MasterChef Australia judge Andy Allen with contestant Poh Ling Yeow.

Eight years ago, Andy Allen was a name few people knew.

He was an electrician living in Newcastle who had little clue about where his life would go but, after pursuing a dare from one of his best mates, he’s become a household name.

Andy won MasterChef Australia in 2012 and, this year, he has returned to television screens across the country as a judge.

“My life changed massively – it’s totally different to what it was,” he said.

“I could be back in Newcastle still being an electrician, I didn’t know anything different back then, but I just wanted to chase a dare and a dream and it’s the best thing I ever did.”

Andy said returning to this season’s MasterChef: Back to Win as a judge has been “special from the get-go”.

“Every week was a highlight; I got so invested in it,” he said.

“[But] having Gordon Ramsay introduce [me] as a new judge, I’ll never ever forget that feeling.

“The ­finale was another one of those moments where it all comes together – we’d been through such an amazing ride and, for it to come back to that, it’s another moment I’ll never forget.”

Andy added filming through the pandemic, while stressful at times, made it “even more special”.

“It was really, really challenging but it makes it even more special that we’ve been able to go on and finish the show,” he said.

He said the hardest part was closing his restaurants down at the same time.

“[Fellow judge] Jock and myself had to close down our restaurants, I remember walking off set when we got a break and going into my waiting room and just crying because I had my life going down around me,” he said.

Andy discovered his love of food and cooking while growing up in Maitland, but he did not realise how passionate he was until he entered the competition.

MasterChef Australia judges Jock Zonfrillo, Melissa Leong and Andy Allen pre-COVID-19.

“It was just early days, through cooking for my family and friends,” he said.

“I was in Year 10 and I’d text my mum with ingredients I’d need and then I would cook dinner.

“It was going on MasterChef that made me realise how competitive I was.

“I never knew I could possibly do that; it really took me being in that position to realise I really had a shot.”

Moving forward, Andy plans to keep cooking in his life and may even open a restaurant in the Hunter Valley one day.

“I am not going to rule it out,” he said.

“Newcastle is such a beautiful place and the food industry just keeps growing and growing.”

Andy urged anyone who had considered applying for the competition to do it and said he was the perfect example.

“I went in there and was easily the worst cook in the competition, but I was so competitive with myself and made sure I stayed another day,” he said.

“You learn so much on the show – it doesn’t matter how good you are, [what] matters is how good you are when you leave.”

You can watch Andy Allen in the season ­finale of MasterChef: Back to Win this Monday 20 July at 7.30pm on Channel 10.

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