When Perth lawyer Ben Bullock shook hands with shoe salesman Ben Ungermann on the set of MasterChef, he had little idea that just a few years later he would be fighting for his freedom.
Bullock – an associate at Perth legal firm Lynn & Brown Lawyers – had only received the call from his old mate late last week.
Ungermann was in trouble – big trouble.
Laywer Ben Bullock (right) and former shoe salesman Ben Ungermann (left) in Indonesia in 2017. The pair met on MasterChef that season have remained mates
Ben Bullock (far right) and Ben Ungermann (third from left) during season nine of MasterChef Australia
Ben Bullock (pictured) appeared in a Melbourne court on Wednesday to defend mate and former MasterChef contestant Ben Ungermann
On Wednesday, Bullock appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on behalf of Ungermann, who faces three counts of sexual assault against a child.
The pair had quickly become good mates upon meeting on season nine of the popular cooking show, which aired in Australia in 2017.
The show, which in the following years would suffer a dramatic fall from grace, was still at the top of its game.
Ungermann would go onto play-off in the grand finale that year only to be pipped at the post by Diana Chan.
Bullock had been bundled out from the program months earlier after he failed to adequately champion a bunch of bananas.
Both had been popular contestants and the pair had hit it off like a house on fire despite being rivals on the cooking contest.
When Bullock was eliminated from the show, he made no secret of his bromance with Ungermann.
‘I made a couple of really good mates. I shared a room with Trent, Ray, Lee and Ben (Ungermann) and we’ll remain mates for life,’ Bullock said at the time.
Ben Ungermann and Ben Bullock in Indonesia in 2017. It was the same year Bullock said he would remain life-long friends with Ungermann
Ben Ungermann and Ben Bullock during a cooking expedition abroad. Bullock appeared in court on behalf of Ungermann, asking for the school records of his alleged child victim
The 2017 cast of MasterChef Australia, which featured Ben Ungermann and Ben Bullock
Unlike Ungermann, Bullock already had a successful career as a lawyer in Western Australia.
By the age of 26, he had been admitted to the Supreme Court of Western Australia, worked for a number of legal firms and was acting director of Philipoff Legal.
Together with his younger sister Eliza, Bullock had been raised in the Perth Hills of Glen Forrest and developed an early love and appreciation for sustainable food production from his father, who worked as a farmer.
After graduating from Perth’s Guildford Grammar in 2006, he started degrees in law and commerce at Murdoch University.
In his final year, he was selected as one of six students nationally to compete for the Law Student of the Year Award – the greatest achievement of his education.
After university, the young graduate took a year off to travel, driving across the United States in a van for three months with another mate.
Ben Ungermann (right) and Ben Bullock. Bullock had taken his motorbike across the globe when he joined up with Ungermann in Indonesia for some celebrity chef dinners
Ben Ungermann (right) and Ben Bullock arm in arm in happier times. The pair have now joined forces in a courtroom battle
Ben Ungermann (right) and lawyer Ben Bullock. Bullock was thrown in the deepend last week when Ungermann’s Melbourne barrister abandoned him just weeks before his contested hearing
The Case Against Ben Ungermann
MasterChef star Ben Ungermann was charged by Victorian sexual crime squad detectives after a report was made alleging he had sexually assaulted a teenage old girl on February 23 in Melbourne.
He had been in Victoria filming in Melbourne for the MasterChef: Back to Win program, which he was quickly dumped from.
Court documents state police allege Ungermann intentionally touched his alleged child victim without her consent – and he knew it – at least three times.
Police allege the teenage girl states that Ungermann ‘sexually touched her right breast skin-to-skin’ against her wishes.
Ungermann denies the allegations.
The trip cemented his love of big, bold flavours, as he learnt to cook southern style BBQ.
Bullock trekked through Canada where he worked under a fleischmeister – a German ‘meat master’ – before travelling across Europe, exploring the food scenes of France, Italy, Greece and Germany.
With plans to open his own small restaurant, focusing on fresh, locally-grown seasonal, sustainable and organic produce, Bullock applied for a spot on Masterchef and got the call.
Riding the wave of celebrity, Bullock co-founded a charity which aimed to raise funds and awareness for depression and suicide prevention.
In September 2017, he embarked on a trip across 30 countries, riding a motorcycle 30,000km from Perth, Western Australia to Perth in Scotland.
Again, he teamed up again with Ungermann while in Indonesia, joining him for some fundraisers and celebrity dinners.
The trip saw the two mates cook everywhere from rubbish dumps to five-star restaurants.
They hung out with elephants and posed for photos on the back of motorcycles together.
The pair would be lauded for their charitable work while in Bali, where they helped raise money for the local community.
Ben Ungermann is defending allegations he sexually assaulted a teenage girl last year, He has employed the services of fellow MasterChef contestant Ben Bullock
Ben Bullock had to video into a Melbourne court on behalf of mate Ben Ungermann after his barrister dropped out at the last minute
MasterChef Indonesia contestant Chef Juna joined them at a curated dining event at the five-star Westin Resort in Nusa Dua – a gated community of luxury resorts in country’s south.
The pair would eventually settle back into regular life – Ungermann in Queensland and Bullock back in Perth.
Bullock did not respond to requests to speak to Daily Mail Australia on Thursday.
A day earlier he had been dumped in the deep end by Ungermann, who had only days earlier lost the Melbourne barrister he had expected to defend him in court.
Bullock must have known he was in for a hard time when he tuned into the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court for what was expected to be a two-day hearing to discuss ground rules for Ungermann’s upcoming trial.
Ungermann’s barrister had been expected to have been in attendance to discuss the sensitive matters of dealing with child witnesses.
Ben Ungermann enjoys almost 100,000 followers on Instagram who swoon over buffed-up images of the former MasterChef contestant
Ben Ungermann came second in MasterChef in 2017 and went onto forge a career in the food industry
Ben Ungermann will contest allegations he is a child sex offender
As Ungermann’s instructing solicitor, Bullock could only hope that he could have the matter delayed so he could brief and commission a new Melbourne barrister.
Bullock was read the riot act by Melbourne Magistrate Mia Stylianou, who demanded to know what had gone wrong.
Things went from bad to worse as police claimed they intended to use a previous complaint by Ungermann’s alleged child victim to use against him now.
Bullock, who showed sparks of his MasterChef charms throughout the hearing, was forced to request the school disciplinary records of his mate’s alleged victim in the hope of using them to attack her credibility.
It’s a request defence lawyers suck-up and submit on behalf of their clients often through gritted teeth.
Bullock was granted the materials, which he will handover to Ungermann’s new barrister Abbie Roodenburg.
It is Ms Roodenburg who will now go to bat for Ungermann in the hope of clearing his name.
But not before she is fully briefed by Ungermann’s ‘life-long mate’ Bullock.