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MasterChef Australia

Weds - Fri at 7.30pm TVNZ 1

Gary Mehigan Q&A

Gary Mehigan

1. What have you enjoyed most about MasterChef so far?
What, I am loving right now is the interaction with the contestants - we are starting to get to know and understand them, their motivations, strengths and weaknesses. We have our favourites of course and the opportunity to help shape their future and fore fill a dream is powerful.

2. What qualities do the contestants need to be successful?
They need to be a self starter, a natural people person, some one who you feel naturally drawn too, some one who smiles enjoys life and loves cooking. They should process a natural empathy towards others and as a cook should love feeding people. We all love a story and making the very best of the heritage or back ground certainly appeals. Chris for example loves his beer in fact he is fanatical about beer! He loves food that works with his favourite beverage and dreams of opening a beer focussed café restaurant or bar. Magnificent. I'll be there.

3. What makes a dish truly great?
Great food often relates in a very personnel way to experiences we have had - it fixes flavours in our minds the enjoyment the moment the place and the people that we shared that time with. A great dish not only combines textures flavours and subtleties that we enjoy but at its best says something about who we are. Fish and chips by the sea or a gorgeous warm pudding that reminds of our Nona, our mums or our child hood.

4. What's unique about how people cook in Australia?
We love the out doors, we love the sun, and it brightens our lives and our food. We have a certain richness, colour and depth in our landscape and that reflects in our food. We have fabulous seafood and fresh produce and a new world cultural mix and optimism that has shaped the way we eat.

5. What characteristics or qualities does a great chef have?
Above all a great chef should love to eat and love to feed others. Pride and a sense of care and interest for another's well being, sets a good chef apart from bad chef. Passion grows; the knowledge and technical skill can be learned. Feeding someone else is a deeply personal thing, pretty much the most personal thing you can do for someone other than have sex!

6. If you could choose your last meal on earth, what would it be?
Impossible thing to answer, because as I think of one dish such as "The creamiest softest mash potato with a rich braised oxtail with a marmalade of red onions. Oohh talking about onions - a steak, onion & stout pie with a flaky pastry and mushy peas. Talking about peas a little soft mousse of peas, a spear mint oil, crispy shards of pancetta and seared diver scallops - ahh! scallops - and on and on it goes - as I say impossible!

7. What's your favourite place to travel?
I moved to Australia 17 years ago from the UK - I intended to stay for a year or two but fell in love with this glorious country. I live overseas - how cool is that! Driving through a scorched landscape with skeletons of gums and the odd fire place still standing rickety fencing, and an old water pump may indicate a time past or a time of struggle but I love that landscape - the beaches of Western Australia, or the rolling hills of the southern NSW hinterland, rugged Tasmania, are all very special, The Great Barrier Reef - there's no place on earth like it. So proud - so lucky to be here.

8. What dish would be the way to your heart?
Anything made with love - from the heart. As I say cooking is one of the most personal things you can do for another.

9. If you were having any three people, alive or dead, over for dinner, who would they be and what would you cook for them?
My grandfather, he was a chef and a gardener in his retirement - he baked bread, made jams and fed my sister an I little chunks of bitter couverture when we were little - I have learnt so much since he passed away 20 years ago - he set me on my path in life he would be so proud - I would tell him how much he meant to me as child. The Dali lama - not because I am religious I never have been but because as I have got older I have become more spiritual in a sense, more aware of my time here and what I should be to myself and those around me. Billy Connolly because above all else I love to laugh, a comedian should use his humour to provoke and turn our pre conceptions up side down. Not to take our selves and our opinions, prejudices and habits to seriously - what funny people we all are. Laughter as our release.

10. Sweet or Savoury:
Haigh's chocolate - Rocky Road or honey comb crunch
St Marcelin (cheese) - soft, gooey and good crusty sour dough bread - oh my god there I go again!

11. How do you like your eggs:
Fresh - Free Range - Soft Poached - Crunchy Yet Soft Centred Toast - Slathered in Hollandaise!