Cook Off 2015

Participated Chefs 2015


Philip Vakos
Hellenic Museum

Philip Vakos shot to fame a few years back through his time on MasterChef, and has since developed quite a name for himself as a chef and restaurateur, not only in Melbourne, but nationally. Having grown up in Tasmania, spending hours in the kitchen with two Cretan grandmothers, Philip was taught that balancing spice in Greek food was a fine art, ‘Keep it simple, but keep them guessing’ they said.


Samira El Khafir
Islamic Museum

Samira El Khafir is a cook, mother of three, author of EAT WITH LOVE, owner of Modern Middle Eastern Catering, and the finalist of the 2013 series of MasterChef Australia. Her first cookbook EAT WITH LOVE was published in August 2013. Samira is currently ambassador for PANDA post and antenatal depression association, and ambassador for A Taste of Harmony.

Samira’s passion for Middle Eastern food comes from the heart and the home. Her parents introduced Samira to the world of Middle Eastern food with the big banquets her parents used to have for family and friends.


Alice Zaslavsky
Jewish Museum

Alice ‘in Frames’ Zaslavsky makes food fun. A former Middle School teacher and head of department at one of Melbourne’s top schools, she traded chalk and talk for talk and stir in 2012, following a stint on MasterChef 2012. She is currently the host of her own foodie kids’ game show Kitchen Whiz on Channel GO!, ‘Adventurer-in-Residence’ and face of iconic Prahran Market and author of ‘Alice’s Food A-Z’ (April, 2015). She spends much of her free time in her own Smeg kitchen, whipping up treats for family, friends and her Rhodesian Ridgeback fur-child Leopold Tolstoy.

Guy Hamawi

Harrison Lockett
Museo Italiano

Harrison Lockett, born in Melbourne, started working at an early age at Carlton’s iconic Italian restaurant University Cafè. A true blue Aussie, he has developed a passionate knowledge of Italian cuisine and culture.

Cook Off 2015 Judges


Helen Kapalos

Chairperson, Victorian Multicultural Commission
Current Term – 17 August 2015 – 17 August 2019

Ms. Helen Kapalos is an accomplished journalist, presenter, executive producer  and filmmaker who has worked for all three commercial television networks and the two public broadcasters in Australia. A proud Greek Australian, Ms. Kapalos is passionate about supporting Victoria’s culturally and linguistically diverse communities and has worked in a number of philanthropic roles prior to joining the VMC, including Director at the Heart Foundation, Director of Federation Square, Ambassador for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation, and Ambassador with Community Languages Australia.


Jon Faine

Mornings with Jon Faine
774 ABC Melbourne

After seven years as a lawyer, Jon entered radio broadcasting in 1989 to produce and present Radio National’s Law Report. He then presented 3LO’s Morning and Afternoon programs, worked on ABC TV’s Investigators, First Edition and Wise UP and has been presenting the Morning program on 774 ABC Melbourne since 1997.

Known for his provocative and probing debate, quick wit and willingness to ask the stickiest of questions, Jon Faine delivers thought-provoking radio. Each weekday morning from 8.30am, be it politics, finance, health, law, arts or sport, Jon investigates the issues and stories affecting Melbourne with energy and vigour – all without taking life too seriously.


Tania Cammarano

Tania Cammarano is a food writer and editor with a Masters degree in Gastronomy (Food Studies). She is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Adelaide. Her research is focused on the history of Italian food in Australia. As the daughter of Italian migrants, she is interested not just in the effect Italian migrants have had on Australia’s diet, but on the many other ingredients that contribute to change in a country’s food ways, including economic, social and cultural factors.

Prior to embarking on an academic career, she wrote about food for News Limited and Australian Associated Press, amongst others. She was also the founding editor of food and recipe website, She has taught food writing as part of the Graduate Program in Food Studies at the University of Adelaide, and is currently teaching in the Higher Education program at William Angliss Institute.


Waleed Aly

Waleed Aly is a broadcaster, author, academic, musician and one of Australia’s most respected and versatile media talents. He is co-host of network TEN’s The Project, live to air weeknights.

He has tackled comedy as both a writer and presenter for SBS’s Salam Cafe along with hard-hitting news as a host of ABC radio’s Mornings program in Melbourne. He has done sporting analysis on ABC News 24’s The Drum, and political analysis on Q&A and BBC World. Through this as well as regular appearances on Meet The Press, The 7.30 Report, Enough Rope with Andrew Dentonand Offsiders, Waleed has become widely recognised and trusted by audiences across Australia.

Waleed’s writing regularly appears in The Guardian, The Monthly, The Australian, The Sunday Times of India, The Australian Financial Review, The Sydney Morning Heraldand The Age. He is the author of What’s Right? The Future of Conservatism in Australia (Quarterly Essay 37). His debut book, People Like Us: How arrogance is dividing Islam and the West (Picador, 2007), was shortlisted for several awards including the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards and for Best Newcomer at the 2008 Australian Book Industry Awards.

Waleed is the guitarist and main songwriter for Melbourne originals band Robot Child. He played the lead guitar in the world’s first ever theatrical production of Pink Floyd’s classic album, The Wall with Nuworks Theatre in Melbourne.

Waleed was Radio National’s Drive show host from 2012 for three years, co-hosting The Project on Friday nights during this period. Currently he presents The Minefield on Radio National with ethicist Scott Stephens every Thursday morning.

He made his Melbourne International Comedy Festival debut in 2013 alongside Charlie Pickering in ‘The World’s Problems Solved with Charlie Pickering and Waleed Aly’.

Waleed is a lecturer in politics at Monash University, working in their Global Terrorism Research Centre.

Waleed is married with two young children.

Cook Off 2015 Participants

Hellenic Museum

The Hellenic Museum is dedicated to the celebration, understanding and preservation of the artistic and cultural heritage of ancient and modern Greece. It is a cultural hub that supports arts, film, music, architecture and visual performance with a Hellenic flavour. Housed in the historic Former Royal Mint building, the Museum is home to the long-term collection Gods, Myths & Mortals: Greek Treasures across the Millennia from the iconic Benaki Museum, Athens. The collection provides a snapshot of Greek history, from Classical, to Byzantine, Post-Byzantine, and Neo-Hellenic, winding through 8,000 years of Greek civilisation around the ground floor of the Mint, including the original gold vault. The Museum’s cultural programming is accentuated through dynamic and diverse events held throughout the year, from the popular Summer Cinema program to theatre, live music and lectures. School tours of the collections are enhanced by a high quality bilingual education program. Sean Godsell’s award-winning MPavilion is also housed in the Museum’s leafy courtyard creating a lovely juxtaposition between contemporary design and the heritage-listed building.

Islamic Museum of Australia

The Islamic Museum of Australia is a not-for-profit foundation founded in May 2010 with the purpose of establishing the first Islamic Museum in Australia. It aims to showcase the rich artistic heritage and historical contributions of Muslims in Australia and abroad through the display of various artworks and historical artefacts.

Jewish Museum

The Jewish Museum of Australia is an inclusive, interactive Museum which explores and celebrates being Jewish in an Australian context. With four permanent galleries and two changing exhibition spaces, the Museum brings to life the diversity of Jewish culture and Australian Jewish life. It portrays the diverse experience of a vibrant community that is an integral part of Australia’s rich multicultural society. The Jewish Museum of Australia warmly invites you to engage with culture, learn about history and connect with stories.

Museo Italiano

The Museo Italiano at Co.As.It. was opened in 2010 in the heart of Carlton, Melbourne’s Little Italy, with funding from the State Government’s Cultural Precincts Enhancement Project. A modern multimedia exhibit, the Museo tells the story of the Italian migration to, and presence in Australia, with a focus on Carlton. The Museo is an integral part of the Co.As.It. Italian Language, Culture and Heritage Department, where it works in close collaboration with the Italian Historical Society, which was founded by Sir James Gobbo in 1981 with the mission of collecting, preserving and sharing the Italian Australian story. As well as a busy educational program, the Museo runs an active calendar of exhibitions and cultural events – lectures, workshops, film screenings and live music nights. The Museo Italiano is a vibrant cultural hub where people from all walks of life from the Italian and wider Australian community get together to share, enjoy, and create Italian Australian culture. The Museo Italiano is committed to being relevant to the present life of the community and to fostering intercultural dialogue.