He's one of the youngest contestants on MasterChef Australia Season 7 but Reynold Poernomo thinks the time he spent honing his cooking still at home is enough to give him an edge over his older competitors.
"It's true they have a longer experience with food, be it by cooking or eating, but I think we are on an equal playing field," said the 20-year-old Indonesian who has called Sydney home since aged six.
Another trump card the nutrition student from the University of Western Sydney also has is that he comes from a family of chefs.
His mother owns Art Plate, a patisserie in Sydney where his elder brothers help out.
His second brother is also a judge on MasterChef Indonesia, and he was the one who advised the youngest Poernomo about the pressures of the competition and to be prepared for "very long days".
Ironically, his family's connection with food has seen fans of the long-running reality series cry foul about Poernomo's eligibility in the competition, which is meant for amateur home cooks.
Criticisms about him gaining experience by helping out at Art Plate were hurled upon the aspiring chef, calling for his disqualification from the show.
Poernomo played down the negatiivity, telling M over the phone from Sydney that the show's producers knew from the start that he only has a casual role as a delivery driver and kitchen hand at Art Plate.
"I don't really care what people are saying; people who know me know the true story and that's good enough.
"Right from the start, my mum forbid me to pursue a career in food or anything to do with the food industry," he said.
"She has worked so hard in hotels and restaurants for many years before having her own business, yet now, she still spends so much time in the kitchen."
Poernomo's mum knew how her three sons grew up without seeing much of their parents, and didn't want her youngest son to go down the same path.
Still, Poernomo's desire to follow his mother and brothers' footsteps never waned.
A big fan of MasterChef Australia, Poernomo said he and his brothers had followed the series since Season 1.
"I wanted to go for an audition in Season 2 or 3, but because I was too young then, I didn't qualify.
"Also, my mum didn't allow me!" he said, laughing.
He was always fascinated by his mother's collection of cookbooks, and started reading them and practicing the recipes as a hobby.
It was his discovery of a "bible about chocolate" that set him on the path to being a "dessert king", a title he earned on the show for regularly executing complicated desserts.
One such dessert he plated was the Forbidden Fruit, which was an "apple" made of frozen chocolate mousse dipped in ganache and red cocoa butter and placed on a bed of chocolate soil, which he made for an invention test with a guilty pleasures theme.
His attention to detail, beautiful plating and natural talent have seen him emerge as a front runner in the competition.
However, Poernomo recognises his shortcomings with savoury dishes, which puts him at a major disadvantage.
"There's still so much for me to learn about cooking savoury dishes," he said, adding that he is still practising a lot to perfect his dessert recipes.
Poernomo's dream is to open his own dessert bar offering matched cocktails.
For now though, his more urgent task is "to get my degree first".
"My parents insist I need to finish my studies before I think of anything else."
MasterChef Australia S7 airs Mondays to Fridays at 8pm on Lifetime (Starhub Ch 514), with a repeat at 11pm.
This article was first published on June 29, 2015.
Get The New Paper for more stories.