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MasterChef New Zealand


This year's winner is....

Masterchef New Zealand on TV ONE and TVNZ Ondemand

The winner of the 2012 MasterChef New Zealand competition has been revealed.

After 17 weeks of gruelling challenges, Aucklander Chelsea Winter is this year's MasterChef New Zealand champion . She beat fellow contestant Ana Schwarz by five points in the final to claim the victory. The final score was 77 to 72.

We caught up with Chelsea to discuss her thoughts on being the third MasterChef New Zealand winner and what went through her mind when she heard her name called out.

Congratulations on getting the win - how does it feel?
Thank you! I don't really know how to describe it - I am still trying to get my head around it. I won it.

How on earth did I manage that? Am I dreaming? It seems like only yesterday I was filling in the MasterChef NZ application form and wondering if would ever hear back. And now - good lord! This is simply incredible.

You must have been relieved for everyone to know - who got the closest to finding out that you'd won?
It's been a long hard slog carrying around this massive secret for so long. I'm so used to not talking about it that it seems weird being able to openly discuss it with everyone!

But it's also a fantastic feeling being able to finally share the wonderful experience! As we got down to the final few, people I know started to perk up and pay attention and they started saying "Hey - top three? I'm starting to think you could win this." They never got a reply though!

It was incredibly close until the final challenge - what was the pressure of the final like?
It was about as appallingly stressful as you might imagine. For the taste test, my mouth was drier than the Gobi desert, so chewing and swallowing were almost impossible. It felt like I was eating sawdust (no offence Ray) let alone tasting 20 individual ingredients! It's actually the time before the challenges that really gets you. At least when I was cooking, I was in the zone. Waiting to hear what they had up their sleeves for us was by far the worst feeling. You had no idea what to prepare for.

What went through your mind when you heard the final result?
It was kind of like a near death experience in the sense that my whole MasterChef life flashed before my eyes. All those long months of intense challenges, once-in-a lifetime experiences, laughter, tears, all the good friends that I said goodbye to along the way, the intense emotions, the pinhead burger, the challenge wins, the epic failures - it was all there. Having all the other contestants there cheering was the cherry on top - it was so good to see them all again. Having Ana standing next to me as well was awesome, she was the person I wanted to hug.

What were you thinking about during the final challenges?
I can't honestly remember. I think it was something along the lines of "For God's sake Chelsea, you've got this far, don't be an egg and stuff it up and go home now!"

How did you feel for Ana?
It was a bittersweet feeling - I was ecstatic to have won, but I also knew that it meant my friend Ana had missed out on something she wanted so very badly too. She worked her butt off to get as far as she did. She sacrificed a lot and she was very strong.  I guess that's just the nature of the competition, but I really felt awful in that respect.

Turning to the competition, which was your favourite challenge - and which was your most hated?
I loved the Hawke's Bay challenge. Even though my plating was a bit "enthusiastic" (how I wish I could turn back time), I loved the food I presented. Cooking on BBQs at the sublime venue with that unreal view, in the sun - it doesn't get much better than that! The two I disliked the most would probably be the market challenge in Singapore - I felt unhinged the whole time and I wasn't usually like that. The burger cake challenge was a real stinker as well. I wouldn't wish that upon anyone.

How did you cope with the pressure of constant challenges? Was there ever one were you thought "Nope, that's it - I can't do that?"
The challenges were great; yes, most of them were ridiculously hard, but I knew what I signed up for when I applied. We all did. It was never going to be a dance around the maypole - it's a reality TV cooking show and we were there to work, not tinker around the kitchen. I never thought I couldn't do a challenge, but I wondered if I'd manage to finish a few of them.

Looking back on the competition, you've been a solid performer in the kitchen. What did you learn about yourself in the experience?
I learned that the more you cook, the quicker you learn, and the better you cook. I learned that I can cope pretty well under intense pressure and still come out smiling at the other end. Well, apart from the couple of times I cried! Those emotions running amok - if only people knew how intense it was.

You're the third MasterChef NZ winner - what do you hope to achieve with the title?
I'm going to get out there and help to show my fellow Kiwis how to cook and eat well every day. I'll put in all the hard work and deliver fantastic recipes and meal ideas for everyone to enjoy. I don't claim to be the world's greatest chef, but I'm a bloody good amateur cook and my food tastes great and my recipes are accessible.

How would you describe your MasterChef NZ experience? And what would you say to people thinking of applying for the next season?
It's the experience of a lifetime, and without a doubt the best thing I've ever done. I would do it all again if I was allowed! If food is your thing and you want to change your life, do it - but go into it expecting to be challenged, exhausted, and pushed to your limits. MasterChef is not for the faint hearted.  ( You can apply for the next series of MasterChef NZ here. )

What's next for you? How is the cookbook coming along?
The cookbook is taking over my every waking moment just about - I'm so excited. There's a lot of work to be done so I'm head down/tail up cooking, writing and being inspired at the moment.

Just finally, what are you cooking tonight?
I have some chicken thighs defrosting at home, and I have a hankering for a spicy Thai curry, so it will probably be that! Great for a cold wintery night.  

Did Ana believe Chelsea earned the title fair and square? Read Ana's thoughts on the MasterChef final and find out what she has got planned next.