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MasterChef New Zealand


Undercooked duck leg hobbles top three contender

Despite picking up praise from guest judge Ben Bayly for some of the elements on her dish, Vanessa Baxter came a cropper when the duck leg she cooked wasn't even tasted at the judging.
She just fell at the last hurdle and didn't quite make the top three for 2013.

What has the experience been like?
There is no better way to describe the experience of MasterChef than to quote Simon Gault - "It is a roller coaster so make sure you hold on". Incredible highs to desperate lows - adrenaline, passion, stamina, strength and courage have all had their place.  For me it became having the fortitude to keep coming back time after time and to try not to let the down times affect the next challenge - which was not easy.

What aspects of your cooking have improved from being a contestant on MasterChef?
The biggest gain for me is is that I have been reminded to slow down and take more time.  I need to try to focus on less and get it perfect.  Also - keep on checking the seasoning - from start to finish!

What will you miss about being part of the top 16?
Being in the top 16 was a crazy and exhilarating experience. I will miss the camaraderie of the contestants and the obvious passion for food which was our common thread. I will miss new friends and whilst I can't wait to see my family, I leave a new bunch of people who became like family.

What's your biggest regret about not getting further than you did?
Coming fourth is pretty hard - you are so close but still didn't quite make that final. I would have loved the day of the final - that was the ultimate challenge we all hoped to be part of.

When you were evicted, what would you have changed about the challenge which saw you forced to leave? 
On my final challenge, the moment immediately after the pantry run I regretted that I hadn't chosen to do dessert. I had so many wonderful sweet ideas that I had been working on in the house - this would have been a perfect opportunity. Somehow, I got caught up in Ben Bayly's amazing presentation and ran in a different direction. Having done that, why on earth didn't I check that duck leg was cooked?

Who will you miss most from the MasterChef NZ competition and why?
I will miss many of the contestants. Ella was a favourite. We shared a room and became great friends. Hopefully we will stay in touch as promised. We have a similar passion and philosophy about food and we take life as an adventure which saw us become great soul mates.

Which piece of advice from the judges would you consider to be the most valuable?
Ray McVinnie made a point several times during the competition that whilst we should want to crank up the taste buds, we should also try to imagine what we could remove from a dish without affecting the flavour. This is a great exercise for the brain and for honing the taste buds.

What one food would you eat every day for the rest of your life if you had to? Why?
I would eat cheese. It may very well kill me but I would go happily. I love all cheese, the differences in textures and taste, from Spanish Manchego to crumbly Pecorino to a bloomy rinded brie or an ash-rolled chevre.

What's next for you?
I wish to continue my journey of passion - food. I hope to write about food and travel; to do food demonstrations and classes with children to share my excitement of food and what can be brought to the table. There may even be a surprise cook book in the making.

Fill in the gap The Kitchen Utensil you look the most like is....
A micro plane.