What is your proudest moment?
Professionally, my first job at the Connaught Hotel in London, opening Fenix (Melbourne) in 2000 and, of course, teaming up with Matt (Preston) and George (Calombaris) on MasterChef has been a roller-coaster beyond our wildest expectations.
What is your worst moment?
Probably the death of my grandfather who was a huge inspiration in my life - he was a chef, a happy man, an eternal optimist. He was a guide in my early career. I spent a lot of time in his kitchen (and) I wish I could have returned the favour.
If you could eat anywhere in the world, where would it be?
There is a little spot under the big oak tree in the garden at Mugaritz outside San Sebastian [in Spain].
What is the most memorable meal you've ever had?
Aside from Mugaritz I'd say The Fat Duck [in England]. Matt, George and I were perfect dining partners there: 17 courses, five hours, incredible, experiential, whimsical, delicious … no self control.
What do you like about the celebrity MasterChef has bought?
This ''fame'' is on loan and at some point we will gladly hand it back. What I love is the conversation that it inspires, especially among the children. They want to talk about food, tell us all about their adventures and show us pictures and occasionally bring us little gifts of macarons.
What don't you like about it?
As a slightly chubby mid-40s man, it's always a little confronting being asked for your photo when you're on the beach with your family. First, I am not Hugh Jackman and that photo ain't gonna look good. Second, sometimes I see the disappointment in my daughter's face when she thought it was just going to be ''us''.
Biggest lesson you learnt as a young chef?
I love the process as much as the ingredients. It provides the basis, with discipline, of that wonderful alchemy that is food.
Where would you go if you had a week off from tomorrow?
Yallingup, Western Australia. For the beaches, Margaret River and the wine.
What ingredient can't you live without?
A couple of years ago we went to the south west of France in August and I lived almost exclusively on the most amazing tomatoes, cheese and figs. It was heaven.
And what's your least favourite ingredient?
There is not much I wouldn't eat but smoked tinned mussels … hold on a minute while I gag.
Is there another career path you could have followed?
I was all set to follow a career in engineering, like my dad, and I also fancied being a fighter pilot but,let's face it, that was never going to happen.
If you could cook for anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
My grandfather, and what a banquet that would be.
What's your most treasured possession?
What do you value in others?
I have a love of progressive trance. It drives everyone I know insane.
What talent or attribute would you most like to have?
When I moved to Australia I promised myself I would learn to surf. This year, I bit the bullet and did, but now I want to surf a little every day. I owe it to one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
What was the saddest day of your life?
I have lived a happy life so far and I can't complain. When I pause to think for a moment, I know that the saddest days of my life are yet to come.
And the happiest?
The birth of our daughter, she is our shining light and makes everything we do worth it. She has a wonderful giggle and reminds us constantly what is important in life.
What's the single greatest act of kindness shown to you (apart from being born)?
That prize has to go to my parents. With all their love, they gave me the gift of freedom, a safe and wonderful place to grow up, they instilled in me the values by which I live and they gave me the chance to be what I wanted to be. They encouraged me and allowed my confidence and self-belief to flourish. Thank you mum and dad. I promise with all my heart to do the same.
Gary Mehigan is a Citibank Dining Program ambassador.