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MasterChef New Zealand


The MasterChef winner discusses the final result

MasterChef New Zealand on TV ONE and TVNZ Ondemand

It was a close fought contest in the MasterChef New Zealand grand final for 2013.
But in the end, there could be only one winner - and that was Aaron who took out the crown for 2013. By just one point....

Congratulations to you - how are you feeling?

Thank you so much! I'm feeling amazed that my decision so long ago to enter MasterChef has brought me to this point, and I'm feeling incredibly grateful to my family for being the best support I could possibly have asked for.

How did the Grand Final go in your eyes?

Highs and lows to be sure! I started pretty well then made a major stuff-up in the second challenge. I felt like I'd under-developed what one day will be a great dish (and now I'm working to get it right!) The George challenge was an absolute high. I adored working with him after watching him for years on TV. When it came to the last monster challenge, I gave it every ounce of my determination and truly had nothing left by the end. 

You seemed to take a bit of a stumble in the second challenge - what did that do for your confidence? And how did you get back on track?

It was a huge blow. I knew I'd done badly but still wasn't expecting quite such a big points difference. The thing that got me through was the advice from a friend in Raglan who said "In cricket if you're having a bad patch you just have to put it all behind you and treat the next ball as a new start. The people who don't make it are the ones who get bogged down by their past mistakes." I didn't know if I could pull it off but I decided to just go for it and give it everything. 

What's the secret to cooking? You've looked calm and collected throughout the series - were there ever moments which rattled you?

I think the secret to cooking on MasterChef is to do everything you can to avoid panicking! I tend to go inwards and focus when I'm challenged, which apparently makes me look calm and collected to others. I felt most rattled at the start of the Marlborough (top 6) and Ben Bayly (top 4) challenges.  With Ben Bayly, I was daunted knowing how amazing his food is at The Grove and feeling like I had to really create something new on the spot. There's nothing like an empty canvas to bring up self doubt!

We can't not talk about George Calombaris' presence in the kitchen for his challenge - what was that pressure like?

I have to say right from the start I really enjoyed having George there. I loved his energy and enthusiasm and it fired me up to give it everything I had. He really pushed hard but it also felt like he put a lot of love into it - that worked really well for me.

How did it feel when George said he would give you a job? Have you taken that any further?

It was a very special moment, I felt like the cameras and everything else just dropped away when we talked. He has such a big heart, I truly felt his sincerity and it meant an enormous amount to me. I fully intend to take it up his offer when the time is right.

You were still behind going into the last challenge, the dreaded dessert challenge. How was that one for you?

I wanted to give it my utmost effort and finish with no regrets. Once we started I felt like I was operating at my peak and in-flow. There was lots going on at once but everything felt like it was fitting together. I definitely had a distorted sense of time, my brain was going so fast it felt like time slowed down a bit. I also really appreciated the support from the contestants on the sidelines, far from distracting me they felt like a chorus of good vibes urging me on. 

When the scores were revealed at the end, what went through your mind?

Until the very last second I didn't know if I had got there and I think it left me stunned when I heard Josh announce the final score. I was in such a daze I have absolutely no idea what I said, I only hope I thanked Paula for being such a great competitor and the judges for all their support during the whole show! The very next thought was: "Oh my God, at last I get to see my family again." When I saw them I just crumbled and fell into their arms. At that point they hadn't heard the result so they were thinking "What have they done to our Aaron!"

What does winning MasterChef New Zealand 2013 mean to you personally?

It means the start of a new life.  I'm absolutely chuffed that food is going to be what I do from now on. Being on the show helped me realise that food is what I've always cared deeply about and if I hadn't won I would still be choosing to make food my career.  I'm delighted for Paula that she is making food her career now too - she's opening "Paula's Plate" in Nelson soon after the show finishes and a whole bunch of us are going down for the opening. I'm so glad for her!

Looking back at the MasterChef journey, you've had some real highs and you've been the one contestant who for the majority of the time was in the top performers - what was the best part of the MasterChef dream?

Hanging around with foodies for months was fantastic but realising that working with food was what I wanted to do most of all was the best thing. As my wife Ani said when I told her this part way through the show, "Whatever happens now you've won".

What does it feel like when you're in the bottom?
It's the absolute pits. I got to the bottom three and that was a terrible feeling of having let yourself down after so much hard work, bottom two looked utterly horrendous. 

What's in the pipeline for you now?

I'm getting stuck into my cookbook already.  I'm also working on some plans that I think are extremely exciting and will make the most of this fantastic opportunity for me and my family - and that's all I can really say at the moment.

What advice would you give to people looking to apply for MasterChef NZ Season 5 - the doubles challenge...

Dare to follow your dreams and believe in yourself. Make a detailed preparation plan and work really hard to execute it. Look after your state of mind very carefully. There will be a lot of stress and if you want to cook like you know you can, you need to manage it so you don't freak out when it counts. Personally I did yoga, ate well, got good sleep and exercised regularly to stay feeling good. I also spent a lot of time studying and cooking in the house as a lot of the stuff on MasterChef was way outside my usual experience. Lastly I'd say have a drink to wind down here and there but don't lose sight of why you're there.

What's your favourite moment of the whole experience and why?

Finally seeing my girls again at the end. It's great fun to be wined and dined, taken to amazing places and have amazing experiences but in the end what matters most is the people you love and who love you.

See what the runner up of MasterChef New Zealand 2013 makes of it all here.