Mild-mannered and soft-spoken, it takes a lot to get the lovely Nadia Lim riled up. But the Kiwi chef admits she reached boiling point during filming for her first solo TV show, and it's all thanks to Auckland's typically temperamental weather.
"We were cooking on a boat in the Viaduct Harbour – it looked like an idyllic setting," the 28-year-old recalls. "But it was so windy, the flame on the stove kept blowing out and every time I got my lines perfect, of course, the flame would go out. So I had to race down, cook it in the galley, then come up and fake it on the boat. But the cooker downstairs was too hot and the salmon burnt! It was the most frustrating dish."
Wild weather was just one of the many obstacles the My Food Bag co-founder had to overcome during the four-month filming period for New Zealand with Nadia Lim, which saw her travelling the length of the country in search of local produce.
During the summer season, Nadia scoured the regions, met with local growers and devised dishes based on their unique meats, fruits and vegetables.
With a skeleton crew of just five, the "on-the-fly" process was very different to the studio setting in which Nadia was familiar with, as the 2011 winner of MasterChef New Zealand.
"I had to do it all – the food prep, styling and clean-up," she explains. "Generally, we worked 12-hour days. It was challenging, but I learnt a lot."
The Food TV series marks Nadia's first solo show, despite being a regular face on New Zealand TV screens, but there were no first-time jitters for the chef. It's always been her passion to inspire fellow Kiwi cooks and she's grateful to be able to share her secrets on the small screen.
"Since I was 12 years old, my dream has always been to be in the food industry to promote and get people excited about healthy eating. I love it when I get to talk to people about food and to see it gets them thinking about a new way of eating."
That said, Nadia reveals she hasn't forgotten what it feels like to be presented before the nation, having gone through the gruelling process of MasterChef. In her current role on My Kitchen Rules New Zealand's Tasting Panel, alongside top chefs Sean Connolly, Robert Oliver and MasterChef US contestant Grace Ramirez, she knows exactly what the contestants are going through.
"It takes me back to when I was beyond nervous," she exclaims. "The pressure is so intense and the tension they create during filming is terrifying. It's easy to break down."
But there have been no Simon Cowell moments on set, with Nadia keeping her judging style "fair and objective – I'm analytical and logical", nor have there been any disagreements between the judges.
"They have all been so much fun," Nadia enthuses. "Robert lives up the road and we catch up all the time, Grace is this loud, crazy Latina girl – and Sean is at the top of his game."
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