Last three standing: Emelia Jackson, Brent Owens and Laura Cassai of <i>MasterChef</i>.

Last three standing: Emelia Jackson, Brent Owens and Laura Cassai of MasterChef.

Looking back on his former life as an intellectual property lawyer, Adam Liaw thinks of all the free time he had.

This is what winning MasterChef does to a person. Where most would see punishingly long hours in law, he sees leisure.

As season six draws to a close, with Brent Owens, Emelia Jackson and Laura Cassai battling for a place in Monday's final, the previous winners are all flat strap. 

And five years after the show first brought "nice" reality TV to Australia, not a single winner has gone back to their job, abandoning IT, law, teaching, an electrician apprenticeship and town planning in turn. 

"Life's busy but life's good," said season four victor Andy Allen, summing up the feeling among the winners.

On top of the book deal and the $100,000 cash prize come the lucrative speaking tours, cooking demonstrations, publishing deals and TV shoots. 

2010 winner and food  columnist Adam Liaw still wants to open a restaurant one day but currently has no time, "bouncing from one project to the next". 

Inaugural winner and mum-next-door Julie Goodwin has written three cookbooks, stars in television commercials and has a monthly column in The Australian Women's Weekly.

And the MasterChef spoils fall beyond the victors as well. 

Shine Australia, the company that produces MasterChef, estimated nearly 70 per cent of finalists have gained a career in food following their time in the show. 

First-season runner-up Poh Ling Yeow has proved one of the most successful, landing a cookbook deal and presenting her own series for ABC television.

Even those finalists eliminated early on have gained major leverage from the MasterChef brand. 

Jay Huxley did not come close to winning season three but the former car salesman is now a restaurateur, setting up Hux Dining. 

Other contestants have struggled with the transition between the MasterChef house and the outside world.

In what she called an extreme comparison, 2013 competitor Jules Allen said the change was like returning from war. 

"You're on another planet, and all this strange s--- goes down, and you get back and no one understands what you've been through," she said. 

Allen felt alone, unable to describe her "humiliating" elimination before the episode screened and unable to communicate with those contestants still competing. 

"There was a lot of grief there, because I had left behind the people that had become my whole world," she said. 

Allen remained grateful to the show but suggested past contestants could talk to the new contenders about returning to "the real world". 

Contestants spend more than four months doing long hours of filming, with few opportunities to see their families. 

Tash Shan, a contestant on this year's season, said the house environment had begun to take a toll.

"It can be hard to find a little space to yourself or even find people you connect with on a genuine level," she said.

Reality TV blogger Emma Ashton said while MasterChef mostly deserved its "nice" reputation, the producers knew what conditions produced tears and tantrums. 

"MasterChef, like most reality TV shows, puts contestants under the stress of long hours, hard work and social isolation to elicit an emotional response," she said.

Ashton described a kind of "Stockholm syndrome" that developed over the course of filming.

"They are locked in this house and they want to please their captors. When they are cast out, they are not really deprogrammed."

Shine Australia said they supported contestants both during and after the run of the show.

“Shine Australia and Network Ten take their responsibilities and duty of care to contestants very seriously indeed and provide extensive support throughout production, but also where required after production and broadcast has finished for any particular contestant," it said in a statement.

"Many former contestants continue to work with us on program-related projects, including helping to secure future series contestants."