The Secret Life of Hayden Quinn

Hayden Quinn
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Words by Thomas Mitchell. Styling by Kelvin Harries. Photography by Jesse Lizotte

Over the course of two coffees, two croissants and two hours, seven people stop to greet Hayden Quinn. The first is an older Greek man, still wet from his morning swim. ‘That’s George, my mate Jimmy’s dad. We recently shot a YouTube series together,’ says Quinn, smiling.

He’s followed by two young women, a middle-aged couple and a family dressed entirely in exercise gear. As each visitor passes, Quinn explains who they are: ‘He’s a regular at my gym’, then ‘I met her on the set of a TV show’ and, finally, ‘She was a guest on my podcast recently’.

By the time we start talking, I’m convinced Quinn is your classic overachiever. ‘I never wanted to be just that guy from MasterChef,’ says the 32-year-old in mock retaliation. ‘It was something that happened [to me], but it couldn’t be the only thing that happened.’

I never wanted to just be that guy from MasterChef. It was something that happened [to me], but it couldn’t be the only thing

His latest venture is a podcast, The Roving Mic. ‘I wanted to talk to different people in their environments and move away from food,’ explains Quinn. ‘I’ve sat with comedians in New York and spoken to special-ops soldiers who worked on the Lindt café siege [in Sydney’s CBD]. I’ve had some incredible guests.’ 

Remarkably, it’s been almost eight years since he appeared on the third season of MasterChef. Young, good-looking and naturally talented in the kitchen, he became an instant fan favourite. He eventually finished sixth, but his elimination was very much the start of something new. ‘I remember coming out [of filming MasterChef] and everything was different; people knew my name, they were reacting well to me. It was bizarre,’ recalls Quinn, who was just 24 at the time.

It’s no secret that the aftermath of appearing on a reality TV show – especially one as mammoth as MasterChef – is pretty flash. Life quickly becomes a blur of invites, openings and photo ops. ‘Initially, that was fun. You get invited to things, you hang out with cool people. It was a good life, but it wasn’t my scene.’

I knew that to make this career work long term, I had to be versatile. I didn’t want to just survive, I wanted to thrive

That said, Quinn wasn’t entirely immune to the power of celebrity. ‘I once spent two hours with Jamiroquai at Bondi Icebergs on New Year’s Day – that’s a story I still dine out on – but building a career was the priority,’ he says. 

Hayden Quinn
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The turning point came in 2013 with the publication of his first cookbook, Dish It Up. ‘That was big for me. It had nothing to do with the show; it was my food, my ideas and it was me proving to myself that I could do it.’

That vote of confidence had a snowball effect and over the next few years, he hit it hard. There were television shows at home (Surfing the Menu) and abroad (Hayden Quinn South Africa). It appeared the Dee Why local was on track to be the next Curtis Stone but, for Quinn, something was missing. ‘There were different parts of my personality that needed attention and my business had to reflect that,’ he explains. ‘I also knew that to make this career work long term, I had to be versatile. I didn’t want to just survive, I wanted to thrive.’ 

A man of his word, Quinn went about expanding his empire based on his interests. First, there was fitness; he co-created The Cube Gym. ‘It started a few years ago in a backyard in Collaroy [on Sydney’s Northern Beaches] and has grown to 20 employees and a fully functional fitness centre in Brookvale,’ he says. Next was wine – partnering with Kooks winery to release a series of homegrown vintages. ‘That one was a bit of a dream come true,’ he laughs. Then, of course, the podcast.

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Hayden Quinn
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Draining the last of my coffee, I ask Quinn how the rest of his day looks and, unsurprisingly, his response reads much like his résumé. ‘I’ll finish off some podcasting, pop into the gym for a bit and then I’ve got a few more meetings for some TV projects.’ It sounds busy – too busy, he agrees. ‘My goal for the rest of the year is to actually do less,’ he says, laughing.

And who could blame him? As someone who has undeniably become more than just that guy from MasterChef, he has earned the right to do a little less.

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