Mayfield's Reece Hignell has made it into the top five of MasterChef Australia: Back to Win at the expense of odds-on favourite Poh Ling Yeow.
It is a personal milestone for Hignell, who had vowed to better his sixth place in season 10 of MasterChef Australia.
Highly regarded chef Phil Wood set a 75-minute round one pressure test on Sunday night based on a classic French dish: Potato Duchess with Shitakes and Cauliflower.
Hignell made a last-minute mistake in round one of the elimination and found himself up against Poh and Callum Hann in the second round. He shrugged off his error and made a crispy potato stack with potato cream, beetroot and raspberry granita and smoked salted chocolate ice-cream.
The judges were impressed, saying the ratios of his elements were "spot on" and the balance of flavours left them tasting potato.
"It sounded really simple but it was the most ridiculously short pressure test I have ever done, and with so little time, everything came down to the wire," Hignell said.
"In the first cook I did everything right but then in the last 10 seconds I ruined my sauce and that broke my heart, but the second round was so much fun. Normally I get scared on elimination day but I was really hungry and excited to do well. I was 100 per cent in the zone."
Hignell, a fan favourite in season 12 of the popular cooking show, believed Poh would win this year's MasterChef crown and was upset to see her go.
"She is like royalty in that kitchen," he said.
"But Melissa [Leong] and Andy [Allen] told us when we went into round eight that we weren't going to get eliminated on making a bad dish from now on, we were going to be eliminated for making a bad decision, and I think that's what Poh did.
"I was so upset leaving in season 10 and not being in the top five because I felt like I really deserved to be there, and now I've done it in a season where the cooks are incomparable to those I faced in season 10."
Hignell, who runs his own cake-making business, Cakeboi, is enjoying life in the public eye.
"I get stopped on the street, like, literally everywhere," he said, laughing.
"I was at Aldi last night buying sugar because I'd run out and this guy rode up next to me in the dark and I freaked out and then he said 'Reece, my wife loves you, can I get a photo?'. Newcastle is so, so nice to me. I love it so much."
As for the signature lemon tart he had waited all season to bake, and that didn't get the tick of approval from the judges, he admits he is a tad bitter.
"You know, I've had so many Middle-Eastern people reaching out wondering why Jock [Zonfrillo] didn't think the saffron ice-cream went with the tart," Hignell said.
"I think it comes down to personal preferences - you can't please everyone and if one judge doesn't like it, it snowballs. That lemon tart was literally perfect and no-one had baked it on the show before."