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Meet Josh Emett’s divine mum

Love brings the famous foodie home

They say behind every great man is a great woman, but in the case of celebrity chef Josh Emett, he is lucky enough to have two.

Of course, there’s his beautiful wife Helen, the mother of his two boisterous boys, but there’s also his darling mum Raewyn, who has watched in wonder as her middle child has grown from a boy obsessed with baking to a man running some of the country’s best restaurants.

She’s certainly proud of his success, but is she surprised? Not at all. “Josh was a talented cook from when he was young and I knew he’d be good at whatever he decided to do,” the mother-of-three tells Woman’s Day when we stop by her Te Awamutu home.

Raewyn says Josh’s talents as a cook were evident from a young age.

“His dad encouraged all the kids to follow their dreams and to be the best at whatever they did. Of course I’m very proud of what he and all my children have achieved. But we’re not the kind of family who talk about our successes – we just get out there and do things.”

It’s a sentiment that rings true as the duo recount the details of Josh’s childhood in Ngahinapouri, a tiny farming settlement deep in the Waikato. As they reminisce about fishing, hunting, baking and big dinner parties with family friends, it’s easy to see where MasterChef New Zealand judge Josh, 42, discovered his love of food.

“Food was a very important part of our household,” tells Raewyn. “We always made an effort to sit around the table together at the end of the day. I remember Josh being in the kitchen with me from a very young age, probably about 18 months old. We did quite a bit of baking together when he was young and he loved that.”

Raewyn, 67, recalls that as a teenager, Josh even whipped up a cake for Kiwi actor Ben Barrington’s grandparents, who lived next door, for their wedding anniversary.

“It was beautiful – it had a big heart on it!” she says proudly. Laughing, Josh blushes as he claims to have forgotten that particular instance. “Thanks, Mum, that makes me sound like quite the catch,” he jokes.

“I think I might have blocked that out!”

From crafting sweet treats in his mum’s country kitchen to the bright lights of some of the world’s biggest cities, the silver fox’s foodie career went from strength to strength when he took off overseas in his 20s.

It wasn’t long before all three Emett siblings ended up in the Northern Hemisphere, which proved the perfect setting for a handful of family holidays. “Roger and I went on some wonderful trips with the children,” Raewyn recalls, smiling at the thought of her late husband.

Picking up where his mum leaves off, Josh adds, “We met in France one year and spent a lot of time near Bordeaux. A couple of years after that,we did Italy and basically just ate the whole time.”

These are memories that Josh and his family treasure. Roger tragically passed away in April 2011, after a short battle with melanoma, and his absence still sits heavily with the Emett clan. “It is hard,” Josh sighs.

“In some ways, a loss like that brings everyone closer together, but in other ways, it fragments things because you lose a core part of your family.

“Everyone had a hard few years in their own ways. It definitely makes you thankful for what you have, though. I love coming down to spend time with Mum and I try to bring the kids down as often as I can – they love being at Nana’s.”

With his popular restaurant chain Madam Woo opening in Hamilton this year, the chef has enjoyed spending more quality time with his mum.

Trips to Te Awamutu have become significantly easier for Josh this year since his popular restaurant chain Madam Woo opened in Hamilton. Now able to spend more quality time with his mum and treat her to a dinner date every so often, the dad-of-two couldn’t be happier to be closer to home.

“It is nice to be back. All my childhood memories are based around Te Awamutu and Hamilton. I still have friends down here and it’s cool having people from my childhood pop into the restaurant.”

Perhaps the only person happier than Josh about the recent development is Raewyn, who now sees her Auckland-based son several times a month. “It’s just lovely to have him back. It’s been a really long and hard few years since Roger died, and it hasn’t been easy, so to be seeing more of Josh these days is really special. He has a bed again here now and I love that.”

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