THERE was beef cheek, a nonna's tears and many cricket-related puns.
Novocastrians Luke Stewart and Matt Gawthrop seized the My Kitchen Rules trophy on Sunday night, a moment shared with the almost one-million Australians who tuned into the cooking contest on Channel Seven.
"Our experience has been nothing short of a miracle, from where we've come from to where we are now," said a flabbergasted Luke to the camera.
The father-of-one admitted he and his teammate decided to enter the reality television competition while having a "bit of a laugh around the barbie".
"We were never expecting to get in," he said.
The upshot of the win, worth $250,000, is still up in the air.
The longtime friends have organised two pop-up restaurant events in Maitland and are planning further dinners in Newcastle. But the primary school teacher, Luke, and youth worker, Matt, have made no firm commitments to a change of career.
"We'll dip our toes in the water and see how we go," Matt told the Newcastle Herald on Monday.
"The difference between cooking food for a television show and for paying customers - it's a completely kettle of fish. Chefs work so hard and it's a hard industry. We don't want to take that for granted.
"We're very open to seeing what comes our way."
The journey has been huge for the first-grade cricketers and perennial nice guys who met as teenagers at the Hunter Academy of Sport, and bonded while playing for the University of Newcastle.
Matt, who lives in Lake Macquarie, said that prior to the series he considered himself a "basic" cook and spent the four-and-a-half months "purely focused" on improving his skills.
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He also had to deal with gossip magazines speculating about his romantic life.
"I just tried not to get involved, and there wasn't any negative stuff about myself," he said.
Luke, who lives in Maitland, said food had always been a passion, thanks to his Italian heritage.
"When I was a kid I would help my nonna rolling the pasta and making gnocchi. My grandfather made his own wine. We have family recipes, and I was really proud to be able to cook those on the show.
"My nonna was pretty chuffed. She was crying tears last night."
He said one of his favourite moments was serving up pappardelle and lamb ragu to the "godfather" of Italian cuisine in Australia, chef Guy Grossi. The recipe hails from Abruzzo, the region from which his family originates.
"He really understood it," Luke said. "It was really great to have someone who got where we were coming from."