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MasterChef New Zealand


Meet Josh Emett!

Josh Emett of MasterChef New Zealand

Ahead of the second series of MasterChef New Zealand, we caught up with renowned chef Josh Emett to talk about the show itself, the contestants and the pressure of the auditions. - You're the new boy on the block. How did you get involved?

I did a guest chef appearance last year on MasterChef New Zealand and the team asked me to come back and do it full time this year.

I'm pretty busy but it's a great time for me. I left New York in 2009, then came down to Aussie to open a business and the whole idea of that was to tie in a little bit more work in New Zealand. I wanted to be a bit more in and out of New Zealand and have a greater accessibility and living in Melbourne has allowed that. - What did you make of the season one contestants and show's standard?

I loved the series and the concept is excellent, that goes without saying. It's a great show and that also goes without saying, so from a chef's perspective it's a good show to do.

It's interesting and you get good characters on there; they learn a lot so it's very constructive. The contestants last year were good but I think the contestants this year are just that little bit better. There's been one series and they've seen it and thought I can do that better and they're going for it. We've got some really good contestants this year. - How is the audition process? Did you have a standard in mind?

Yeah, you have a standard but you have to take a lot of things into consideration - it's very hard to make it black and white. You have to consider where they come from, what dish they've brought, how they've executed it; there's a lot of different things going on there: textures, flavours, presentation - and depending on the person too - you really just can't be too hard on them.

They're coming in with their plate, their pride and joy, something they make regularly or something they've put a lot of effort into. I can't critique it like I would myself or one of my head or sous chefs, it's about seeing the spark of magic in what they've done and hopefully nurturing that and bringing them on from it. - Is the standard this year high?

Really high but there's always a couple of clangers in there. There was a couple of real shockers in there and it's sort of funny to see as it puts things in perspective.

There was a couple of dishes that were incredible - a flounder dish was sensational you could have it on the menu of a three star Michelin restaurant.

The clangers were the guy who brought in a fish pie and I broke down and laughed because I didn't expect to see what I saw on the plate. I had an idea in my head for what it should look like and when I got up to the plate it was just bizarre.

People are nervous, sometimes they don't have the elegance and that's what I mean about digging into the layers and see what's in there and see if they have a clue about cooking, technique, seasoning and everything what's in there. - How do get on with the established team of Ray and Simon -is it easy being "the new boy?"

I got on well with Simon and Ray last year when I did it. I'm pretty easy going so when I came in and started working with them it was easy to be honest; Simon's a great guy, he's pretty busy with his restaurants and Ray's a wealth of knowledge and is hilarious. He's got a great sense of humour and is a lot of fun.

So there's a great little dynamic between the three of us. You always learn no matter what you do, whether it's talking, teaching people, demonstrating dishes ... you start to question why you do it that way and it makes you question yourself, how you're teaching people, why you teach them this way - and if you should teach them in the first place.

You shouldn't be arrogant about this, it's a learning process. There's contestants which I can learn from because they do things which are maybe simpler. You should never discount anything. - Are you looking forward to being part of the MasterChef New Zealand phenomenon?

We've really raised the bar this season and we have some really serious cooks who are in it for the right reasons; people who had a pretty tough time but who're emerging as good cooks.

I'm really excited by series two. We've really nailed it and it should be a great season.

Coming soon - Josh talks about his plans for cooking in New Zealand, whether Gordon Ramsay would cut it on MasterChef New Zealand and who's better - MasterChef Australia contestants or the kiwi contingent....