Tim Bone - MasterChef Semi Finalist

Hey Tim, tell us a bit about yourself? 

I’m a Ballarat boy and I run my own business called Tim’s Toasties. I make gourmet toasted sandwiches and sell them at local farmers markets and events. In 2019 I was a semi-finalist on MasterChef Australia, and I’d always dreamt about starting my business prior to going on the show, but never really had the confidence in myself to start it. I wanted to start slowly and organically, so it wasn’t till after the show that I believed it was my chance to throw in my career as a teacher and start Tim’s Toasties. I gained a lot of inspiration from Poh who a previous MasterChef constant was and now host, as she just started setting up small market stalls across Adelaide. I based my model off that and started doing the same in Ballarat which performed really well. But COVID hit I kept doing everything I could to keep myself afloat. This meant doing toastie deliveries, selling to wholesale customers and starting my own condiment business in my kitchen at home where I jar up my pasta sauces, jams and relishes. Once COVID died down, the farmers markets and events came back, that sense of anticipation and drive came back to me. I love that the business is not readily available every day and if we were to open a store I think it would tarnish my brand as well as add other stresses like staffing and overheads.

I am a big family guy, I have a toddler son Toby who is 3 years old, my wife Abbey and another boy on the way. If I had my own restaurant I’d be all in, but I am a bit anxiety and stress ridden which often makes me think that my mental health and family life would suffer. At least I can step back when I can and have that flexibility where I can go kick the soccer ball with Toby, since it’s just me flipping the toasties everyday.

When did you know cooking was going to be your career? 

I’ve always loved cooking, but it wasn’t till after I moved out of home and was off to university that I had to fend for myself. I was studying teaching and after I graduated, I got a job as a kitchen garden teacher at a primary school here in Ballarat. It was great as I got to work with young kids and get to cook alongside them. The school was low socio-economic, so they didn’t have the knowledge about healthy food choices. They had a vegetable garden as well where we could grow our own veggies and cook with them, which showed to them where food came from rather than a McDonald’s box. When I cook a meal for friends and family, it’s a way of expressing my love to them. There’s that buzz you get when you cook a ripper meal and people say ‘that’s bloody tasty!’.

I’ve always had that dream to start Tim’s Toasties and when I went to New York with my now wife, there was a little hole in the wall café where all they did was grilled cheeses. It got me thinking as to why cheese, bread, and butter taste so damn good. I thought I could take this idea back to Ballarat, but it wasn’t until MasterChef where I thought it was my chance. I gave in my resignation to the school and have been all in with toasties ever since. I now get to flip toasties for a living and be creative in what you can put in between two pieces of bread. I just love what I do every day!

In 2019 you were a semi-finalist on MasterChef Australia, what was that experience like?

I was actually dobbed into it a little bit by a lady I used to work with. The producers were at her coffee van in Geelong, and she mentioned my name. They then rang me asking me to apply and went from there. I never thought I was good enough to go onto MasterChef, I mean it’s the most watched cooking show in the world. It was a very stressful and a high-pressure environment where they lock your phones away and stay in a house with 24 other people on the show. They want you to be focused, where you’re in that bubble and only thinking about food. But being in the MasterChef kitchen was an amazing experience, meeting the original judges Matt, Gary and George who were my idols and famous chefs like like Curtis Stone, Heston Blumenthal, Maggie Beer, Nigella Lawson and Rick Stein. I owe everything to that show, not only for my cooking abilities but also the confidence it gave me within myself as I’ve always been a quiet and reserved person. I ended up finishing 4th making it to the semi-finals which exceeded all my expectations.

Give us some tips on how to make the best toastie?

It starts with a good quality sourdough bread, a lot of butter on the outside which will give you that golden crunch. It’s important to add lots of cheese too, but a good quality cheese like a goats cheese, Manchego or even a combination of cheeses. One of my best sellers is called ‘Cheesy like a Sunday morning’ which is my classic four cheese blend. My toasties are not a health food for sure, so I have to limit how many I have! My last tip would be to finish all your toasties off with a sprinkle of salt on top, which will help lift and bring out all the flavours.

In terms of cooking them, at home I use a cast-iron pan to get that golden crunch but at the markets I use industrial sized sandwich presses which can fit 7 or 8 toasties at a time where I usually have 3-4 going on at once.

What do you do in your spare time when you aren't cooking?

As the business is so hectic, any spare time I have I try to spend with family as it’s so important to me. I love spending time with my son Toby. He's very active and loves mini golf or going to the skatepark. I am a big movie buff, I love going to the cinemas and just sitting there in a dark theatre with my popcorn and big drink. I love Tarantino and Scorsese with one of my favourite movies being Pulp Fiction. I also love to stay active and try get to the gym most days, it really helps my mental health and clears my mind.

What would be your ideal clothing style and go-to outfit? 

I have a pretty classic style, half the time I wear a Tim’s Toastie t-shirt as they’re promotional and comfy. In summer I usually wear my thongs or sandals  with a pair of shorts and a t-shirt.

One pair of Wild Rhino's you're loving at the moment?

I’ve been a Wild Rhino lover for over 7 years, I actually wore Drake’s at my wedding and my groomsmen. They lasted forever and the great thing is that you could dress them up or down so easily from jeans to chinos. I wear them pretty much every other day, so I’m a big advocate for them. I was looking for a shoe to wear during the summertime that I could wear that’s a bit more dressier than thongs or sandals. I’m excited to wear Texas and Brad heading into the warmer months with shorts or jeans and be out the door.


Early-bird or Night Owl? Early-bird – early-bird gets the toastie!

Knock off drink of choice? A cold glass of pale ale or local brewed beer.

Favourite toastie? I love the one called ‘The Rashomon’ it’s a Japanese style toastie inspired by a movie created by Akira Kurosawa. It’s got a katsu chicken schnitzel, Japanese katsu sauce and a creamy kewpie slaw. I love playing on different cuisines.

Best Ballarat restaurant? The Forge, which does amazing woodfired pizzas. Our favourite pizza there is the pancetta pizza which has pancetta, thinly sliced potato on a garlic olive oil base.

Guilty pleasure? Beer and indulging in movies.

Introvert or Extrovert? Mixture of both, I am quite a reserved and shy person but love to stand on stage do cooking demonstrations.

Keep up with Tim and Tim's Toasties here