Woman’s Day (New Zealand)
MasterChef NZ’s KITCHEN WHIZZES
Meet the second batch of Kiwi contestants vying for culinary superstardom
NICK 39, AUCKLAND ALEX 27, HAMILTON
Disability support facilitator Alex Stockley has a passion for experimenting with overlooked ingredients, but she only applied for MasterChef NZ as a joke. “I thought there’d be no way I’d make it in. I’m not a fancy cook. I’m pretty rustic, but I cook from the heart.” However, the dish Alex makes for her audition sounds far from basic – lamb, feta and horopito-stuffed kawakawa leaves with green labneh, a sage and watercress oil, with carrot weed flowers and pikopiko. Yum!
A big fan of Gordon Ramsay, Nick Hoyle’s signature dish is a Thaistyle barbecue tasting platter. Asked about his culinary dream, he says, “I’ve been thinking about setting up a men’s retreat where I could fly people out to the Great Barrier Reef, then show them how to catch, clean and cook fish. I think a lot of guys would get a buzz out of that.” If MasterChef doesn’t work out, Nick reckons he could win Survivor. “I’m pretty resilient outdoors and good at finding food.”
JESS 32, DUNEDIN
When student Jess Stevenson found out she’d been accepted on to MasterChef, she screamed, before rushing to tell her wha¯nau. “The kids didn’t really understand because they’re only four and six,” she grins, adding that her biggest challenge will be being away from her children. “My husband was willing to juggle two kids for eight weeks so I could pursue my foodie dream. He has my back in everything I do and is the best cheerleader around.”
HANA 26, CHRISTCHURCH
Software product manager Hana Kirk describes herself as a “Jiwi – half Kiwi and half Japanese”, and hopes her knowledge of both cuisines will give her the edge. “I’ve had to overcome identifying with two very different cultures and not fitting into either, but it’s shaped me into an understanding person who embraces difference and celebrates diversity. The Nadia Lim fan’s signature dish is karaage chicken with miso-baked eggplant, shiso salad, pickled daikon and tofu mayo.
LEONY 39, AUCKLAND
Originally from Jakarta, MasterChef superfan Leony (“I have no last name”) was encouraged to apply by her husband. “They say life begins at 40 and I’m turning 40 this year, so this will be the beginning of something exciting,” she says. “Mama is going to Queenstown!” Having lived in Indonesia and the US, Leony hopes her knowledge of both western and eastern cooking will come in handy. The housewife’s signature dish is soto Betawi, a Javanese slow-cooked beef soup.
RACHAEL 40, HAWKE’S BAY
When Rachael Mako recently quit her job, she could either apply for a reality TV show or complete her diploma in rongoa¯ (traditional Ma¯ori medicine). “The universe chose MasterChef NZ – and my mum convinced me too!” she laughs. Of Nga¯ti Kahungunu descent, her signature dish is a pa¯ua and karenga (seaweed) pie with a re¯wana crust. Her dream is to open “a quaint B&B here in the Hawke’s Bay” and “visit schools to talk about the importance of what we eat”.
SIEUMUOI 40, AUCKLAND
Born in a refugee camp on the border of Thailand and Cambodia, Sieumuoi Hancock arrived in Aotearoa with just the clothes on her back. “I was the only Asian kid at school, but now I’m super-proud of where I’m from and it’s an honour to cook my signature Cambodian dish for the judges – it’s nom banh chok, which is lemongrass vermicelli.” Sieumuoi’s love of food comes from her parents. Her dad is “the best baker”, while her mum is the queen of noodles.
RUDI 43, AUCKLAND
Born in Johannesburg, Rudi Hefer has lived in Aotearoa for 16 years and rates local chef Sid Sarawat as his ultimate culinary idol. His wife Kylie and two kids, Ethan and Ada, are his biggest foodie fans, putting him through “a series of mock MasterChef challenges” ahead of filming. The commercial director has an “insatiable desire to learn and push myself into uncomfortable spaces”, but he’s worried about the time limits. “I’m a cook who enjoys taking my time!”
SAM 30, AUCKLAND
Fijian-Chinese content creator Sam Low has spent the past 12 years in the coffee industry, winning awards for his latte art and regularly representing New Zealand on the world stage. “But I have this other passion for food.” He’s dreamt of being on reality TV since he was young, explaining, “I want to be an ambassador for people like me, which is the queer and POC [people of colour] community. When MasterChef NZ came up, it was my calling!”