Kiah Bianco: Masterchef Professionals Contestant from Far North Queensland
MEET Kiah Blanco; one of four Queenslanders and one of two Far Northerners set to take on the country for the top title in MasterChef The Professionals.
The 27-year-old, born in Innisfail, and raised in Mission Beach, began his career working in a pizza restaurant, progressing to high end resorts and MasterChef The Professionals, which he said was the highlight of his career.
He said his favourite job as a chef to date was at Salsa Bar and Grill in Port Douglas, where he worked for six years.
"I don't know why I wanted to be a chef,'' Blanco said.
"I made a joke that Mum's food was terrible so it just had to be done, but really it just happened.''
Blanco loves to use local ingredients in his cooking, from mangoes, which he uses to make slurpees, to purple passionfruit and king coconut heart.
Of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent on his father's side, he also likes to incorporate food from the Torres Strait.
"Torres Strait Islander cooking is very simple and has a heavy Asian influence," Blanco said.
"I like to play around with old favourites that we had at big occasions like weddings."
Blanco's experience of the MasterChef house was terrifying and exhilarating.
"You have breakfast, lunch and dinner with people who have the same passion as you," he said.
"I loved everyone in the house, and Rhys (Badcock) was my favourite - there was a bit of a bromance going on there."
"The challenges were absolutely awesome, although they were nerve-wracking at the time, and it was really interesting and scary working with the top chefs, but such an honour."
Co-host of the show with Matt Preston, British chef and restaurateur Marco Pierre White described Blanco as not having the most experience and greatest technical ability "but his want for knowledge and his want to succeed is enormous".
>>MasterChef The Professionals premieres at 7.30pm on Channel 10 on Sunday, January 20.
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MasterChef dreaming: Kiah Blanco sets off from the starting post on Sunday