Hayden Quinn first shot to fame on national television a decade ago as a contestant on Master Chef. Despite everything he’s achieved since and the places he’s travelled, Hayden still gets a kick out of discovering new products and ingredients, and meeting “good people” across Australia who are equally as passionate about food.
The former surf lifesaver is as positive and upbeat off camera as he is on it. He’s as earthy and refreshing as the food he serves. “We look abroad a lot of the time – that’s our nature as Aussies,” Hayden told Crush. “We’re explorers and we want to go and try new things, but at the end of the day we live in the best country in the world with some of the best food. In places like Bundaberg there’s a real stewardship for the land they grow their crops on and the animals they produce.”
Hayden was in Bundaberg earlier this year, filming an episode of Taste of Australia for Network 10. He made smoked mackerel and bacon fish cakes with a macadamia slaw, using products from The Seafood Smokery (page 29) and Macadamias Australia (page 60). “It’s perfect for a mid-week meal,” he said. “I remember growing up, fish cakes were a regular on the menu because they were quite easy. Not everyone is using Lincoln’s (Kirchner) beautiful smoked fish all the time, but it was a little bit of nostalgia for me. I really enjoyed preparing them in the macadamia orchard.”
The qualified marine biologist took the opportunity to visit Mon Repos Turtle Centre while he was here. “It was really special,” Hayden said. “The rangers are so knowledgeable and it’s incredible you can get so close.”
Hayden said he was blown away by the connections being built between growers, restaurants, cafes and the community. “I love it. I love the fact that unless you’ve been to Bundy, you sort of doubt it as a culinary tourism destination. Once you’ve been here, you see they’re pumping out delicious, tasty, good food that’s local – and that’s the key.”
The visit, facilitated by Bundaberg Tourism, was Hayden’s second jaunt in the Bundaberg Region. In 2019, he filmed an episode of his previous show, Surfing the Menu, where he visited the Bundaberg Rum Distillery, snorkelled with manta rays, surfed with some local kids and bought sweet potatoes from a roadside stall.
When he’s at home in Sydney, Hayden said he loves nothing more than cooking a big steak on the barbecue and sharing it with mates over a couple of beers and a glass of red wine.
Taste of Australia (Episode 8, Season 5) will air on Network 10 at 4.30pm on Sunday June 5 or watch it anytime on 10play.