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MasterChef New Zealand


Catching up with Ray McVinnie

Ray McVinnie of MasterChef New Zealand

MasterChef New Zealand is back.

And so are the judges - among them, Ray McVinnie's returning for a second time to crown another MasterChef New Zealand winner.
In our website only interview, Ray talks about how busy he's been during the time between seasons one and two, and reveals which dish he saw too much of during the auditions. - So, Ray, what have you been doing since the end of season one?
I have a punishing routine - but not one I'm complaining about! But it fills my life up with work; I'm food editor at Cuisine magazine, I lecture part time at AUT, I write a weekly column for the Sunday Star Times; I do all sorts of consultation stuff; plus on top of that I have a very lovely family so I'm very, very busy. - Have you seen a change in people coming in for your food classes since the airing of seasone one of MasterChef New Zealand?
Not so much in their knowledge but in their eagerness for it; they all watch the show - all the kids and the overseas students; it's a really interesting phenomenon. There's a huge eagerness and interest about cooking, about food so it's reakky stirred up interest. As a lecturer in gastronomy, which is all about how food interacts with people, that's fascinating. - During the "break", have you been experimenting with food?
I write four recipes for the Sunday Star Times a year; a whole lot for Cuisine - I'm writing recipes the whole time! My whole life is recipes and experimentation, cooking and recipes testing - that's all I do. And then I write about it. I've just been doing features on Mediterranean food, why we love it - and looking at the flavours and dishes I really love. The two big food trends are Mediterranean and Asian and it's really interesting. You never forget food flavours. - How have the auditions been this year?
The thing that stands out this year is how incredibly high the standard has been.
Whoever the top 12 are, they've obviously stayed at home, studied, and learnt I think or we're just getting people that are better this year. Whatever's going on, the standard this year is incredible.
In a funny way, it's made the judging that more difficult because they're all really, really good so you do get a bit of a range - but sometimes, you do get a day where everybody is really good and that makes it hard to choose. When it comes down to two dishes and choosing between them, it makes it so hard; obviously not all the time but often we've had instances where we can't choose - I don't know if I should say any more....Interestingly I think some of the series one contestants would fall by the way side if they were put up against some of the series two guys. And I think that's really good - you don't want it to stay the same, you always want it to be developing. It can't stagnate. It should develop. - Has there been one dish that you saw too many in the auditions?
There was a lot of cauliflower purees - I've seen so many dishes generally this year, it's hard to think! - So do you think we already have an obvious winner?
I couldn't tell ya. That's the whole point - it's not about joining the dots and coming up with a picture... - Something new for this year is accompanying series, MasterChef MasterClasses - what's that been like?
I'm really loving it - I'm really enjoying it and they (the contestants) seem to be enjoying it too. See, we're having a lot more interaction with the contestants this year which I'm really enjoying. MasterClasses is where you sit and talk, they can ask questions - I've loved every minute of that. I think the folks at home will love that too - it's a really nice way because we'll use it as a way to get people watching the show too. One of the things I get from a lot of friends out and about and at home was how much they loved the MasterClasses on the Aussie one because they learnt stuff they can use - and that's what I think people like about the series.
They see it not only as entertainment, but with really good practical knowledge that's going to help them. And you look at why you'd want to know about cooking - it's because it's more economical to cook your own food, you have the power to have the control of your own diet.
I do stuff like demonstrations out on the road and I think it's hugely important because people learn how to cook because when you learn, it has all kinds of incredible results. If people know how to cook, it's great for their health - and it's great for socialising people because of the shared table. It's been proven that the higher the number of people who cook in society, the lower the number of people with obesity - end of story. People don't understand this - I don't think they realise this - and just how familiar something like cooking is and how important it is to society. Teach kids at school to cook so they learn early on how vital this is - for example kids in France have ten 90 minute sessions learning about food and how it tastes - do that and you can change your social life.

Don't forget, you can read our interview with Josh Emett here.