He’s a fiercely proud Australian, but even celebrity chef and guest MasterChef judge Matt Moran can’t hide his love of Kiwi food.
Over lunch with the Weekly at MasterChef judge Josh Emett’s Auckland restaurant Ostro – where he makes this apprehensive staff writer try her very first oyster (it wasn’t bad for something that looks like fungus) – the Sydney-based chef admits he’s a massive fan of New Zealand cuisine.
“You guys have an amazing country here,” he says, looking down at his plate of Bluff oysters and Wakanui scotch fillet. “It’s green, it’s beautiful and the food is blimmin’ good.”
It’s a big admission from a man who, rather cheekily, he admits, brought lamb from his own Australian farm for this year’s MasterChef contestants to cook in the grand final.
“It was a bit like selling ice to an Eskimo, wasn’t it?” he grins.
“But what’s life without the traditional Aussie/Kiwi rivalry?
“We think our lamb’s better, you think yours is – but you go all around the world and everyone says both Australian and New Zealand lamb is exceptional.”
Matt (45) is currently on the road filming a second season of his show Paddock to Plate, but he says the trip across the Tasman to help judge MasterChef was definitely worth it.
“The girls who won, Karena and Kasey, they’re pretty incredible,” he says.
Since opening his first restaurant in 1991, Matt, who is married to criminal lawyer and novelist Sarah Hopkins, with whom he has two children, Harry and Amelia, hasn’t really stopped to take a breath.
“It’s been full on since then,” he smiles. “I don’t sleep much, and I’m away from the family a lot, like when I leave Auckland I’ll be straight off to Perth for a month. It‘s tough at times, but it’s what I love to do.”
Despite his hectic schedule, Matt says another trip to New Zealand could be on the cards.
“I’ll bring some more lamb!” he laughs.