Masterchef’s Sara Oteri: ‘Working with Sean Cummins prepared me for Marco Pierre White’


Oteri during last night’s pressure test

Last night’s eliminated Masterchef contestant Sara Oteri has said her ad industry background was “incredibly valuable” during her time in the kitchen, while working with adman Sean Cummins was all the preparation she needed to face chef Marco Pierre White.

The former Ogilvy and Cummins & Partners copywriter floundered in her first pressure test on the Channel Ten show last night after being one of the favourites among the judges, including the notoriously tough White. The episode pulled in 1.070m metro viewers.

Oteri told Mumbrella the Masterchef experience was more stressful than working in advertising, even beating the stress of pitching.

“Hands down Masterchef is more stressful. They both have a lack of sleep, creative struggles, self-doubt and intense pressure in common. A pitch is over in two weeks, whereas Masterchef lasts for months!” she said.

Sara Masterchef 3

The 26-year-old creative, who grew up in Western Australia, came to advertising via Award School before taking her first full-time gig as one of Cummins & Partners first employees at the end of 2011.

She worked at the Melbourne office for two years before moving to Ogilvy in October 2013, experiences which Oteri said was “incredibly valuable”.

“Going into this competition with a creative advertising background was so incredibly valuable. I applied skills and personal lessons from this industry everyday on the show,” she said.

“Without my experience on high-pressure pitches, impossible deadlines, tricky briefs and long days shooting commercials, Masterchef would have been even more difficult.

“Mystery boxes were my idea of the perfect creative brief. Single minded and tight. It forced me to look at ingredients laterally and problem solve creative solutions.

Sean Cummins

Sean Cummins

Marco Pierre White

Marco Pierre White

“Team challenges were like pitches; figure your plans out early and don’t change the idea (menu) just before service starts. And let’s just say working alongside someone as complex and creative as Sean Cummins prepared me for Marco Pierre White!”

Oteri’s former boss, Cummins & Partners CEO Chris Jeffares told Mumbrella Oteri had “wanted the big jobs, briefs, pitches and clients from day one” with the agency.
“I think you see this similar fire and hunger now on Masterchef,” he said.
“Sar’s a born leader. She thrives on pressure, so when she encounters similar challenges on Masterchef, she excels. With Cummins & Partners she embraced the opportunity to develop universal life and business skills and these stand her in good stead anywhere – team building, humour under fire, clarity of vision, focus, attention to detail, time management, etc.

“A Masterchef Invention Test is exactly the same as a pitch … rapidly understand the problem, rapidly develop a solution and rapidly showcase that solution. And execute it brilliantly.

“She helped our clients sell everything from Jeeps to yoghurt, and always with a smile and quick wit. She’s incredibly intelligent and I think you see that every week. And when you are dealing with brilliant global creative talent, like Heston et al, there is nowhere to hide.”

While Oteri is now working in the kitchen at The Kettle Black in Melbourne, she did not rule out a return to the ad world.
“There’s something about the allure of the ad world that’s a little hard to resist. I still plan to freelance here and there, but would love to pursue my love for food and advertising together. I’m really keen to explore the media side of the food industry and do creative work for myself and culinary brands in the future,” she said.

Sara MasterchefAsked if she had any regrets about her time in the Masterchef kitchen Oteri said: “Not one. Every mistake ended up being a valuable lesson and I was myself from day one.

“I have so much to be grateful for, it was a once in a lifetime experience and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

And on which judge was her favourite, the writer played it safe.

“You’re going to hate this answer. All three judges they are so vastly different, but it’s a great combination to get a range of feedback and advice,” Oteri said.

“Off camera George is as cheeky as me and he’s often left me in fits of laughter, Gary is like the world’s best dad with a world of knowledge, and Matt Preston is utterly hilarious, incredibly intelligent and dresses like a boss, so he’s pretty much the perfect catch.”

Miranda Ward


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