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‘MasterChef saved my marriage’

Why contestant Ana Schwarz believes TV's hit show will change her life.

Competing on MasterChef New Zealand was no small decision for Ana Schwarz. Not only has the mum of three left behind her relaxed lifestyle on Auckland’s Waiheke Island to compete in the heated, high-stress environment of the show, but she’s also left behind her young baby.

But while the 40-year-old accepts the pressure of the show might drive her over the edge, she reckons the risk of leaving her husband Geoff and kids Mia (8), Jai (7) and Sienna (now 16 months) will be worth it if she wins the competition – which she believes might be the key to changing her life.

“It’s been eight years for me as a mum now and it’s my time to pursue something for myself,” says Ana, who has been passionate about cooking since a young age.

“I think I’d lost my mojo and I felt like I didn’t know myself. “Geoff and I went through a bit of a rocky time. But when Sienna was born there was no stopping me – it almost felt like something was going to break if I didn’t change something. MasterChef’s pretty much happened off the back of that.

“Geoff’s incredibly supportive – he’s my rock and he’s made it all possible. He has been magic.” Realising her dream wasn’t easy for Ana. She knew she would be putting Geoff, who is busy running his own café business, under a lot of pressure while she’s away. Fortunately Ana’s mother, friends and a part-time nanny are helping with the kids.

“When I first got through on the show, Geoff was freaking out. I knew the kids would be fine because they’re amazing at coping. But I was worried about Geoff.” After many years of a hectic life working in the film industry in Auckland, Ana met Geoff in 2000 and the pair moved to Waiheke for a lifestyle change four years later.

Although she appears calm on the show, Ana says she’s coming alive under the critical eye of judges Simon Gault, Ray McVinnie and Josh Emmett. “I think one time Josh said, ‘You look very serious’ and I said, ‘That’s because I am.’ I’ve put everything on the line,” says Ana, who plans to make cooking her life once the show’s over.

“I suppose it’s something I really want to fight for. I know I can learn a lot, even if I’m only there for two or three weeks. I know it will be a fantastic experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life.” Ana says while she’s on the show she’s deliberately keeping her family at the back of her mind so she can stay focused.

“I have a job to do. I have to know my family is being cared for and I’ve let that go.”

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