GROWING up around the fresh produce of the Darling Downs inspired James Bell's love of cooking.
The 23-year-old is a contestant in the upcoming seventh season of MasterChef.
The Toowoomba Grammar graduate can be seen in the latest promos for the reality cooking show on Channel 10.
His unique twist on French onion soup looks likely to earn him a spot in the Top 24 with judge Gary Mehigan licking the bowl during Bell's audition.
"I'm really happy with what I presented," Bell told APN.
"What came out on the plate tells the story of what I had in my head. Gary licking the bowl was a pretty good sign, but you'll have to watch and see to see if the other guys (Matt Preston and George Calombaris) like it."
Bell, a QUT graduate who works as a financial analyst in Brisbane, describes his style of cooking as paddock to plate.
"My grandparents owned a farm near Dalby at Bowenville," he said.
"I used to go out and visit the farm, a cattle and grain property, and I got involved with food at that fundamental stage of my life because my family was growing it."
After learning "the basics" from his mum, Bell said he came into his own as a cook while living in a share house as a university student.
"I love good food, but when you're at university you don't have money to go out to eat all the time," he said.
"If you want to enjoy good food then you've got to cook it yourself. I just kept honing my skills, reading, watching shows liked MasterChef until I got confident enough to audition."
If he earns one of the show's signature white aprons, then Bell knows he'll have to develop his sweet tooth.
"My biggest weakness is desserts by far," he said.
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