With a-record breaking number of applicants, Three has announced the 27 up-and-coming cooking talents looking to take the title of 'MasterChef New Zealand' for 2022.
Taking place in Queenstown, 16 of the finalists will be heading into the MasterChef NZ kitchen based at the stunning Vingard winery, judged by Nadia Lim, Vaughan Mabee and Michael P Dearth.
Meet the contestants that have been named so far, as featured on Newshub:
A 22-year old student from Otago, Alice believes in having your cake and eating it too. Her confidence lies in her ability to whip up an indulgent dessert - from working at House of Chocolate to decorating cakes and platting up exquisite dessert pieces - she has done it all.
A 22-year old public servant from Wellington, Amberley comes to the competition with confidence and determination a double that she hopes will play to her advantage. Amberley has grown up around food and hospitality and says it is well and truly in her bones. She believes cooking is more than skill, it's about the art, and she is ready to show the judges and New Zealand what she has.
A 21-year old sales executive from Auckland, Dylan is a born and bred Aucklander who calls cooking his 'sport'. He has watched every season of Masterchef and always imagined himself on the show. He's looking to upskill in the world of seafood, but what he lacks here he makes up for with his renowned stuffed chicken breast wrapped in prosciutto.
A 23-year old sales agricultural science student from Christchurch and the oldest of five children, Eve says food is always how she remembers her family coming together to celebrate and show their love. There were no recipes in their big household and she credits her Mum with teaching her how to cook, using just what was on hand. Luckily for all of Eve’s flatmates, she is the resident cook and makes all the meals in the house.
As a 20-year old student from Auckland, even though Farzana is the youngest in the competition, her kitchen skills should not be underestimated. She has been cooking large and exquisite meals for her family since age 10 And feels confident her mix of Afhgani and Kiwi culture will help her stand out. Farzana hopes she can bring Afgani food and culture into the mainstream.
A 45-year old insurance underwriter from Auckland, Kavi describes herself as fun, empathetic and loving, but her cooking is quite the contrast - her speciality being 'calm, fiery and confrontational' curries. Kavi credits her resilience and motivation to having immigrated to New Zealand from South Africa fresh out of university with just two suitcases and one small quality pot.
A 39-year old sales rep from Wellington and long-time foodie, Lance believes his strengths lie in using modern techniques. But as soon as the pressure heats up he has been known to create a bit of a mess in the kitchen. He's had to grow, learn and evolve post a hard divorce and is grateful for the strength it's given him. He knows his tenacity will help him in the competition.
A 41-year old visual effects artist from Wellington, Michele was raised in Italy but has called Aotearoa home for the past five years. He has eaten his way all around the world but loves to come back to his Italian roots and believes his Italian palette will differentiate him in the competition. It's no surprise that his signature dish is an Italian gnocchi verdi with grana padano fondue and crispy Speck.
A 29-year old videographer from Hamilton, Naomi (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Whānau ā Apanui, Te Arawa) is an avid storyteller who uses either film or food as her medium. She is a strong advocate for personal healing and indigenous storytelling and has found peace and comfort in cooking to overcome trauma. She hopes to stand out in the competition by fusing traditional Māori kai and Asian cuisine into modern day dishes.
A 27-year-old disability support facilitator from Hamiton, Alex is big on cooking with no expectations or rules. She doesn't follow recipes, and is passionate about foraging and using resources already around us - wild plants, native plants, "weeds" that most people usually look past. She is keen to showcase her Māori heritage through using indigenous ingredients in a unique way.
A 26-year old software product manager from Christchurch with a Japanese mother and a Kiwi father, Hana was brought up in New Zealand but spent considerable time in Japan. She is passionate about sustainability in agriculture and wants to create dishes that serve as a form of activism for positive social and environmental change. She would love to own a farm and live off the land, while also providing food for her community.
A a 32-year old mum and student from Dunedin, Jess is a straight-A student and devoted mum who is ready to give her culinary dream another shot. She was set to compete on MasterChef NZ in 2016, before finding out she was pregnant, which saw her change course and focus on her family. Six years later, now with two kids, Jess wants to teach her children to always pursue their passions, even when plans change, because you never know when you'll get a second chance.
A 39-year old full-time-mum from Auckland, Leony comes to the competition with an array of food culture - having grown up in Indonesia, she has mastered flavours from all around the world. She even notes that no matter how much food comes out of the kitchen, the place is always spotless at the end of her preparing a meal. Leony is determined to succeed and be a voice for mums with dreams!
A 39-year old sales manager from Auckland, Nick grew up on a farm just north of Auckland, where he was always spoiled for choice of fresh produce. While he would often cook casually for family and friends, it was during the level four lockdown that sparked an ah-ha moment of wanting to take it to the next level. Nick's dream would be to own a food truck that can park up at large events around the country.
A 40-year old server from the Hawke's Bay/Ngati Kahungunu, cooking and a love of food runs deep in Rachael's whānau. She wants to follow the same path as her ancestors, and bring back knowledge to the community as her grandparents on both sides did - there was always a hot pot of kai in the kitchen with pudding to follow. Food has always been her family's love language, and it's no surprise Rachael has taken to MasterChef NZ to take that love to the next level.
A 43-year-old IT director from Auckland originally hailing from South Africa, Rudi is an IT director and a self-described master of exquisitely presented cuisine with a variety of flavour profiles. He immigrated to New Zealand 16 years ago, and he's now a husband, father of two and competing on one of his favourite shows. He would describe his cooking style as "redefined comfort food", believing his ability to experiment will be his strength in the competition.
A 30-year old coffee training consultant from Auckland, Sam has a refined style that blends traditional and modern cuisines. Growing up in a traditional Chinese family, he struggled to find his identity as a queer person of colour but since discovering his love of food he has a renewed sense of self. No stranger to a bit of fame, he has had a successful coffee career and holds the titles - NZ barista champion and is a two-time NZ latte art champion.
A 40-year old stay-at-home-mum from Auckland, baking is in Sieumuoi's blood. She was born in a refugee camp, and grew up in and out of her parents' French Cambodian bakeries. Her family was rescued by the NZ Red Cross, and they settled in New Zealand in the hope of a better life. She describes herself as kind and bubbly, and even though she might be short in size, she has enough resilience to last a lifetime.
A 51-year-old daycare owner from Hamilton, Ali has been living in Hamilton for the past 14 years, but is originally from Karachi, Pakistan. His speciality is authentic Pakistani fusion food and he is looking forward to bringing this style of food to the show. Ali has travelled the globe many times and is inspired by recreating dishes he has tried on his travels and the numerous restaurants he has dined at.
A 24-year-old product development technologist from Auckland, Annie is bubbly, confident and a MasterChef super fan! When she isn't bingeing seasons from around the globe, she is in the kitchen experimenting with big, different and exciting new flavours. She enjoys improvising and working with what she has, but admits her weakness is time management in the kitchen, however, with an impressive food science degree under her belt, she is determined to not let that slow her down.
A 27-year-old company director from Auckland with a successful gin company under his belt, Elliot is keen to come back to his first love of cooking. His passion for food really came to life during lockdown when he started posting cooking videos online. His followers loved it and he got great joy seeing others cooking his dishes at home and hopes MasterChef NZ can help him take that to the next level.
A 44-year-old teacher from Otago, Felina's love of food is no secret. She'll go hunting, foraging or diving for the right ingredients. She and her husband set up a lifestyle block in Otago two years ago and they operate a gate-to-plate philosophy wherever possible. Whether it's making feta from her sheep's milk or diving for seafood she is passionate about sustainable food practices and utilising local and seasonal produce.
A 43-year-old Theatre Manager from Hamilton, Jason 'Fresh Fusion' Wade comes to the competition from Hamilton where he is a general manager. Jason's love for food hasn't always been an easy ride, but since losing 50kg after his gastric bypass surgery, he has developed a healthier relationship with food and loves how it brings people together. He used to skip school to make his friends food and is very expressive in the kitchen - you can read everything on his face - good or bad!
A 34-year-old nurse from Auckland, Jose's love for food started as a child in the Philippines where his parents ran a restaurant. While he went on to train as a nurse to pursue a better life, he never forgot his love of food and in particular desserts... Jose is ALL about desserts and his food dream would be to open a dessert boutique. He would love to be New Zealand's Reynold Poernomo.
A 46-year-old plumber from Dunedin, Rik Moss is your typical South Island Kiwi bloke. Quiet and unassuming - that is until you ask him about venison. Good with his hands, Rik is a plumber, but after 30 years in his profession he is ready to make cooking a full-time move and would love to own a restaurant that educates patrons on where the food comes from. He is a business owner, and credits starting his own business as something that has built resilience within, and will help him with criticism from the judges.
A 41-year-old high school teacher from Auckland, Vicky was encouraged to enter the competition by her husband, who is also her high school sweetheart. The ultimate hunter gatherer, she is at her most joyous when fishing or fossicking in her backyard for kai. She has a boat for easy access to the water, and credits her Nana in Switzerland for teaching her all about natural resources and the farm-to-table movement.
A 48-year-old general manager in construction from Queenstown, Winston may work in construction, but his flair for craftsmanship is truly on display in the kitchen. His competitive spirit and love for food has prepared him well for MasterChef NZ, but not without the help of his favourite cookbook, Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Cookery by Anne Willan. Winston dreams of one day getting invited to one of Heston Blumenthal's extraordinary, themed dinners.
MasterChef New Zealand premieres Sunday 29 May on Three and ThreeNow.