EXCLUSIVE: Our Steph on what it's like to be on Master Chef
STEPH De Sousa can't wait to come to Bundaberg and thank her supporters once filming for Channel 10's Master Chef wraps up.
But first she has to complete a journey that took her years to start.
She first thought about entering the Master Chef race 11 long years ago. She's spent three of those most recent years being short-listed for the reality TV show.
But then something amazing happened - she was chosen for the program's 11th season which started on Monday.
"I've always loved to cook," she told the NewsMail.
"The kitchen's always been a very happy place for me."
That happy place is filled with memories of her grandmother's ice cream containers stacked with different slices and her kitchen stocked with delicious fruit buns.
It was, in part, her husband's childhood memories that led to the recipe that earned her an apron on the season's first episode with her serving up the Indian dish pani puri.
It was a dish Mrs De Sousa had the opportunity to taste when her husband took her to the same streets his father would once take him to in India.
The popular Indian street food is a savoury, hollow puff holding delicious fillings and sauce that the Master Chef judges - George Calombaris, Gary Mehigan and Matt Preston - said took them straight back to the streets of Mumbai.
"If we set that bench any higher you wouldn't be able to see what's on it," they said after her appearance.
Mrs De Sousa said she was taken aback by just how welcoming the judges were.
"You're expecting them to be aloof celebrities, but all you feel is warmth from them," she said.
To have them like her dish, she said, could only be described as a "thrill".
Mrs De Sousa said anyone wanting to apply for the show should do so.
"Do it, have a go, do your homework," she said.
"Study what the judges like."
She said it was a good idea to master 10 to 15 dishes and keep making recipes even if at first they didn't look as flash as in the cook books.
Her favourite Instagram hashtag is #bettereveryday and Mrs De Sousa firmly believes that even if you're learning to cut a carrot a different way, you're still making a little progress here and there.
"If you can do something better every day that's 365 times a year and that's a lot of better," she said.
Mrs De Sousa said she was grateful to the people of Bundaberg, where her sister Lisa Sly has been a long-time resident, for their support.
"I appreciate you guys getting behind me and I would love to come up when the show's over, that would be really cool," she said.
After all, the city is home to her son's favourite ginger beer which she makes into a delicious sorbet and her husband's favourite spiced rum.
It was also where she honeymooned.
"We came to Bundy on my honeymoon at Mon Repos, we went there and waited till 4am to see the turtles," she said.
For more on Master Chef or to view Mrs De Sousa in action, head to the website.