Chef of the season: Hayden Quinn

Updated: Dec 20, 2020

We chatted with MasterChef alumni, Hayden Quinn, about what he's been up to, his food philosophy, and the best flavours to use in summer.

Can you give us a wrap up of what you’ve been up to in 2020?

It’s been one of the busiest years for me. We did MasterChef at the beginning of the year, which kicked off in January until March. We then of course went into lockdown soon after. Later we were fortunate enough to get on the road and film season two of Taste of Australia which was focused all around NSW. About a month ago we started filming season three which is super exciting.

A few friends and I also launched a new drinks business recently and had our first seltzer cans on shelves in November – our brand is called FIZZ. It wasn’t exactly born out of Covid, it’s something we’ve been working on for a while. Amongst all that, I’ve been doing my work with the team at Australian Lamb which I’ve had a very long standing relationship with, and as we all know, Aussies love their lamb, so it was great to hook up with them and take part in the Lamb Legends campaign with my good mate Jimmy Niggles. He’s an absolute gun that bloke. It was good fun, we did some good cooking and got to share Jimmy’s story around melanoma and beard season and what he does for the Australian public.

How would you describe your food philosophy?

My food philosophy is very much about fun, healthy, achievable food that people can sit down and share. Think: a big platter of great food that everyone can share with their hands, there’s conversation, there’s connection and always a story behind the food.

What are your thoughts on the hospitality industry, especially this year?

It’s been insane. I don’t own a hospitality business – my girlfriend’s parents have two restaurants though, so I obviously felt it through them. So many of my friends also have restaurants and businesses that rely on people walking through the door to make their living. It’s been a huge affect and everyone has to slowly build their way back up.

We’ve seen the rise of take out and restaurants doing home meal kits but I think one of the good things that’s come out of this is people have spent more time at home with their families and communities and hopefully they’re sitting down at the dinner table more often, sharing a good meal and conversation. When we’re moving really fast in this world, we miss out on those things. I was fortunate enough to be brought up in a household where dinner was sacred, so it’s nice for many to reconnect with their families and friends over a meal at home.

What is one of your favourite summer dishes?

For me, summer is obviously all about keeping things simple, easy and fresh – especially on those hotter days. I love to cook on the BBQ during the season. With lamb, one of my favourite dishes is a butterfly lamb. It’s basically your regular leg roast and the butcher butterflies it out and you can cook it quite quickly on the BBQ as it’s flattened out and thinner. You get an amazing flavour and something like this is really easy to add different seasonings to. You can do anything from Mediteranian with capers, anchovies, lemon zest and rosemary, to Indian flavours like tandori. Orange is also really great with lamb. You can’t go wrong! Summer is all about cooking outside with friends and family, cold drinks in hand. That’s my motto.