How Ed Sheeran nearly derailed Masterchef winners Karena and Kasey Bird’s new show

The sisters have gone from strength to strength since winning MasterChef in 2014. But they're not immune to getting a little starstruck.

From humble small-town cooks to bonafide TV stars, Karena and Kasey Bird have certainly gone through a transformation over the last four years.

But just because they’re stars in their own right these days, it doesn’t mean they don’t get star-struck themselves – whether it’s a chance meeting with Ed Sheeran in a Peruvian airport, or giving a speech in front of Kiwi newsreaders and actors.

The foodie sisters, whose show Karena and Kasey’s Kitchen Diplomacy is currently midway through its second season on TVNZ 1, still shake their heads in disbelief at the road they’ve taken since winning MasterChef in 2014 – two cookbooks, a hit show and a plethora of awards, including a gong for Best Lifestyle Show at last year’s New Zealand Television Awards.

“Fancy, right?” laughs Karena (29).

“We weren’t expecting to win anything! Kasey had taken her shoes off and I had my jacket on backwards when they announced our names, so we were scrambling up to the stage in a panic.”

“We just thought because we were sitting against the wall, and so far away from the aisle, that we couldn’t win,” Kasey (27) adds, shaking her head.

“We were also very underdressed – everyone else was wearing ballgowns and getting their hair and make-up done, and we were getting dressed 20 minutes before we had to be there! We know for this year though!”

Being among television’s best and brightest was a bit of a shock for the down-to-earth sisters.

“It’s so funny, we were back at home afterwards and we were watching all these people we met on the television, and I’m thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I did an acceptance speech in front of that actress, or that newsreader!” Karena exclaims.

“I don’t know, we live in Maketu… We don’t feel like we’re in that world.”

However, an encounter with another celebrity – Ed Sheeran, no less – almost spelled the end to the filming of the second season of their hit show, when a slightly over-excited Karena didn’t pay attention to where she was stashing her passport while ogling the singer.

“We were in this little airport in Cusco, Peru, in a little café.

I look over and I’m like, ‘Oi, Kasey, that’s Ed Sheeran!'” Karena tells.

“He was a metre away from us at another table. I didn’t say hi or anything. He was just there on holiday, I think. So I didn’t want to bother him. We just jumped on the plane. But then when we landed in another part of Peru, I realised I must have got a bit distracted by Ed, because I’d left my passport on the floor of the café.”

After a mad scramble by their Cusco-based contact, Karena’s passport was eventually found and sent to Lima, much to the relief of the crew. However, Kasey says her sister made up for the debacle soon after in Fiji.

“She redeemed herself by saving someone’s life,” Kasey tells.

“We were staying in this really nice hotel in Fiji, and we’d dolled up and even put heels on and everything because we were going to the fine-dining restaurant.”

“We’re just about to walk in, and this guy runs out panicking, and a woman’s in tears,” adds Karena.

“She’s yelling, ‘Help me, help me!’ I realise he’s choking, so just kind of run up in my heels, bend him over and start slapping his back, and he coughs up whatever he was choking on. And then they bought us a drink.”

As hair-raising as filming the second season of the show turned out to be, both Karena and Kasey are hoping to push ahead with a third, with countries such as Greece and Mexico still unticked on their travel bucket-list – “I know, stressful problems, poor us!” Karena chuckles.

But after two months off in Maketu, where they chilled out, spent time with their whanau and actually cooked for themselves, the sisters’ next big plan is pop-up restaurants around the country, starting next month in Rotorua.

“We’re really excited about it,” nods Kasey, while Karena adds, “It’s going to be quite mysterious, people will show up and it’ll be an audio-visual, food, fun thing.”

And as for another cookbook?

“We definitely will, but not any time soon,” says Karena.

“We self-publish, so they’re a massive job. The next book will be coming…”

“When we feel like it!” laughs Kasey.

Related stories