Occupation: General Manager
As a child, Tom woke up every morning to the sounds and smells of fresh produce. Growing up on a farm, he’d help get the eggs from the chicken coop, understand that the cows in the paddock would one day be served up as dinner and know that mum’s vegie patch was a veritable feast of flavours.
“We had an amazing vegetable garden, orchard, chickens, and weekly kill of mutton or beef and I was just very conscious from a young age where good produce comes from,” says Tom, who lived with his parents and sister on their beef and wool-producing farm in the cattle country of NSW’s Southern Tablelands.
“It’s just an understanding of knowing where food comes from. It was just a fact of life that I never questioned.
“I was taught a respect of animals – and I was very fond of cattle – but it’s the nature of the industry that you have to send them off to market to then be eaten,” he says. “While they’re at the farm, you do everything you can to make sure they’re happy.”
While he was surrounded by fresh produce, it was Tom’s mum that taught him the art of creating tasty treats from the paddock to the plate. “She’s a great cook and I remember just hanging off the stove watching her cook from a very young age,” he remembers, adding that – unsurprisingly – he loves cooking meat.
Tom moved to Sydney to boarding school, then spent a gap year in London, before moving back to Australia to study economics and politics at Sydney University.
“I did well at school and university seemed the most obvious choice,” the wine company executive explains.
“Going and doing a food apprenticeship wasn’t even thought of; partly my food awakening wasn’t completely awake. I don’t think it’s a regret, however, and now MasterChef represents an amazing opportunity to get into the food world. It’s a wonderful shot in the arm for people who want to change the direction of their career.”
Tom and his fianceé Clementine both love cooking and the well-travelled couple love nothing more than visiting supermarkets during holidays overseas.
“We love supermarkets and whenever we go travelling we’ll check out the produce on supermarket shelves,” he says. “It’s fascinating to see what’s in packets and what isn’t.”
Indeed, they’re such fans of supermarkets that one store in the West Indies will be hold a special place in their hearts.
“I proposed to Clementine in a supermarket!” he laughs. “Her mum’s father had lived in the West Indies and it was a family reunion. I figured it was too clichéd to propose on a beach. And it’s something we both laugh about with our friends now.”