Woman’s Day (New Zealand)

MasterChef NZ’s FRESH MEAT!

Get to know the first batch of contestant­s preparing to do culinary battle in the kitchen



University of Otago student Alice Taylor handed in the dissertati­on for her Master of Politics degree just two days before auditionin­g for MasterChef on her father’s advice. She tells, “Deep down, I knew I wanted a career in food, but I never had the courage to fully go for it. This came at the perfect time when I was having a serious think about what I want to do with my life.” Alice’s foodie idol is Nigella Lawson. “She celebrates indulgence and excess – that’s my kind of lady!”


Sales rep Dylan Fernandes says being accepted for MasterChef NZ has “reignited a fire in my belly” when it comes to his passion for fresh ideas with food. His signature dish is mushroom tortellini, while his favourite meal is an Indian dish called sorpotel. “It’s a curry from Goa, which is where my family is from – it’s to die for!” Dylan admires celebrity chef Jamie Oliver because “he makes food fun and interestin­g”, and his ultimate dream is to run his own food truck or cooking school.


Amberley Kennish describes herself “the complete underdog of the competitio­n”, saying, “Expressing my passion for food was always something I was scared and nervous to do. I’m a genuine home cook, but I have so much room to grow and I hope the judges see that.” The public servant has been a foodie since she was young, idolising Gordon Ramsay from age five. “I love how much passion he shows in his cooking and the care he gives to his ingredient­s.”


Inspired by Heston Blumenthal, sales exec Lance Meynell says his secret weapon is his “understand­ing of bold flavours and incorporat­ing these where you least expect it”. He says being on MasterChef is his dream and when he was accepted, he celebrated with his trademark “Lance Dance”! His signature dish is tandoori-spiced venison loin with smoked ku¯mara, carrot purée, roasted beets, edible flowers and red-wine jus, but he wants his final meal to be “a burger and chips”.


Naomi Grace is a videograph­er and content creator who also works as an advocate for Waikato Women’s Refuge. Her foodie idol is MasterChef “mad genius” Vaughan Mabee, while her favourite meal is a boil-up. “It’s the type of food that brings wha¯nau together,” she explains. “You sit down to enjoy it and the banter is always wholesome.” Naomi’s dream is to have her own TV show, “travelling around the country using local ingredient­s to create a culinary masterpiec­e”.


Originally from Afghanista­n, uni student Farzana Rahimi applied for MasterChef on a whim. She admits, “It’s always been my dream to compete in a cooking show, but I didn’t think I was good enough to make it past auditions.” Farzana’s go-to recipe is an Afghan dumpling dish called mantu. “I’m keen to bring recognitio­n to the food of my culture because it’s one of the most underrated cuisines in the world. I’d love to open a restaurant serving Afghan food in a fine-dining setting.”


Originally from Italy, visual effects artist Michele Benigna has been living in the capital for five years and is working up the courage to leave his day job. “I’ve been flirting with the food industry for a while, but MasterChef could finally give me the chance to take the leap.” He adds, “I think I have a good palate and my cooking style is simple with an edge, letting the ingredient­s do the main job.” Michele’s signature dish is green gnocchi with grana padano fondue and crispy speck.


Master of Agricultur­e Science student Eve Thomas says, “I’m still studying, so I don’t use a lot of crazy ingredient­s, but I can make a meal out of whatever I have.” However, she may struggle working with “expensive food and unusual cuts of meat”. Eve’s favourite celeb chefs are Yotam Ottolenghi and Annabel Langbein, but she’s also a big fan of MasterChef NZ’s Nadia Lim and says the best meal she’s ever eaten was at judge Vaughan Mabee’s restaurant Amisfield.


Born in South Africa during the final years of apartheid, insurance underwrite­r Kavitha Singh-Willis moved to Aotearoa 22 years ago and says her background “made me very resilient”. Asked what other advantages she’ll have in the MasterChef kitchen, she adds she’s a whizz with curries. “And I will also bring a willingnes­s to learn, to try different flavours and techniques, and just be all-round adventurou­s”. Kavitha’s foodie goal is to “have my own brand of dips and spreads”.

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 ?? ?? MasterChef judges (from left) Michael Dearth, Nadia Lim and Vaughan Mabee.
MasterChef judges (from left) Michael Dearth, Nadia Lim and Vaughan Mabee.
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