When tasked with making the cake for his sister’s wedding, Scott Bagnell was never going to take the easy path. He opted for a two-tiered masterpiece and decided to create 12 additional cakes, one for each table. Scott admits the layered wattle seed, dark chocolate, lemon myrtle and white chocolate delicacies were a lot to take on, but as guests partied the night away, he knew it was all worth it. Supported by his partner Andrew and their maine coon cat Kingsley, Scott says food was always at the centre of his childhood. His extended family grew their own vegetables and he fondly recalls helping his mum and nana pickle vegetables, bake tarts and biscuits in the morning, before catching mud crabs and fish in the afternoon with his dad.
Crediting Matt Stone, Adriano Zumbo and Poh Ling Yeow as his culinary inspirations, Scott says it was a university study tour to Spain and France that ignited his love of international food and culture. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Scott thinks little of creating extravagant midweek three-course dinners for family and friends, often focusing on Asian and Italian cuisines.
As a self-confessed food nerd, Scott boasts a collection of close to 350 cookbooks and 100 food magazines and loves the idea of storytelling through his dishes. Scott wowed the judges with his black gold dessert at auditions, which consisted of a chocolate choux au craquelin with truffle zabaglione cream and chocolate soil. As a commercial interior designer, Scott has 20 years of experience in the industry, specialising in hospitality and retail design. When his MasterChef Australia journey comes to an end, Scott hopes to open a cooking school alongside a patisserie, inspired by his three passions, food, design and education.
Here is Scott Bagnell in a conversation with GOGO Magazine.
1) How did your journey as a Chef begin?
I have been cooking for as long as I can remember – some of my earliest memories are of cooking with my family. Food has always been a central part of my life, my grandparents and my Mum were all great cooks and super patient. I would bake cakes, biscuits, slices and tarts with our Nana. Dad would take us fishing and show us how to fillet the fish and cook them. Mum would always involve us in cooking at home and we would make a huge mess just baking for the fun of it; it was one of my favourite things to do. I find cooking super creative and the outcome is so enjoyable to eat!
2) Who has been your inspiration?
I get my inspiration from a lot of places. It is now no secret (after confessing this on national television) that I have over 350 cookbooks. I find cookbooks so enjoyable and fascinating. To go down the rabbit hole’ of a good cookbook and discover dishes and ideas that were never on my radar is a real thrill. You discover ideas and ways of combining ingredients that you don’t find by simply ‘googling’ a recipe. So this is always a great inspiration to me. However, I very rarely follow a recipe exactly, I tend to use them more for inspiration, and love comparing similar recipes to try and understand the similarities and differences – you learn a lot about cooking in this way. I also love discovering new ingredients and experimenting with them – so gourmet markets and deli’s always are a great place of inspiration.
As far as Chef’s go for inspiration – there are so many. Matt Stone: I love his strong focus on sustainability, growing his own food and seasonal produce with nothing wasted. I really respect and admire this philosophy and try to emulate it in my cooking. Poh Ling Yeow: I am a huge fan of Poh – and can’t believe I got to meet her and cook her my Ginger Fluff cake. Her wacky but down-to-earth personality really resonates with me, I think we might be quite similar. Jamie Oliver: I love the way he simplifies cooking respecting everyday time constraints to encourage people to try new recipes. He is a great storyteller and I also love his work with Food Revolution to teach people how to cook healthy, great-tasting meals. Christina Tosi: Amazing gratuitous and fun desserts. She is such a fun person and her cooking style is so joyful.
3) What do you think about the idea of being a gin and wine enthusiast?
I love Gin because of the alchemy side to making cocktails – it is like cooking without cooking, but you still get to experiment with incredible flavour combinations. I love wine because of the storytelling side to it. The terroir that is evident in wine is fascinating. The fact that the climate, the soil, and the landscape can influence the flavour of a grape and then that grape is masterfully transformed into a wine which tells the story of that region is amazing! It is why I love cooking so much, you can start with the same ingredients, but create completely different dishes – wine is the same. I think if I wasn’t a designer or cook, I would be a wine sommelier.
4) Which was been the most memorable moment of your life?
There are so many – and Masterchef is definitely the most memorable. Also travelling to incredible places and experiencing different cultures around the world is something that I love doing, and I miss travel so much. I have been incredibly lucky to travel to some amazing places around the world. I think natural beauty is pretty memorable and special. Seeing the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls was pretty amazing!
5) Tell us about your experience in MasterChef Australia.
A once in a lifetime opportunity, it was very surreal cooking food for chefs I have admired for years and years. It was really a ‘pinch yourself’ moment and hard to concentrate with not only the pressure of the Masterchef kitchen but the added pressure of cooking for your food idols. I surprised myself several times that I even got a dish on the plate! It really encouraged me to think deeply about who I am as a cook, what inspires me in the kitchen and what I love about cooking so much. For me, cooking is a creative outlet, driven by beautiful fresh seasonal produce. I love to experiment with interesting flavours and ingredients and cook dishes that resonate with a sense of place and produce, but also in an unexpected and playful way. A lot of my cooking is based on nostalgic dishes from my childhood that I like to reinvent in a new way.
6) Which has been your favorite food item?
I am a big sweet tooth, so baked food, chocolate and cakes are high on the list. I am obsessed with citrus, especially unusual citrus-like yuzu and bergamot. The sour mandarin flavour of yuzu is incredible and I love cooking savoury and sweet dishes with it. Bergamot is also unusual and has such a fragrant floral zest that can be quite polarizing, but if you get the balance right – it sings like a bird.
Truffle season is also my favourite time of year! I love experimenting with both savoury and sweet. I really love complex ingredients.
7) Tell us your favourite recipe.
Probably my Ginger Fluff cake. It is definitely one of my absolute favourite cakes to make. Feather-light sponge cake spiced with ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and cocoa powder and liberally frosted with decadent Custard Butter Cream.
The Ginger Fluff Cake is a tradition in our family that my Nana used to make for family birthdays when I was younger. It’s something that our entire family absolutely loves and we would look forward to at every birthday party. When my Nana passed away we would try to recreate the infamous Ginger Fluff Cake with varying levels of success – but most times it would flop. It affectionately became named the Ginger Flop Cake. This created a lot of friendly family rivalry around who could make the best Ginger Fluff Cake. I think when my nan wrote down the recipe she must have forgotten some steps or ingredients that made the Ginger Fluff Cake a success. Over the years I have tried several different recipes in order to create the perfect Ginger Fluff Cake. I have had many successes and many failures and this is my version of the which I have perfected over the years to ensure that it doesn’t become a flop. I think my Nana’s Ginger Fluff Cake was definitely still better – but this comes very close!
8) How has life changed after entering Masterchef Australia?
I have met some amazing friends during Masterchef which has been incredible. Elise, Sabina and I have embarked on an epic adventure! We are making 100 cakes in 100 days! 1 cake a day, split between the 3 of us, with 1 live bake-a-long a week on Instagram. We are on tour around the world – hence the name – “@tourdecakes” to find the most interesting, most delicious cakes we can find and share their history, their connection to people and place and their recipes with people from all over the world. It is a massive challenge – but super fun.
I am continuing to follow my passion for food and combine my current design career, love of teaching and cooking into a new and exciting career path. I am looking to specialize in restaurant design where I can utilize both my passions of design and cooking. I would love to work with exciting chefs to create food experiences through creative and immersive designed spaces. I have also recently launched a new business Growkery, which I am super excited about. It is based on an old Scottish word, “growk” which means to stare at someone while they eat hoping they will share their food with you. I stumbled across this amazing word, and I immediately connected with it. Every time I order at a restaurant, I suffer food envy, seeing someone else’s food come out, I find myself staring longingly at their meal wanting them to share it with me. I have definitely growked at a few people before. Growkery.com.au is where I will be sharing my love of food and quirky ingredients, featuring growkable recipes & tips as well as reviews of growkable foodie places and seasonal fresh produce from around Australia.
9) How was life in quarantine?
Life in quarantine has been interesting. I spent 2 weeks in hotel quarantine, but at the time I was trying to wrap up a lot of design jobs for my business so that I could go onto Masterchef, and also develop recipes for the competition – so it was probably the most productive I have ever been in my life! I don’t think I watched 1 movie the whole time!
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