Real Life

Nadia Lim’s secret ingredient

Masterchef winner Nadia Lim is a cooking pioneer with a secret ingredient - her husband Carlos.

When Nadia Lim won Masterchef New Zealand two years ago, her life changed forever. But the 27-year-old cook, dietitian, cookbook author, and now head chef at healthy meal ingredient delivery service My Food Bag, never had any doubts about her destiny.

“I had a vision of what I wanted to do by the time I was 12,” says Nadia, who creates all the recipes for My Food Bag, which she devised with her husband of 18 months, Carlos Bagrie (28), entrepreneur couple Cecilia and James Robinson, and trailblazing businesswoman Theresa Gattung, in March.

“I met Carlos when I was 19. From pretty much the first day, I told him I wanted to have a cooking programme called Food in the Nude and write a cookbook.”

While the TV programme is still in the “one day” pile, Nadia is a regular on several TV and radio shows, has just finished writing her second book, and is deeply passionate about healthy eating and getting families around a table.

“I think it’s so important that New Zealanders don’t lose the skill of cooking, and that people sit together,” she explains.

“I believe being connected with your food, really knowing what it’s about and what it can do, is part of healthy living.”

While many couples would recoil at the idea of spending all day with their partners, Nadia and Carlos literally live in each other’s pockets – and the newlyweds love it.

“It probably has something to do with the fact that we met each other so young,” muses Nadia. “We have grown up together, shared life experiences, and always bounced ideas off each other since we met. Sometimes people who meet later have already formed personality traits, so it’s harder to mould into each other’s way of thinking. Carlos and I are quite alike in a lot of ways.”

Indeed, the pair seem to have a perfect recipe for success. Their skills complement each other – she’s the foodie, he’s a business and marketing entrepreneur – and for them, this isn’t work.

And it has to be a labour of love. For the first few months, every recipe was tested in the small kitchen at their home in Whangaparoa, Gulf Harbour.

“Logistically it was a nightmare,” admits Nadia. “Our poor kitchen went through so much! We have three fridges, and literally had boxes of test food stacked up the walls. There was no room to move, and the gas bottle, that normally needed recharging every couple of months or so, had to be refilled every week.”

While living and working in the same space, with the same person, has its drawbacks for some people, for Nadia and Carlos, spending every day together just gives them more time to brainstorm.

“We do have to consciously go ‘off duty’ when we’re not working, but it’s often when we’re relaxing at home with a glass of wine that some of our best ideas happen, and out comes the whiteboard,” says Carlos.

“A lot of creative thinking happens by accident, so it’s kind of fun.”

While it would be all too easy for Nadia and Carlos to go the way of many food professionals, and add a few pounds to their waistlines, Nadia says the opposite is true.

“Actually, Carlos has lost quite a bit since he got to know me,” she smiles.

“That doesn’t count – I was on the university diet,” rallies Carlos.

But even with their healthy diets, you’re unlikely to see the pair pounding the treadmill or pushing weights.

“We are most definitely not gym people,” laughs Nadia. “We like playing squash, but any exercise has to be fun.”

While My Food Bag is definitely the couple’s baby at present, Nadia and Carlos both come from large families, and are keen to start their own.

“Definitely in the next few years, yes,” says Nadia.

“Family is so important to us – both our parents have been married for 33 years, and our families are very strong, very close knit. I’m keen to start a family – but I just hope I don’t get a fussy eater. It’s my biggest fear!”

Despite the long hours and all-consuming pressure of starting a new business, the couple are remarkably stress free.

“I’ve never had any problems sleeping, or worries that things aren’t going to work,” smiles Nadia.

“I’ve grown up a bit since I won Masterchef. I have learned to trust my own instincts, and to accept that I do have a talent for cooking. Life is about having a bunch of experiences and making the most of them. I just want to give everything a go. With the right attitude, anything’s possible.”

What shall I have for dinner?

Not everyone is like Nadia and can always find an answer to the age-old question, ‘What shall I make for dinner?’ Here are her top tips to making the decision process a bit easier.

● Start by thinking about your plate. You need half a plate of veges or salad, a quarter of a plate of carbohydrates, and a quarter of a plate of protein.

● Always use seasonal fruit and veges. They are tastier, easy to find, and a lot cheaper.

● Make it simple. Start with a nice piece of steak with wedges and salad, then jazz it up a bit – marinade the steak in harissa paste, toss some avocados and nuts through the salad.

● Use fresh herbs. A bit of basil or thyme can really “wake up” a simple dish.

● Have a minimum of three colours on the plate. It’s a pretty good rule!

Photos: Jae Frew • hair & make-up: Jules Armishaw • main pic: nadia’s blue dress from augustine. Nadia top from glassons,

Carlos shirt from Three Wise Men. Nadia top from glassons, jeans from Country road, necklace from Diva. Carlos shirt from Just Jeans.

Related stories