MasterChef NZ debuts new competition format in fifth season

Josh Emett, acclaimed chef and one of three judges on MasterChef New Zealand, tells Imagine TV Network about the show's brand new format and divulges his favorite food memories.

Words by Imagine TV Network

When the new season of MasterChef New Zealand premieres, it will debut the world's first MasterChef duos. Now in its fifth season, the reality cooking competition will have pairs of amateur cooks work together in a team as they cook their way to win the title and score an exclusive MasterChef cookbook deal, in addition to other prizes.

Image credit: Lifetime

There is a massive difference when the show shifted to having two members in each team, Josh Emett shares, adding that he sees the new format boosting the contestants' confidence. "They start to question things a little bit more. They don't feel so alone. The cooking improves, I think, in some respects," he says.

Although there are practical benefits for the contestants to have another person in the team, he remarks that the challenge is also for them to agree on which of their ideas to use. He also shares that the new format made it harder for the judges to know what makes the contestants tick. "With one contestant, you can sort of get into their head... understand them a little bit more," he says. With two contestants, however, it becomes harder for them to do that.

He explains that the challenges are devised in collaboration with the producers and the other judges judges and what might seem like a straightforward challenge is often anything but. A lot of considerations went into the planning of the challenges and the amount of time to allocate for each challenge is also something they discuss regularly, he adds.

The challenges have to be simple and require a very basic skill but at the same time, it has to has a real sense of difficulty. Some of the dishes the contestants have to cook are very simple but he says that under pressure, they often miss the mark.

Image credit: Lifetime

In one of the challenges, the contestants were asked replicate two black forest cakes after tasting them. When asked for his opinion on what sort of dish will be the most difficult to replicate, Emett uses the laksa dish as an example.

Most people who might not have tasted the spicy noodle soup dish might get the basic flavors right but without understanding where the dish is from, the ingredients used in that country and the flavor profile of the food in that region, it will be a weak imitation. These type of dishes, where the required knowledge extends beyond the dish itself, are the most difficult.

The Michelin-starred chef has worked with many renowned chefs like Marcus Wareing and Gordon Ramsay and was responsible for opening maze and maze Grill in Melbourne's Crown Metropol Hotel in 2010. Growing up in Waikato region of New Zealand and returning to his home country after spending a decade overseas, he says, "I think when you talk about food in New Zealand, it really comes back not to the food but to the produce."

The two most difficult meats to cook, he remarks, are rabbit and venison. You cannot treat rabbit like chicken meat and venison is not like beef, he says. When asked to name his favorite meat, he spends a few moments thinking before saying duck is his favorite.

There is always a duck dish on the menu of his restaurant Rātā and says he recommends people to try duck dishes in France, Mainland China and New Zealand. "If you put duck on the menu in New Zealand, it [will be] one of the most popular dishes by large," he asserts.

Having traveled the world, he recalls two of his best and most distinct food memories. The first is the dover sole dish at Scott's in the Mayfair area of London and the second is tissue roti with sweetened condensed milk in Malaysia.

He tasted the paper-thin crispy roti canai when he traveled from Penang to Kuala Lumpur with one of his chef last year and says food-wise, it was the best trip he has ever done.

MasterChef New Zealand (Season 5) premieres weekdays at 7pm and 11pm on Lifetime (StarHub TV Channel 514) from 23 February 2015.

 

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