Your life has completely changed, from being a Japanese lawyer to an Australian celebrity cook. How has that been?
It's a big change. It makes me feel a bit weird to think I've been doing this for three years now. It feels like I've been doing it forever, to be honest. I miss going to work, I miss staying in one place. I miss that routine of getting up in the morning, having a shower, going to work and coming home every night. I'm in six different cities a week. I think my record is eight different cities in a week. Sydney is just where my furniture is stored. My wife comes with me sometimes; otherwise, we'd never see each other. But I would prefer to be home a bit more than I am. I really enjoy what I'm doing - that's the problem. But one day I might go back [to the law].
When you arrived on our screens, you were an unknown contestant. Now you're doing cooking demonstrations. Did you ever feel like an impostor?
Not really. I think you get so used to cooking on camera and I think one of the really good things about MasterChef was it's not about putting on a performance. It's not about doing all these kinds of crazy things; it's just about doing honest cooking. A lot of people think the holy grail is a food and travel show, and it's fantastic to get to cook a lot of food and eat, but it's hard as well. We do very, very long days - 16-hour days - constantly on your feet without ever sitting down and eating.
You won MasterChef in 2010. Why has it taken so long to get your own show?
I had no interest in it, to be honest. I'd had a few offers but none of it really inspired me, I guess. Then SBS came to me and offered me this role. I'm a huge fan of SBS food shows and I honestly think they make some of the best food TV in the entire world. When you look at Luke [Nguyen]'s show and Peter [Kuravita]'s show, they're fantastic quality and they're not just about cooking a dish - it's about telling a story. There's nothing wrong with simple formats of cooking in front of a camera, but it wasn't what I'd wanted to do at the time and I've been focusing on things other than TV. I enjoy it, but there are a lot of different things that I do and writing is probably the main focus for me, and I try to do more and more of that in terms of books and magazine articles. I didn't come out of MasterChef and say, ''I've got to get myself a TV show as fast as possible.''
What's your next book?
I'm not allowed to say at the moment. It's at the stage of recipe testing. The publisher's loving it and hopefully it should be coming out next year. It's more looking back to my time as a lawyer, when I would go to work all day and come home and cook, and choosing Asian recipes and Asian food to fit in with that lifestyle.
What is happening with your plans to open a Japanese restaurant?
It's always there. It's never gone away and it's never been completely locked down, either. We're just finding the right time to do it. We wanted to do it this year but Destination Flavour came up and, unfortunately, I need at least four months off [to get it going]. We've got funding, we've got a concept, we've got people - we're just waiting to pull the trigger on it. My business partners just opened a bar in Tokyo and they've got another restaurant opening in Osaka, and after that we will look at our restaurant in Sydney.
When you taste food on Destination Flavour and exclaim, ''That's really something,'' does that mean you've enjoyed it or hated it?
[Laughs] I guess I use that phrase as a mental reminder for me not to say how fantastic something is. I get a bit sick of food shows where they taste something and say how wonderful it is, because you expect it to taste good. I always say, ''That's really something,'' and use that as a trigger to explain what it really tastes like.
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