While it’s early days in the sizzling competition and they’re still honing their culinary skills, there is one thing MasterChef New Zealand’s top 16 aren’t lacking – girl power!
Ten of the remaining cooks on the TV3 show are feisty, fearless females and when Woman’s Day gets them together for a fun photo shoot, the gregarious gals are vocal about why they dominate.
“Scientists say that a certain part of the female brain is thicker and it makes us better at multi-tasking,” smiles sales consultant Lily Brown, 27, who’s already proven she won’t mince her words – even in front of the show’s esteemed judges Josh Emett, Al Brown and Mark Wallbank. “Plus, females tend to spend more time cooking at home, so we get more experience,” adds the mother-of-one, whose love of cooking began as a small tot who’d sit in her granny’s lap making Chinese dumplings.
Like Lily, Hayley Bilton – whose must-have utensil is a lemon squeezer – was brought up in the kitchen and hopes her expert beating and blanching will make her the last lady standing. “I’d love to see a Kiwi gal take this out and I hope that gal is me!”
Speaking of hopes, the 31-year Gisborne woman has her fingers crossed her 15 new flatties – who all move into the MasterChef pad this week – are house trained. “I’ll be pretty easy-going until people don’t pick up after themselves – they’ll definitely see a different side of Hayley then.”
Fellow foodie Gemma Wynne-Lewis, 27, a food technologist from Hawke’s Bay, also anticipates tension in the home. “With nine other girls, I bet there’s a battle for mirror time.” She’s wasting no time worrying about looks, however. “I’m here to upskill myself and ultimately get an edge in my career.”
A strong desire to win is a goal shared by all the girls, but not at the expense of the firm friendships that have already been forged, says Whanganui lodge manager Jess Smith, 23.
“We are all strong and confident women. All the girls are extremely supportive. We all have each other’s backs – it’s like having nine sisters.”
But this is no ordinary family – just ask 19-year-old Sarah Gladding.
“I think once I get super-comfortable, everyone will see my crazy side, but as of now, I’m the youngest, quietest sister of this dysfunctional clan.”
Although admittedly more reserved than her competitors, that certainly doesn’t make the Auckland commerce student a cool contender in the kitchen. “Sometimes I’m calm and other times I’m a complete mad hatter,” reveals Sarah.
Bring it on!
Aspring Christchurch restaurateur Glenda Clark, 39, however, thrives on cooking chaos.
“I’m very relaxed under pressure. In fact, I love working to a deadline – it’s exhilarating.”
“And I’m as cool as a cucumber, 24/7,” adds Auckland event director Amy Calway, 34, who dismisses any comparisons to the renowned irate celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. So what gets the fun-loving single mum of two boys’ temperature rising? “If I was going to make a man go weak at the knees,” she says, “I’d make him breakfast in bed ... served naked!”
While amateur cook Jemima Cruickshank isn’t planning on getting her kit off in a hurry - and especially not on national TV – the beautiful blonde likes to look after her body.
“I’m all about balance,” explains the 24-year-old nurse. “I love sweet things, but I also love fruit and vegetables. And I love cooking with cream and butter – I just make sure to be active and exercise after.”
A MasterChef fan from way back, Merran Kenworthy, 47, recently changed up her diet and has relished the results. “I’ve gone grain and sugar-free,” tells the Auckland sales manager. “After years of feeling less than 100 percent, I’ve never felt better. I still slip in the odd treat, though.”
It’s an attitude flame-haired real estate agent Victoria Koszegi, 27, agrees with. “A moment on your lips is not forever on your hips. Life is too short to not enjoy food.”
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