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"People didn't realise it was me." Everything we know about MasterChef's Reece Hignell.

Reece Hignell.

You know the guy.

MasterChef fan favourite, surprise vegan, Katy Perry fan, in a sitcom-worthy bromance with fellow contestant Brendan Pang, serves the best… facial expressions.

Yep, that one.

In case you’re looking to learn more about the man behind the trendy glasses, here’s everything we know.

Watch: Besties Reece and Brendan need their own show. ASAP. Post continues after video. 

Video by Channel 10

Reece was born in Newcastle, New South Wales, and is the middle of three boys.

He studied hospitality management after finishing school and worked in a number of hotels, before switching over to recruitment consulting.

But, as the well-worn MasterChef storyline goes, Reece’s real passion was cooking.

Rather than going out on weekends, the Novocastrian told The Newcastle Herald he could usually be found “at home where I’m on the computer googling and learning new techniques and skills”.


“I think about cooking all day every day,” he added. “In my spare time, I spend a lot of time practising recipes and my plating skills.”

The words “massive food nerd” were used.

Image: Channel 10

All the study paid off.

Reece was cast in the 2018 season of the juggernaut competition at the age of 28, courtesy of frozen mandarin nougat with mandarin granita, biscuit crumb, thyme and a Pollock-like splash of beetroot caramel.


He finished in sixth place, and scored himself two best mates along the way in fellow contestants Brendan Pang and Jess Liemantara. The trio even had a group name — The Audreys — which Reece explained came from matching toy monkeys named Audrey that Jess bought them.

"The experiences and opportunities MasterChef has provided all of us has been mind-blowing," Reece wrote on Instagram in 2018.

"However, the friendships I have made during this competition [are] not comparable to anything else."


It was fortunate Reece had his new mates to lean on, as his first stint on the series was an emotionally challenging one.

"I felt anxious and overwhelmed," Reece told Now To Love. "And I found it hard to adapt.

"The judges could tell I was stressed. They sat me down and just said, 'Relax, don't overthink everything – you're thinking too much'."

Added to that was the pressure his time on the show put on his then-four-year relationship with partner, Dene Whitfield.

"Leaving your partner for six months is hard – it was tough. Dene was at home looking after bills by himself, and I'm out here not contributing," he said. "So, I felt very guilty."

Reece added that the hectic nature of his time on the show made it hard for the couple to work through any issues that cropped up.

"You can't just sit and talk on the phone, because other people need to use it," he explained.

"You don't have unlimited time to talk, but even when you do talk it's hard to get everything across.

"I felt guilty I wasn't contributing to the relationship as much as I could."


Still, their relationship endured, and both were up for Reece to head back to the MasterChef kitchen for this year's Back to Win season: "Dene was super excited for me to return — maybe even more excited than I was," he told Woman's Day.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Reece Hignell - Cakeboi (@reecehignell) on

In between the two seasons, Reece has been sharing his knowledge via classes at inaugural MasterChef winner Julie Goodwin's Central Coast cooking school, and he worked closely with chefs Frank Fawkner and Lesley Taylor to create his home business 'Cakeboi', which launched in late 2019.


He also focused on his health and fitness.

"It's funny, I've had to reintroduce who I am because obviously I don't look like I did in season 10," he told The Newcastle Herald.

"Even when I announced on social media I was returning to the show people didn't realise it was me. We've done a few challenges out in public for this series and everyone around me is saying, 'Look, that's this person and that person', and I'm just standing there like, 'Hello, I'm Reece'.

"It's kind of cool when they finally work out who I am."


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Reece Hignell - Cakeboi (@reecehignell) on


He's entered this season more confident, more ready.

"[Season 10] Reece was insecure, he was someone who was not comfortable. Today, I am a very different person. I am incredibly comfortable, not just in my appearance, but my personality, too," he told Woman's Day.

Reece is now among the final few contestants left in the competition. And he's loving the new format, with new judges Melissa Leong, Jock Zonfrillo and Andy Allen.

"Standing next to the judges and listening to them talk, the way they are critiquing the food and interacting with the contestants is so different," he told The Newcastle Herald.

"And this season we didn't have to introduce ourselves and get to know everybody. There are no surprises. Someone's like, 'Oh, I've done this and that since MasterChef', and we're like, 'Yeah, we know. We've seen your show, Poh' [laughs]."

Reece's season highlights include his reaction to pop superstar Katy Perry appearing as a guest judge, which was so iconic it inspired me to make this visual tribute.

Images: Channel 10. Collage: I did it all by myself.

Oh, and he also made some delicious food.

I mean, anyone who can make a vegan carrot cake look (and apparently taste) this good deserves the win.

Feature Image: Channel 10.

This post was originally published on May 22, 2020, and updated on July 8th, 2020.