A Word With...: TV chef and judge Nadia Lim.
Former MasterChef New Zealand winner and nutritionist Nadia Lim is nervous about her My Kitchen Rules New Zealand debut as guest judge in the final of the home-cooking competition which airs this week. After dreaming up a wholesome food vision aged just 12, two decades on she has co-founded the healthy-eating movement My Food Bag, published several recipe books, and this year had her second child. She tells Cass Marrett about her plans for the future and reveals the TV chef she once had a crush on.
What do you bring to the table as a guest judge?
There are four of these judges so they’re more restaurant-based chefs. Ray McVinnie, he’s more of a food writer and food historian so he brings that, whereas Simon Wright you’ve got one of the best chefs like in the history of New Zealand and then Tom Hishon, he’s much younger and he’s creative and he’s just incredibly talented too and he pushes the boat out with what he produces. I’m much more a home cook, of course. I’ve never had a restaurant and my style is much more simple I guess, more homestyle-based and I always look out for, kind of, bold fresh flavours. I’m very into fresh food. I’m not so much into fancy food but I do love it when there is personality and story behind the food as well, like it’s got to be about the journey behind the plate as well as what is on the plate.
If you were on MKR yourself, what would your instant restaurant theme be?
It would be food from the ground, sea and sky, which is part of my nude food philosophy.
Do you throw dinner parties often?
I do. We love entertaining. But we keep it very casual. I just hosted an Italian long lunch because it was such a nice sunny
day and I kind of get all my friends to contribute a bit as well. I’ll say, ‘Can somebody get really amazing tomatoes?’ and everyone brings one thing. Some bring wine around. I’ll do most of the cooking and the main course and add everyone’s little bits and pieces. It’s good fun. But keeping it nice, simple, casual and light-hearted is always good, (as is) being prepared in advance.
Did having your own family influence what you were doing with food?
Definitely. I think my recipes in general have become even simpler and faster and more kid-friendly and, yeah, just a lot of family-style recipes. There’s not so much time available now to leisurely wander around the kitchen and go, ‘Oh I wonder what I should make’.
Does your son (two-year-old Bohdi) help in the kitchen?
All the time. He loves it. I reckon about 50 per cent of his vocabulary is food-related. He’s quite obsessed with food which is cool to see. I guess I’m kind of not surprised because he’s around it all the time but he’s got a natural knack. He can smell a jar of cinnamon and say, ‘That’s cinnamon!’ or he can smell vanilla and go, ‘That’s vanilla’. He’s only two. He goes around the garden and picks bits of spinach and just eats it.
What’s something people don’t know about you?
Probably lots of things. I’m not very interesting. I was a competitive swimmer – people won’t know that. Also I got to brown belt in aikido which is a Japanese martial art. And my husband has always said I’m a very good parallel parker.
I heard that Jamie Oliver was a hero of yours?
Oh yeah. You could probably say that if it wasn’t for Jamie, I might not be doing what I’m doing today. He totally inspired me when I was 12 and I did think at the time that we’d end up getting married and writing cookbooks together. But that plan obviously didn’t work out.
I think I know the answer to this question, but if you could have dinner with one chef, who would it be?
Yeah you know the answer. What would I cook for him? It would have to be something really fun, and we’d do big sharing platters and we’d just casually eat outside like on the deck. It wouldn’t be anything too fancy.
Do you feel you’ve accomplished all that you wanted to or is there more to come?
Oh there’s more to come. I don’t even feel like I’ve even started. I feel with the likes of My Food Bag and recipe books I’ve helped to get lots more Kiwis in the kitchen cooking a lot more which is awesome because I believe that if every kid can cook then our health and happiness is going to be so much better for it, so I’d love to start looking at the next phase. The next phase, I guess, will be moving more into looking at that journey behind the plate. We’ve got some farmland down south so I’d love to move down to the farm and perhaps explore food production as well.