Even though fans were disappointed, MasterChef’s Declan Cleary was “content” with where he placed

declan masterchef 2023

Declan Cleary: “It was such a surreal moment”

Declan Cleary may have been the youngest contestant during the MasterChef Australia 2023 season; however, the 24-year-old quickly became a fan favourite with his infectious personality and fish-cooking prowess.

During the July 13 episode of the hit series, Cleary failed to win any of the three courses over his competitors Rhiannon and Brent, seeing him eliminated from the competition just short of the finish line.

“I was so content,” Cleary told Mediaweek during an interview after his elimination. “I think once I got to the top five, the 250k was all I really had my eyes on. I could use that money to invest in myself and my future family and all of that, so whether it was fifth, fourth, third or second, I had already said to myself, ‘I’m so happy with how far I’ve come. It would just be an awesome cherry on the cake.'” 

Declan MasterChef

Declan Cleary. Ten

According to the home cook, competing in the Semi-Final was “such a surreal moment”.

“That whole challenge was just ridiculous,” he admitted. I can’t believe to this day that I still ended up doing that.  Nearly 70 dishes, all the elements that got thrown into it and only four hours to prepare, cook and balance.”

Even though he finished third, the young cook showed the most growth during the competition, with not only the judges commending him on it but the whole country.

“I think I learned a lot,” he said. “I grew as a person, as a man, I became a lot more resilient and my cooking skills grew. I think I really just submitted to the process and just grabbed the bull by the horns.”

Declan’s sweet bond with Robbie Cooper

By far one of the most poignant moments of the Semi-Final came when former contestant Robbie Cooper — who happens to be the oldest contestant this season — was lost for words talking about his “amazing” friend.

“We’ve built a special friendship and I’m really proud of what he did today,” Cooper said through tears.

For Cleary, seeing Cooper — whom he had met on the last day of auditions — become emotional was “special”.

“I was holding back the tears for sure,” he said. “I think I let out a few tears. When we got back to the hotel room and we could celebrate that moment together, it was a special moment.

“As we saw, Robbie was lost for words last night, and I was pretty lost for words myself, so the emotions continued throughout the night. Robbie’s just a bloody legend and I feel like it was so nice to have someone like him [in the competition]. His time was too short on the show but we really made the most of our friendship.”

declan robbie masterchef australia

Cleary and Robbie Cooper. Ten

Of course, the judges played a huge part in his journey, and Cleary praised them for their continued mentorship throughout the competition.

“The support throughout the whole series was awesome,” he said. “When you’ve got 18 contestants, it’s a bit hard to stand out, but it was so lovely. Getting down to the top three, you did build a bit more of a personable relationship with the judges so you could just talk to them in ways you probably wouldn’t have that opportunity when there were 18 of you.”

While Andy Allen and Melissa Leong were excellent mentors, Cleary had some special words to say about the late Jock Zonfrillo.

“They [the judges] definitely left their mark on me, especially Jock,” he said. “I think we both kicked it off [got along] because we’re just both a little bit cheeky and we both just had fun with it.”

What Declan thinks about being the fan-favourite

Cleary was a firm fan favourite from the minute he stepped into the kitchen. From his gorgeous mispronunciation of words to his positive attitude and his ability to wow the judges, it certainly was bitter-sweet to see him place third.

As for the attention he has received from fans, Cleary said it was “humbling”.

“I’ve got pretty thick skin so I was pretty prepared for anything that would have come my way and from seeing it unfold. It’s just been nothing but the most amazing humbling messages. 

“I’m really trying to be attentive in responding to everyone, because this time 12 months ago, even to this day, if someone on socials or someone who I aspire to, I’ll send them a message and say ‘I love what you do, I think you’re inspiring. You’re doing a great job. Keep doing you. You do you, boo’ and so I’m taking time out of my day to respond to everyone because it means the world to me to have their support.”

Declan MasterChef Australia


Cleary may have left the MasterChef Australia 2023 kitchen but his journey is just beginning. Next up, he is hoping to grab any opportunity that is presented to him with full force, be it a TV series, a book or linking up with people like Cooper and working together again.

“I will approach the future with an open mind and determination to make the most of opportunities,” he said.

Congratulations on making it so far, Declan!

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