them fall in love with food.
Denise chose a pork trotter salad that she and her mum love cooking. "I'd ask almost every day what we'd be having for dinner and if she said that dish, I'd be thinking about it all through school".
Unfortunately, due to the time constraint, the dish didn't work as well as she -- or the judges -- would have liked.
"On reflection I stuck to the brief, I picked something I love to eat and it really inspired me when it comes to my love of food ... but it probably isn't everybody's cup of tea so there was that risk factor."
Despite leaving the competition, she's already gone on to do some amazing things, having completed work experience at Cutler & Co, Supernormal and Rockpool.
Bringing her expertise with authentic Mexican cuisine as well as her global travels, Denise has huge plans for her future in food.
Starting with a line of pickled jalapeños and chipotles in honey, Denise wants to bring out a line of products celebrating fresh Mexican cuisine.