They say if you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen. But not only can AGL marketing specialist Walleed Rasheed take the heat – he’s stepping into Australia’s biggest kitchen, on Season 11 of MasterChef Australia.
Walleed’s been passionate about food his entire life – but his dream of working in the food industry is rapidly becoming a reality. AGL supports the flexibility that allows him to follow his passion – and we're excited to share his story…
I’ve worked at AGL for 12 years, and I’m currently a Marketing Analyst in the Customer Insights team. However, I’ve always been passionate about food – and I’ve always dreamed about working in the food industry.
The food gene runs in my family – I come from a Middle Eastern family, and everything is about food. I’ve been around food all my life and it’s a centrepiece for everything I do.
My mum and grandma taught me all I know – but always indirectly. I can remember as a kid being inside our kitchen – which was like our lounge room - and I would just watch mum cook and taste things along the way. I was always learning from her. But my grandma would always remind us that she was the go-to: she knew everything about cooking, even if she didn’t know what the methods were called.
As I grew up, I continued cooking. I’d work my day job, but I’d always go home and cook for my family. Then I started making baklava on the side as well – it was my food ‘hit’. I started my business – The Fresh Prince of Baklava – and my passion grew from there.
Making the cut
People ask me why I applied for MasterChef – there are so many reasons. The biggest is that I love food – it is my passion and I wanted to showcase what I can do.
But the other thing that really drove me to apply was that I never take risks. Ever. So I wanted to take that risk, to be able to just give it a go, and – as the tagline says – dare to dream. That’s the leap of faith I needed to take.
I was lucky enough to get an invite to the Judges Auditions where I had the opportunity to make my signature dish – Baklava Cones with Roasted Pistachio Ice-cream – for the judges Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris, and Matt Preston. The trio loved the dish, and I was on my way into the house!
Electrifying the competition
My time in the house is one of the best experiences of my life. Meeting the other 23 contestants – we’ve become like a family. And the house itself is amazing – there are over a thousand recipe books in the house, so I’ve been spending a lot of my downtime looking up recipes, writing recipes, practicing them, and memorising how to cook them.
The judges – Gary, George, and Matt – are fantastic. I’m lucky to have opportunities to talk to them one-on-one. They’re all great – but I’d have to say Matt is my favourite. He’s my kind of guy in terms of what he loves in his food: purely home-cooked. That’s it – none of the fancy stuff.
He’s also been a great help in learning how to plate. During the show, plating has definitely been a challenge for me – I love to just cook amazing food and give people a big plate of what I’ve made! But artfully presenting food on the plate has been another skillset that I’ve had to learn.
Flexibility allowed me to follow my passion
To have the flexibility to take a career break and follow my passion was just awesome. Having an amazing boss who said ‘yes’ to me and fully supported me to take the time off made my life a lot easier. It has given me the chance to focus, and I really thank AGL for that.
Through the process I’m learning the importance of being in the moment and thinking on my feet. If you can’t do that, you’ll end up in a fireball moment on the show. And I know that it’s a skill I’ll transfer to my role at AGL when I leave the house and go back.
Along this journey my food dream is evolving – right now I’m still working out what that future is and enjoying being part of the show!
You can follow Walleed’s MasterChef journey on Instagram or Facebook or watch him on Network Ten. You may even feel inspired to attempt Waleed’s signature dish of baklava cones with pistachio ice-cream yourself!