The winner of MasterChef New Zealand 2011 has been crowned.
From over 1000 amateur cooks who applied from across the country and after 12 weeks of intense competition to make it to the Final 2, Aucklander Nadia Lim proved her steely determination by winning three out of four challenges to claim the crown beating second finalist Christchurch's Jax Hamilton, in front of an audience of the other Top 12 contestants and three MasterChef judges.
Lim was full of fight and relishing the excitement, as she stole an early lead in the first challenge - a taste test in which they had to identify the ingredients in bouillabaisse. Lim was awarded 18 out of 20 possible points, with Hamilton taking 12. Next up was a pork invention test, in which the finalists had to create one pork dish and one offal dish in just 90 minutes.
Then in a heart-stopping moment the nerves proved too much for Hamilton and she had a meltdown in the middle of her cooking and froze. "For some reason I'm doubting myself, I don't know, I'm picking stuff up and putting it down, I'm mumbling, I thought about the other contestants watching me and I just stopped still in the middle of the challenge," she explained.
However, both finalists triumphed in the end with two incredible dishes, despite the pressure. Gault told Lim her pork belly was the best dish he's ever tasted in MasterChef New Zealand so far. While Emett was blown away by Hamilton's kidney dish.
The third challenge was a mystery box challenge in which they had 90 minutes to cook a classic English beef wellington using a recipe.
Naturally the last round was the toughest of the competition; an extreme dessert challenge called the 'macaron flower frenzy', an intricate tower made of hundreds of macarons created by patissier Guillaume Nicoli.
Over three and a half hours the two battled to create their towers, fighting their way through various challenges as the macarons stuck to the baking trays, running behind time, and Lim even forgetting to add a top layer to the dessert until the last minute.
As they exhaustedly hugged each other at the end of the task, there was a jaw-droppingly horrific moment as Top 12 contestants Robert Jacobs and Fiona Read noticed Hamilton's tower was falling to pieces. Hamilton took the cruel blow like a professional simply saying, "I'm feeling exhausted, I'm feeling emotional, to come so close, am so disappointed, I can't really take it in."
Gault summed up everyone's emotions, "Words cannot describe how gutted I am for you right now but I've got to tell you the strength you have right now is something everybody will look up to. You are a hero."
The judges pronounced the final verdict with Hamilton given 11 out of 20 points for a final score of 75, while Lim triumphed with an incredible end score of 18 out of 20 for the dessert challenge and a massive final score of 88 in a runaway victory.
Lim paid tribute to her fellow finalist for her courage. As it sank in that she had won, she said, "I can't believe I'm going to have my own cookbook, I'm absolutely over the moon. Thank you so much to everyone you guys are amazing. I've always wanted to do something with my nutrition and my cooking skills and combine the two," said Lim.
If you missed the epic two hour Grand Final, watch it here .
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For interviews, videos and more, head to the official TVNZ MasterChef New Zealand website.