AS A young girl growing up on a rice farm in Coleambally, Pip Sumbak dreamed of one day working in a professional kitchen.
But she never expected the nation to be watching.
As a contestant on Masterchef Series 5, which debuted on Channel 10 this week, Ms Sumbak’s every slice, dice and saute is being scrutinised by a team of three professional judges and millions of drama-hungry viewers.
After applying for a spot on the popular show for a laugh and “because I was bored in my job”, Ms Sumbak had to endure a barrage of screen tests and cook-offs before finally being accepted.
“I’ve had a passion for cooking ever since I was a kid on the farm and to get on a show like this is unbelievable,” she said.
“It’s shown me how many opportunities there are to work with food.
“There’s no going back for me now – my career is going to be driven and it’s going to be working with food.”
Ms Sumbak’s professional focus wasn’t always so sharp.
After her father Jim lost a battle with cancer when she was 15, the family was forced to leave Coly and resettle in Canberra.
She completed her schooling as a boarder at St Francis College in Leeton but fearing she couldn’t cut it as a chef, went on to study a Bachelor of Arts at Sydney Uni.
The desire to work in a kitchen continued to gnaw at her and she decided to take a professional leap of faith, starting as an office girl at a popular Sydney cafe “just to stay close to the industry”.
Just when she feared she may never land a job as a chef, the Masterchef opportunity cropped up.
She said it had been a whirlwind few weeks on the show, which is pre-taped.
“The first time we all went into the kitchen it felt a bit weird but it’s amazing how quickly you get used to it,” she said.
“You don’t realise you’re even on TV but then you make a mistake and you think ‘bloody hell, I’m actually on TV’.
“Before I went on, I remember saying to friends how much I hate it when people cry on reality shows but the hours are so long and you’re so exhausted, I think everyone on the series ends up crying at some stage.”
While she is contractually obliged not to reveal what lies ahead on the series, she said she was “very happy with how it all went”.
“It’s a lot more real than I thought it would be – there’s nothing fake or set up about it,” she said.
“There are at least two contestants, Xavier and Lucy, who I will be mates with forever.”
And like a true country girl, Ms Sumbak seemed unprepared for the prospect of “reality TV fame”.
“I can’t imagine ever being recognised but I suppose it will happen at some stage,” she said.
“We’re not allowed to watch the show in the house but once I get back into the real world it’s going to be very weird.”