Congratulations on your win! Has it sunk in yet?
Thank you! It’s starting to. It was very odd winning then keeping quiet about it for so long, but I think now I’m finally realising the enormity of what has happened!
It must be a relief to finally be able to talk about it. How difficult was it keeping the secret that you’d won?
It was only difficult to start with, because I was literally bursting with happiness and excitement and I all wanted to do was celebrate with everyone and get stuck into everything. After things died down, it just became a way of life…playing it down!
You were a bit of a dark horse for a while in the competition. How confident were you that you could win it?
I knew I could win it as long as I kept my wits about me. MasterChef is all about not putting up the worst dish on the day. It doesn’t matter if you’ve won every single challenge to date; if you stuff up on the next one, you’re a goner. It’s a concept people find hard to understand sometimes, I think.
The final four challenges looked absolutely exhausting! How did you cope with the pressure?
The pressure was intense, for sure. I just tried to keep a level head and focus on the cooking. It’s all you can do, really! My mouth was so dry with nerves and terror in the taste test I could hardly even chew or swallow. That was awful.
What was your favourite challenge in the whole competition?
The Hawke’s Bay challenge was incredible. I loved cooking alfresco on the BBQs in the sun. That’s real Kiwi cooking and it really resonated with me.
Which MasterChef New Zealand judge made you the most nervous?
All of them! Josh mostly, because of his impeccably high standards. It was a real triumph at the end when he scored me so highly – I was rapt.
How did it feel watching yourself on television?
The first episode I found a bit strange, I think was watching from behind a cushion cringing most of the time. Then it became normal. Oh look, there I am making another awkward facial!
What was the first thing you cooked after MasterChef was all over?
I honestly can’t even remember! Probably poached eggs on toast the morning after I went home.
What or who inspires your cooking?
I can’t really attribute my inspiration to any one thing or person; it’s lots of things, lots of people and lots of meals I’ve eaten! I’m inspired daily. A large part of it would be New Zealand’s fantastic produce; I love going to farmer’s markets and seeing the wonderful things people have to offer there.
What are your favourite dishes to cook at home?
Anything and everything – it’s all about mixing it up. Although you can’t beat a BBQ and a cold beer on a summer’s afternoon. It doesn’t get much better than that (especially if it’s fresh seafood you’re BBQing!).
How is your cookbook coming along?
It’s in the works…lots to do yet. Lots of writing, cooking, testing, retesting…I’m having a blast!
Finally, what advice you can give to aspiring masterchefs?
Keep cooking, keep researching, keep learning. And if you make it into the MasterChef kitchen…try to keep calm!