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MasterChef New Zealand


Simon Gault talks season two

Simon Gault of MasterChef New Zealand

Simon Gault is back on MasterChef New Zealand - caught up with him to find out his thoughts on the series, his Intrepid Journey and putting cooking above personality. - What you been doing in the break between seasons?
Well, having five restaurants to run keeps me pretty occupied and doing things like fund raisers for charity, Intrepid Journeys and things like that - I end up immersing myself in all of these things. There's only so many charity events you can do and just helping people out with different things. It's been pretty busy - I've been to Sri Lanka for three weeks as I was one of fourteen chefs to be selected to tour which was absolutely awesome.
I got to meet Merrill J Fernando who owns Dilmah tea but what was incredible was going to the schools he runs - it is the most incredible thing to see these schools for underprivileged kids that he's set up. He schools 15,000 kids a year that he pays for - we met the kids and it was one of the most emotional rollercoaster trips I've ever done. What Dilmah Tea does for people is amazing.
Then I've been to East Turkey and Iran for Intrepid Journeys which was an unbelievable experience, probably not the standard of accommodation I'm used to but it was truly wonderful meeting people, staying in people's homes, being in a different culture - and being Ramadan was on, I thought I may have lost a bit of weight, but I still managed to find the food! - Are there any foods you've been experimenting with?
I'm always experimenting with food, I'm always trying to find something with that 5 percent magic that I look for from my chefs and from myself. I've just been to Iran and I've just found a little tin that they cook a lamb dish they have for cooking called a dizi and I've brought them back, and I've been looking at what exactly I can cook in them.
That's part of my life which happens daily without me realising because I just do it. - How have the auditions gone this year?
It's always tough to send people on their way when they've got their heart set on being involved in MasterChef and sending them off on their first audition. I don't like doing it because they've put their heart on the plate. With the exception of one person who I thought was an absolute clown and I've no idea why he even entered, everyone was absolutely focussed and it was really tough to come up with 12 people out of them. - Has the standard been higher?
Very passionate people this time around - they saw the last series and they knew what they were in for; the first lot of contestants didn't really know what was ahead - they'd watched the Aussie one and I think they were a fantastic bunch of people and loved them all - and it's the same with this series; another great bunch of people who are passionate, dedicated and most importantly, determined. - Was anything which surprised you about the Top 12 this year?
In the first series, we got a lot of lamb and a lot of asparagus; this time round - we've got everything you can imagine; we've got rabbit - it was really a much wider rangeof foods that we got to try this time around which was exciting. - What distinguishes the Top 12 this year?
It's nothing about their characters - it's all about what they cook; entirely what they put on the plate. And we're looking for fantastic food, not characters. Some people can taste food in their head and that's something that takes most chefs a long time to get; but there are the odd chefs out there who're able to do that - they can marry the flavours together and know instinctively they will work on the plate. Discovering those people is always exciting. A good chef needs to be able to read a recipe and replicate it - but if you gave the same recipe to six people; even if they were chefs, you'll get six different results. - Something new this year is the MasterChef MasterClasses, the accompanying series. How's that been?
I love doing them - it's been great to show the contestants just something a little bit different; to try and show the 5% magic that I look for and give them a little of my 5% back to them as well. I hope the viewers are really excited by it.

MasterChef New Zealand season two starts on Sunday February 20th at 8.30pm on TV ONE.