Auckland marketing executive Chelsea Winter has been named MasterChef New Zealand 2012 on Tuesday 12th June on TV ONE.
In a two-hour special, Winter and fellow finalist Ana Schwarz battled it out to decide who would win the MasterChef New Zealand title and over $100,000 worth of prizes.
As a final test of their knowledge, skill and all-round cooking ability, Winter and Schwarz faced not one, but four epic challenges: a taste test, an invention test, a mystery box challenge and a pressure test, involving a fiendishly hard dessert.
Special guests included British culinary legend Rick Stein, Euro executive chef Eugene Hamilton, and former MasterChef contestant and wild game expert, Cameron Petley.
At the start of the epic cook-off, the pair entered the MasterChef kitchen to the sounds of applause from their fellow Top 16 contestants, gathered together for the grand finale.
The first challenge was a taste test, in which the finalists had to taste and correctly name 20 ingredients in an Indian curry prepared by MasterChef judge Ray McVinnie.
Schwarz correctly named 13 of the ingredients, Winter 11.
The second challenge was an invention test, using venison as the core ingredient.
Former MasterChef competitor and wild game expert Cameron Petley introduced the challenge, throwing down onto the kitchen bench a freshly skinned side of lean young venison.
The finalists had 90 minutes to prepare an entrée dish and a main course using whatever cuts of the venison they liked, and present the dishes to a fine dining standard. Each of them had to include a jus in one of their dishes.
Petley said the key to venison was seasoning the meat, cooking it quickly and not letting it dry out.
Winter prepared a peppered carpaccio venison entrée with pickled vegetables, and a main course of venison fillet with caramelised plums, kumara chips and jus.
Schwarz also made peppered venison carpaccio, and a venison steak with a vegetable ratatouille and jus.
Judge Ray McVinnie told Schwarz that her entrée lacked flavour. The other judges said that whilst her main dish tasted beautiful, the garnishing was not complimentary, and the jus was more like gravy. They awarded her dishes 12 points, taking her total score to 25.
Judge Simon Gault told Winter her entrée was so good that he wanted to put it on the menu at his Auckland restaurant, Euro. Fellow judge Josh Emett said the combination of plums and jus lifted her main to a whole new level. Her dishes scored 18 points; her total score was now 29.
The third challenge involved a mystery box, and was introduced by British culinary star Rick Stein.
Inside the box were ingredients and a recipe for Stein’s Malaysian prawn laksa.
The finalists had 60 minutes to cook their own version.
The judges told Schwarz that her laksa was sensational. Stein said he loved the flavours, and that the presentation was beautiful. They awarded the dish 17 points. She now had a total score of 42.
The judges thought Winter’s dish looked more like a traditional laksa, but the flavours didn’t work quite so well. They gave it 14 points, bringing her total to 43.
The fourth and final challenge was, in Gault’s words, a ‘doozy’.
Introduced by Euro executive chef Eugene Hamilton, the finalists were given three hours to make a multi-layered ‘torturous’ trifle. The layers included a white chocolate and orange mousse, chocolate marquise, walnut sponge, strawberry gel, two peach gels, a raspberry gel, kiwifruit and fruit, mandarin sherbet, cherry Italian meringue, cream Chantilly and cherry spheres.
Eugene Hamilton warned the women that the hardest part of making the trifle was putting it all together.
At tasting, the judges told Schwarz that she had done a good first-time job. The flavours worked well together and the dessert looked ‘spectacular’. They awarded it 30 points.
They told Winter that she had made a great-looking trifle despite getting one of the layers wrong and the Italian meringue being undercooked. Her trifle scored 34 points.
That took the final scores to 72 out of a possible 100 for Schwarz, and 73 out of a possible 100 for Winter.
“Chelsea, from the venison to the trifle – in this final you have made MasterChef dishes all the way,” said Simon Gault.
“You are the deserving winner!”
In tears, Winter turned to her fellow finalist.
“Ana, thank you for being the best Top Two companion I could ever ask for,” she said.
She also thanked her fiancée Mike Bullot, her family and the MasterChef judges.
“I have learned an incredible amount from all three of you,” she told the judges. ” I definitely wouldn’t be standing here today if it wasn’t for you and all your wonderful advice.
“It’s been an absolute honour and I thank you for that.”
“Where do you want to take it from here?” Josh Emett asked her.
“Step one is obviously the cookbook,” said Winter. “After that I want to continue to learn. Someday in future l would like to own my own establishment and take the first step in my new life.”
“This competition has ignited a spark in me! It’s just gone ‘whoomph’, and it’s in full flame now!!’