Mother of two Hoda still recalls the first time she made a dish and people enjoyed it, kickstarting a love and passion for food, which has led her to the MasterChef Australia kitchen.
Growing up in a food orientated family, Hoda says family celebrations were just “constant layers of food”. As a teenager she began cooking for her family while her parents worked long hours. It was a simple stir fry the family loved that connected Hoda to her passion for creating beautiful dishes.
The second of four children, Hoda grew up in south-western Sydney. Excelling in cooking classes, piano and singing, she graduated with a Social Science degree specialising in Counselling in 2006. She worked at a not-for-profit organisation, helping find employment for people with mental health issues, before taking a break for a year and helping her parents with their picture framing business. She then returned to mental health support services, focussing on early intervention for children with poor mental health.
It was a role and occupation she relished, completing her Masters of Social Work in 2016. In the midst of it she married her husband Kamahl in 2005 and welcomed son Hassan in 2011 and daughter Mariam in 2014.
Citing Nigella Lawson, Luke Nguyen and Gordon Ramsay as favourites to watch in the kitchen, Hoda says she developed her own skills from her mother. Hoda was always helping and asking questions as her mother prepared meals for extended family gatherings.
Hoda’s food style is all about homely baked goods and she dreams of one day owning a food truck, operating a creative pop-up cooking school for parents and children in disadvantaged areas.
Outside of the kitchen Hoda loves fishing in the harbour with her husband and taking time out on deep-sea charters.
Growing up in the Italian province of Bacoli, Aldo says sharing food was the key to his childhood. Each day his nonna would ask him what he wanted for lunch and dinner and he recalls always asking for pasta with cannellini beans and fresh mussels. He did not grow up with fancy food, it was all about fresh ingredients and comfort dining. It is that skill set mentored by his beloved nonna, which puts him in line for the MasterChef Australia 2018 season 10 title.
Aldo was raised with an older and younger sister and admits he had a wonderful childhood, spoiled by his extended family. He was a competitive swimmer, representing his village at swimming meets across Italy.
After leaving school in 2009, Aldo moved to Rome to study statistics and four years later, he headed down under to Sydney, seeking new adventures.
He started working for an event and catering business as a food attendant on the floor, before taking on a restaurant manager role with a local Italian restaurant, Giro Osteria.
In early 2014, Aldo met Mark and the pair became engaged two years ago. He says he is looking forward to planning their wedding and hopes his fellow MasterChef Australia contestants will help cater the big event.
When the MasterChef Australia journey comes to an end, Aldo hopes to open his own café and restaurant, focusing on classic southern Italian food with a relaxed feel during the day, which transforms into a fine dining experience at night. He says he wants the feel to reflect that of his childhood – a place where from the time you step inside, you just feel like you have arrived home.