Elena Wins MasterChef, Packs In Teaching
Elena won't be returning to her teaching job at Galston High School in NSW having just been crowned the winner of MasterChef Australia 2016.
The creative and performing arts teacher from Noosa beat Matt Sinclair in a high-pressure final, cooking up three courses including a five-and-a-half-hour-long dessert designed by celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal.
Now with $250,000 in prize money to pursue her dream of opening a farm cafe, her teaching job will be but a distant memory.
"I'm going back to wish my year 12s a happy graduation and formal but at this stage I probably won't be going back to do any teaching," Duggan told AAP.
"I see myself teaching and mentoring and connecting with young people in a different way which is through food."
Duggan now plans to travel around visiting and learning from those who have inspired her, including Maggie Beer and the Three Blue Ducks on the Farm at Byron Bay, and wants to return to California with some of the connections she made while there with the Network Ten TV show.
It wasn't just cooking skills that the 32-year-old picked up while on the show, she also rediscovered the romance of writing letters home to her family and partner Eric as phones and computers were kept from the 24 finalists during the few months they were living in the MasterChef house.
"It was nice disconnecting from the phones and computers and reconnecting with hand-drawing and handwritten letters. I drew a lot of postcards and sent them back home," she said.
Duggan had to be careful not to reveal too much about what was going to be on the show, but she did give her family a little sneaky insight into her cooks and challenges.
"We don't give too much away ... but the postcards that I drew they each had an ingredient on them that I had cooked that week," she said. The MasterChef winner, who applied unsuccessfully to be a contestant on MasterChef in season seven, can credit her sister with encouraging her to apply again.
"Cooking was my happy place when I'd get home from work and get into that deep sort of meditative state, chopping all the vegetables into a fine dice," she said.
"So it was really lovely of her to encourage me to do so."
Sinclair proved a worthy match for Duggan and was even leading the way after the pair cooked their entrees.
But Duggan matched him for the main course and then ultimately won with her dessert.
"We met on the very first day of auditions so to be there with him all the way through to the end was thrilling," Duggan said.
Sinclair walks away with $40,000 while Harry Foster, who came third, gets $10,000.