‘I’m not just the ice cream guy’
BEN Ungermann is taking a step back from his ice cream empire to go back to where it all began.
The local father-of-three and regional food ambassador for the Scenic Rim will return to our screens in the coming months in the new Back to Win themed season of MasterChef Australia.
Mr Ungermann was runner-up in the ninth season of the reality cooking show, losing out to Diana Chan by just one point in MasterChef's closest ever grand final result.
He's back to prove he's more than just the ice cream guy.
"I've always felt like I had a little bit more to give, so I just jumped at the opportunity," he told the QT.
"By no one's fault, I felt like I got pigeonholed as the ice cream guy on my season.
"In my two years of travel (since the show) I've tested my hand with a lot of savoury food and worked at a few Michelin-starred restaurants. I just wanted to come back and prove that to myself.
"Very rarely in life do you get a second chance on something like MasterChef. It's the most-watched cooking show in the world, so it's a massive deal to be a part of this."
He should know. In the two and a half years since his season finished, Mr Ungermann has made guest appearances on MasterChef Holland and MasterChef Indonesia.
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ATTENTION INDONESIA 🇮🇩 catch me this afternoon on RCTI 3:30pm Jakarta 4:30pm Bali for a special appearance on Indonesia Masterchef @masterchefina along side Juna, Ranatta and Arnold. I'll be making my version of my most favourite Indonesian dish with my Oxone favourites... Can anyone guess what Indonesian dish I am recreating ??? ❤ B.U @junarorimpandeyofficial @renattamoeloek @arnoldpo @oxoneonline #masterchef #indonesia #indonesianmasterchef #indonesiancuisine #benungermann @cargocrew #cargocrew
The show's global popularity has helped him to expand his ice cream business - which has two locations in southeast Queensland - to the Netherlands and India. He's also eyeing off a restaurant in South Africa but had to put that on the backburner to film MasterChef: Back to Win.
"I still plan to open a chain (of ice cream stores) here in Australia, but it's the overseas market that just screams for it," he said.
"I didn't realise how big MasterChef was until I went to India for a food festival and there were seas of people. It was an absolute eye opener.
"I was in the beginnings of setting a restaurant up before I got the call (for MasterChef). It was a tough decision to make. I also had a few TV opportunities floating around as well, but for me there's so much more to gain on a show like this in terms of picking up more cooking skills.
"'I've always wanted to have a family business and they're doing such a great job (without me). It's nice to cook through the competition with no pressure from the business."
Mr Ungermann will be cooking against some of his own idols, including season one runner-up Poh Ling Yeow.
"I used to watch Poh on TV so it's crazy to be cooking alongside her. It's an opportunity to learn from these people and test your mettle," he said.
"The calibre of cooking this year is out-of-your-skin stuff."
He's also full of praise for the show's new judges - Jock Zonfrillo, Melissa Leong and Andy Allen - who take over from original hosts Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris.
"If you think back to seasons one and two, no one knew Matt, Gary and George. They had all that time to build their chemistry and become the superstars they are," he said. "Why can't that happen with Jock, Melissa and Andy? In my mind this is the beginnings of something that could be quite epic."
Filming for MasterChef: Back to Win is currently underway in Melbourne.