Dee Why resident and lifeguard Hayden Quinn first hit our screens in the 2011 season of MasterChef. Although he left the competition in sixth place he hasn’t hung up his apron just yet.

He spent this year globetrotting in search of cooking inspiration for his two new recipe e-books, and even found time to compete in MasterChef All-Stars.

This month Hayden caught up with the Sydney Observer to tell us about his plans for the summer.

 Why did you decide to enter MasterChef initially?
I was sitting at home watching the show and thought, ‘I could do that, I could give that a go’, and then when the application came through I gave it a shot and sent it off and there you go. I really enjoyed the sense of adventure and the big unknown about the whole thing, because every day we didn’t know what we
were doing.

Now that MasterChef has finished do you have any plans to open your own restaurant?
It’s definitely something that has been talked a lot about, but I have no plans for the immediate future. I think that’s something to put in the potential five-year plus dream category. At the moment I’m getting the right feel for where I want to go with my food before I jump into the deep end.  To be honest I don’t think it would be a restaurant; it would be more of a cafe, or a small eatery, which would be a bit more manageable.

 In your experiences cooking, what has been your biggest kitchen disaster? Or do you cook like a pro all the time?
It happened at a friend’s place that lived in a unit, and they had an electric cook top, and I don’t usually use those. I bought this weird pot, and I had the pot on the stove and it wasn’t meant to go with the electric cook top. I was cooking away and it was getting nice and hot, the next minute it cracked and there were flames and fire and smoke alarms. It wasn’t very impressive, everyone was expecting me to be cooking the food and the next minute the kitchen is on fire. Not cool.

You cook so many delicious meals, but do you have a personal favourite?
I get asked that all the time and always give a different answer. Most of the time my favourite meal is any meal that someone else has cooked for me, because it’s always nice to have someone else do the cooking. I also love food that you see in the commercial stores, like Maccas, that someone has put their own spin on, with fresh ingredients, fresh produce, real meat and chicken.

 Where do you spend your time when you’re not in the kitchen?
When I’m not cooking I spend a lot of time down at the beach. I still work casually for Warringah Council lifeguard service, so if people are around the beaches they might see me working. But a lot of my time is spent away from home, travelling, and doing cooking demos, writing and working with different brands.

 What are your plans for the summer? Do you have any trips planned?
I’m back doing the commentary with Channel Ten for the Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Iron Man Series. So we’ll be going round the beaches throughout December, January and February, covering the guys running around doing their Iron Man stuff, which is good fun. We go to Perth and Melbourne and up to the Gold Coast but other than that no big trips planned for summer. I’m potentially going to hit up South America next year though, just for a bit of inspiration and some food and to get some ideas.

You recently released two recipe e-books, Hayden Cooks Summer and Hayden Cooks with Friends. How do these reflect your cooking style?
The summer one is all about fresh, healthy, fun recipes. They describe my love of summer and what makes me want to come home from overseas and spend time around the BBQ or on the beach. It’s stuff that’s accessible, food that everyone can have a go at, food that the kids can get involved in. That’s what I love about the food that I do, you don’t have to have super special equipment or go out of your way to find ingredients. Everything that’s in my recipe books I can find in Dee Why. That’s how I like to write my recipes and how I like to cook.

To follow Hayden on more of his adventures visit his website and blog.