I received an email from TVNZ requesting that I turn up at the Langham Hotel in Auckland to meet with all the contestants for a briefing prior to the commencement of the MasterChef NZ Season 4 auditions. I hastily read the note in a state of excitement and headed into town on the required day and slightly earlier than need be. When I came to the foyer I was surprised that there was not a large group of people milling about. Instead there was a lone blonde attractive girl sitting outside the restaurant, anxiously playing with her iphone. We caught each others gaze and swiftly realised that we were both in the wrong place for the same meeting. With a soon to be frequent mutual shake of heads and a giggle we made our way through the hotel until we found the bunch of other budding hopefuls for the MasterChef NZ Season 4 auditions. Kelly and I hung out for those 4 days waiting and watching as others cooked their way in or out of contention for the top 24 positions. I was never in any doubt that Kelly would get through. There was something about her. The way she dressed, the way she talked with calm authority about her dish – it may have been a gut feeling – but it proved to be correct – Kelly was through and as predicted she was all she appeared. Kelly’s dishes were extraordinary. When she cooked in the house she did so quietly. Whether producing a plate of finger food for us to snack on, or a full hearty breakfast – she did so with finesse and little fuss. She is capable and nails her presentation without even thinking. We watched her and tried desperately to emulate her, always grateful for her tips and advice, which she freely gave.
Kelly’s audition dish had a name that even scared me. Ballotine of chicken! And when I enquired how she cooked it, she explained she poached it in glad wrap to mirror a sous vide process. See, even the terminology is astounding. And the dish – well we saw it in the mansion and it was good – damn good.
Other dishes she produced were award winning. Her Assiette of Venison with parmesan baskets (just like Simon Gault’s), her orange kumara puree and her clever jus gel was testament to her ability to cook and to present – that plating was super pretty.
I had the pleasure of cooking alongside her when she produced her Berry Sponge. With a homemade jam and two different creams, it was perfectly feminine and appealing with the berry dust and lacy white chocolate to finish.
And another winning presentation dish were the accompaniments to the Turduckenqua. Her plate is always a picture. She sees in her mind so clearly how the plate should appear and renders it beautiful every time.
Kelly studied Interior Design and I think her ability to take in the whole picture is innate. From perfect plating, to assessing a room and rearranging furniture, she has a knack. Her dishes were stunning and we all know that on presentation alone, Kelly nailed it every time. I wish her all the best for her future following our often crazy journey together on MasterChef NZ