Julie Goodwin won Australia’s first season of MasterChef in 2009. Now four years, on she has three of her own cookbooks sitting in her kitchen. Despite her success she remains as down to earth as ever. This month Sydney Observer caught up with our favourite chef to find out about her latest cookbook ‘Gather’.

What kind of recipes can we find in ‘Gather’?
It’s a collection of recipes for all different occasions. The idea behind it is to encourage people just to get together over a great meal and to demonstrate how easy it is to do that. It doesn’t have to be a wedding or a special occasion; it can just be a picnic or a
potluck dinner.

What are some of the standout dishes in the book?
Well that’s difficult as each chapter is about a different kind of gathering. So there’s a chapter about picnics, then there’s a chapter about high teas with all the pretty little cakes. Then you have potluck dinners and street parties, which are all about cooking for substantial amounts of people. Buffalo wings, some beautiful salads, Mexican beef and slow braises are some of my favourites.

The recipes in the book are so varied. How did you find inspiration?
They are all things that I love to cook for my family and friends that have been received really well at parties and gatherings.

What would you say are some important things to remember when you are cooking for a gathering?
Just bear in mind that it doesn’t have to be difficult, it’s a really straightforward thing to do. It should be joyful, so just be mindful of the people you are cooking for.
What do you do when you don’t have time to make a big meal for the kids?
Quick pastas are always the answer. I call them fridge shaker meals. You shake the fridge, see what falls out and you turn it into a pasta. Stir-fries, salads and grills are also really fast and tasty options.

Do you have anything special planned for Mother’s Day?
Mother’s Day is just my favourite day of the year. I’ll have breakfast in bed, I’ll hopefully get spoilt by my boys and I’ll probably spend the afternoon on a picnic or I’ll sit out on my back deck with a book and a glass of champagne.

Speaking of breakfast, how do you like your eggs?
That’s too hard! I love eggs; I’ve got chickens so my eggs are so beautifully fresh – they’re to die for. But one of my favourite things is a soft-boiled egg. I love it – just pure unadulterated ‘eggyness’.

You always appear to be composed in the kitchen, but have you ever had a big kitchen disaster?
I’ve had many kitchen disasters. I only set my hair on fire the other day! Probably my worst was many years ago when the kids were very little. We were having visitors over and I roasted a whole chicken. I ducked into the bedroom to freshen up and when I came out my dog had climbed onto the table and had the entire chicken in his mouth. By the time I chased him and got it back it was completely mangled.

How has your life changed since winning MasterChef?
My family has had so many beautiful opportunities that we didn’t have before. We’ve been able to do a lot of travel and meet some really cool people. We’re just having an absolute ball with it. But at its heart my life hasn’t changed really. I’ve still got the same friends, and we still do the same stuff and live in the same house. My favourite thing is still to get together with a bunch of my friends on the weekend and share a meal.
What are your plans now that ‘Gather’ has been released?
Well today I’m off to Canberra to start my book tour. After that, I’ve still got plenty more books in me. There are always so many recipes to write. I’m doing a little bit of travel this year and I’m still a columnist for Women’s Weekly and on the Today Show – I love those jobs, they’re really special, so I’ve got plenty going on.

Would you ever consider opening your own restaurant?
Opening a restaurant is something I would love to do in the future. At the moment I’ve got three teenage boys who are growing up very quickly. So I’m very much focused on them and getting them through high school right now. But it’s definitely something I would look into at some point in the future.