How Andy Allen reconnected with food during “strange” lockdown

"Food for me is everything."
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When MasterChef Australia judge Andy Allen and his fiancée Alex Davey decided to finally make the move to Melbourne from Sydney, they had no idea that it would happen the way that it did.

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When we caught up with Andy over the phone this week, he described the whole moving experience as “interesting”, where their original and straight-forward plans were slightly derailed by COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

“We knew that we were moving to Melbourne but our plan was to drive down to Melbourne where we had an apartment,” Andy explained to New Idea.

“So we drove down to Melbourne thinking that we could drive back to Sydney to pack up our apartment in Bondi and move all of our stuff to Melbourne. That turned out to be a little bit difficult when Sydney went into lockdown,” he said.

But, when New South Wales’ COVID-19 outbreak spread into Victoria, things started to turn a little bit “strange” for Andy and Alex.

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Andy and his fiancée Alex moved to Melbourne just a few weeks ago. (Credit: Instagram)

The couple found themselves stuck in Melbourne and separated from all of their stuff which was still in Sydney, but luckily, they had given over some house keys to a friend to water their plants while they were away, and she was able to help Andy and Alex with the move.

“She had to let a bunch of removalists in and like we left the place and there was washing on the line and because we just thought we were going to be able to come back and pack it all up,” he said.

“And so these removalists just had to go into our house and pack all our stuff and move it and put it on a train down to Melbourne so it was a weird experience.

“But we were able to do it and we’re settling at the moment which is nice,” the 33-year-old added.

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Andy has been “cooking the house down” during lockdown. (Credit: Instagram)

The lockdown restrictions also interrupted things at Three Blue Ducks, a restaurant which Andy co-owns, and they had to switch to online orders and takeaway. But, there have been some silver linings.

“I’ve been cooking the house down to be honest and one thing I’ve probably been a bit guilty of because when I’m not filming, the restaurants take right over,” he said.

Andy has also been exploring his relationship with certified organic products this month – September being Australian Organic Awareness Month – and has made some really “simple swaps” in his day-to-day routine.

“I think definitely getting to the markets – the markets and organics it’s so much cheaper – is a big thing for me which I’ve been regularly doing,” he said.

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Cooking with certified organic products makes it much more enjoyable for Andy. (Credit: Instagram)

Andy also loves using certified organic products because it not only makes the food taste better, but it also helps “look after our planet”, because there are no chemicals being used when farming, growing or producing the food.

“I feel good about cooking the meal and then eating the meal – it just makes it really holistic and enjoyable to do when you know that it’s coming from a good place,” the chef said.

Cleaver’s Organic is just one example of a company that has committed to producing all certified organic meat, meaning the animals were entirely grass fed and finished.

It also means they were raised without the use of synthetic chemicals, GMOs or added hormones and were never given antibiotics.

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Andy goes to the markets every week as part of his meal prep routine. (Credit: Instagram)

Heading to the markets on a Sunday is a weekly routine for Andy, as it helps him plan and prep his meals for the rest of the week – a valuable lesson he learned over the years in terms of cooking.

“It makes it much more enjoyable and I think there’s been times when I haven’t done the planning side of things where I’ve been a bit like ‘oh man I don’t really feel like cooking tonight’,” he said.

His weekly routine involves going out on a Sunday to the markets, getting some protein, vegetables and fruit, then planning out the whole week and doing “a big cook up” that same day.

“It makes your life so much easier and it also makes probably the food that you’re putting on the table so much better because there’s no stress, you’re chilled and you’ve done some in advance.”

Plus, as Andy explained, having food already prepared makes it easier to eat healthy, and it takes away the struggle of having to decide what to make each day.

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“For me, being a creator of that food is really special.” (Credit: Ten)

The MasterChef judge, who once was a contestant himself on the show and won in 2012, said being able to follow his true passion in life is “really special”.

“It has been a really special process for me to give up being an electrician back in Newcastle to taking a gamble at a reality TV show,” he reflected.

“And while I was on [MasterChef], you don’t realise the things that are happening to you in terms of what you’re being introduced to… that one day when you look back at that you’re like ‘that’s why I really excelled at that, it’s because I really enjoyed it’.”

Winning the cooking show back in season four was just the beginning of Andy’s career as a chef, and his love for food has never wavered.

“Food for me is everything… it’s probably the only thing that we do three times a day, at least three times a day, and that’s eat food. And for me, being a creator of that food is really special.”

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