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MasterChef New Zealand


Your winner for 2011...Nadia

MasterChef New Zealand on TVNZ Ondemand

We catch up with Nadia, who's taken the title of MasterChef New Zealand for 2011 - and get her take on the Grand Final as well as what's next.

Have you enjoyed it?
Yeah, an amazing journey really - when I think back to the beginning and when I was queueing up for the interviews, I didn't even think I'd get through that process so to win the final is just surreal really. When I won, I think I was quite dumbfounded, I was just like "What's just happened?" Awesome feeling - but because of how the final went, I was a bit disappointed with how Jax's tower went because we'd both done such a great job and it was such a great ending and we had about five or ten seconds of that feeling. Before we went into the macaroon tower challenge, I was ahead but I remember thinking I could lose this even though I'm ahead. You know - dessert, tower, recipe - not really my strengths as we already know&So I knew I had to really go for it. Jax is really talented and an awesome all rounder. Throughout the challenge, we were encouraging each other on because it was the final test and both of us were sharing tips which was cool. We were both so exhausted - before we went into the challenges; neither of us had any sleep so we ended up doing a bit of exercise to wake ourselves up. The challenge was 3 and a half hours long and so mentally draining but when we both managed to get beautiful towers up and it was so exciting to have the end arrive. Both towers looked great and as I hugged Jax to celebrate the fact it was all over and suddenly about five seconds later you heard this "Plop" noise and one fell off; another few seconds later, another and then more came off faster and faster - it was a nightmare and the kind of thing you'd see on TV. I couldn't figure out what was going on and I was dumbfounded.

Did that make it harder when they announced you'd won?
Yeah I was really gutted because it was bittersweet. I was disappointed because for that five seconds, we both ended on such a high note and it was really cool. And then, yeah. I was disappointed with that and going up for the judging I kind of knew and to win like that wasn't the nicest way to win.

After the constant pressure of the challenges week in and week out, how did it feel to hear that you'd won?
I remember feeling absolutely exhausted and this has been an incredible journey but you know what, I'd do it all again in a second - even though I'm this tired and I've been through this much. I was actually kind of sad that it has come to an end as well.
What they show on TV is I reckon about a tenth of the pressure and intensity of the situation - and the tears were so annoying! I'm really good under pressure but it meant a lot to me and yeah, that's where the tears came in. Friends of mine who've been watching have been saying "Nadz, you're like a different person. In the ten or twelve years we've known you, we haven't seen you cry that much in real life as you do on TV!" I was living off the adrenaline of the series the whole time I was part of the experience. It's weird when people leave the house as well - everything keeps changing and you don't know what will happen next; those combinations plus your environment changing regularly&.you know cooking is something which should be done really leisurely and cooking under that stress can be quite hard.

Has living with the secret of how far you got been difficult to keep?
It hasn't been too bad. I went back to a normal life and would get quite a lot of questions in the beginning but once people realised they couldn't get anything out of me, they stopped asking! People on the street are great saying "I know you can't say but I just want to wish you good luck" - it's lovely. Generally people aren't that bad.

What was the lowest point of the competition for you?
I think for me there were couple. I really, really didn't like the kids' birthday party one. I thought it was an unfair challenge and it was very unfair that Fiona went home for that challenge and not great for her; to be there in the bottom two, neither of us deserved to be in the bottom two as our team had worked so well together and I think the boys did well - but so did our team. We put all our efforts into it, everyone got on well and gelled and to have that as a result&I felt guilty when Fiona went home so that was a low point. Sure, it is a competition but it should be fair too. Another low point was Melbourne; the Maze Challenge was the type of a challenge that I'd really thrive on you know with it being an invention test and Josh was looking for creativity - and I really tried for that as I didn't just want to cook a piece of fish and I think I tried to do too much and that was my downfall. My tendency to over complicate things was me wanting to show that I could think outside the box; one of the biggest learning curves was just "Keep it simple." A lot of the time I was trying to do stuff outside of the square and do something experimental and show something that hadn't been done before and show something interesting. I was aiming to do fancy restuaranty type things whereas I later found out that I could have just done something simple. But that was a dilemma for me because it's MasterChef - aren't you supposed to be showing something outside of the square and I was sometimes confused by this. Occasionally they'd say I'd done something too complex and to others, they'd say this wasn't enough so it was tough finding that fine line and balance.

What was the highpoint?
The cookbook challenge was one of my favourites because you got to show what kind of food you like to cook. All the invention tests I liked too; the modern Kiwi cuisine from episode 3 that was great, my type of challenge - the pasta challenge too; I was absolutely stoked when we got the Invention challenge in the final and I picked two things that I'd never really worked with before. Pork belly I've cooked once before and it was a disaster but I just wanted to show the judges that I could cook it - I wanted to take a risk and the fact I managed to do it and get a 10, well that's just awesome. Simon wants to now serve that in his restaurant Euro - I'll be holding Simon upto that too.

It's the culmination of a dream for you too isn't it? We hear you have a little book that you've been compiling recipes in since you were a young child?
Since I was 13, I had a little journal that I started writing recipes and ideas in. I look back at now and it's so wacky - I'd be looking at things like syrup mixed with rosemary and funny things like that! I always just like experimenting with different flavours. I was kind of inspired by Jamie Oliver when I saw the Naked Chef and I thought I'd love to do what he's doing - he's awesome. I've always wanted to write a cookbook and my mum's always believed that I would. I've written a lot of recipe ideas over the years and now I have to work better on formulating the recipes now. My book is definitely not a diet book - it's as far away from that as possible because I don't believe in diet food as I'm very against it! Eat Smarter is about teaching people, not just what they should be eating but how to eat. I'm a very firm believer in using the real stuff - don't use light or low fat stuff so use the real stuff which tastes great - just be smarter in how you incorporate it into your recipes. My food is very much that it serves two purposes - nourishment and enjoyment and they have to be in equal balance.

Are you ready for what's next?
I don't know what's next - but what I've learnt from doing this show is that if I put my mind to something I really can do it and cope with the pressure. I will always keep my fingers in the dietician world especially diabetes which I'm most passionate about. It's such a massive problem and I've realised how what you can eat will affect that and can impact on treating it. I've got a few projects lined up for that - I'm also going to work part time with Simon Gault at Euro which will be awesome. I loved the Euro challenge and the staff aren't as scary as they looked on camera. Simon's fantastic really too. The judges are so onto it and are the three wise men. Everything they said was spot on and supportive. I don't know why people think they're so critical - all three of them are fantastic and their honesty helped. After every challenge, I actually went back to the house and wrote the judges' comments down and that really helped. The night before the final, I re-read all their comments and it all made sense; it was like a light bulb going off.

Do you think you had a bumpy ride getting to the final?
I started off really well, and then, this isn't an excuse, I got tired. My roommate was a really bad snorer too so&(laughing) I'd just be lying there from that and the stress of course. I got exhausted after the first few challenges. Whether that had an effect, I don't know but when your confidence gets knocked back too, it's quite hard to recover from that. I just had a bad run of challenges in a row. It was a bit bumpy and I had a few lows - it was up and down a little. When I just got through the kids' birthday challenge, it just made me realise how much I really really wanted it.

What advice do you have for future applicants?
For anyone who has a real love and passion for cooking, just go for it. On a technical side, just keep it simple and taste, taste, taste&.

The kitchen utensil I look like the most is&
An egg timer with a face on it. That's the closest thing I'd look like I guess.

Do you see a long term future for your MasterChef dream?
Definitely. From now on, I'll always be in the food industry. I've kind of known that since I was young that my career could only involve food my biggest passion. I've got a few things coming up - I'm guest speaker at the Diabetes Gala dinner on May 21st raising funds for diabetes awareness. I'd love to do more of those; I'm working with the Heart Foundation, working with Simon Gault, working on the cookbook - I'd love to start some cooking classes. The possibilities are endless!