Real Life

Kiwi chef’s sweet romance: ‘I baked my way to wedded bliss!’

Snack Masters NZ star Maxine reveals her rocky road to finding true love
Robert Trathen

She’d never set foot in France, but at the tender age of 19, just one week after completing her culinary course in Wellington, Snack Masters NZ chef Maxine Scheckter was off on a solo adventure worthy of Emily In Paris after gaining a place in the famous French pastry school Ferrandi L’ecole Gastronomie.

Using all her savings from working in her parents’ deli since she was eight, Maxine, now 26, recalls, “Paris is a glamorous place and an amazingly beautiful place to live – more so if you have more funds than I had at the time! To save money, I walked everywhere and pretty much just ate fresh baguettes, which were cheap but delicious.”

Maxine and husband Ben.

Maxine quickly bonded with her classmates as they explored Paris together. “One of my favourite memories is the Christmas markets,” she grins. “We bought ridiculous giant earmuffs and ran down the Champs-Élysées eating huge sticks of cotton candyfloss bigger than our heads.”

But the French capital wasn’t all fun and games. “A man I’d thought was my neighbour kicked my door down and robbed my apartment,” remembers Maxine. “I couldn’t go back in for three days while the police took fingerprints.

“My classmates and I had left that day’s baking at my place while we went out, but the burglar didn’t take any of it, so there were 10 amazing chocolate tarts just sitting there and none of us could eat them. If you’re going to break in, at least steal a chocolate tart!”

At pastry school, Maxine’s creations received rave reviews and soon the South African-born Kiwi landed a coveted internship at a top Parisian patisserie, but despite her early success, Maxine also recalls some epic failures.

“I’d been at my internship for two weeks when I accidentally knocked over someone’s chocolate sculpture, which smashed in front of everyone,” she tells. “It was for Valentine’s Day, which was the following day, and I thought I was gonna get fired on the spot!

“We stayed until 10 o’clock that night remaking it and put it in the window, but when we came in the next day, the lights had completely melted it! At that point, my boss was like, ‘It’s just not meant to be.'”

Ooh la la! Living her patisserie dream in Paris.

Fortunately, after that disaster, Maxine’s pastry career flourished and she moved to London, working in some of the world’s top kitchens, like Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck, named Best Restaurant in the World several years in a row.

“That felt like the peak of my career, but I was struggling mentally, dealing with anxiety, depression and chronic migraines,” admits Maxine, who decided to return home to Wellington in 2018.

That same year, she opened her pastry school Sugar Flour and met her future husband, web developer Ben McFetridge, soon afterwards. Despite not being involved in the food industry, Ben, 29, proved very useful during Maxine’s stint on Snack Masters, where she had to recreate some iconic Kiwi lollies – liquorice allsorts.

Maxine and Ben tying the knot at his parents’ place in Taupō.

“I’m not sure if he makes the final cut on the show, but he was there helping me out,” smiles Maxine.

“I’d only ever tried to make raspberry liquorice before and it was a complete disaster, so I was quite stressed!”

Despite her nerves, Snack Masters was a dream come true for Maxine. “The British version is my favourite show ever, so when I found out I was being considered for the Kiwi series, I actually screamed in

a supermarket car park!”

And the news she’d been chosen for the TVNZ 2 show came at a welcome time.

Maxine (middle row, far right) aged 19 in Paris.

“Dad had just had heart surgery and he was in a coma,” she shares. “We were all so worried and wanted to give him some good news, so I told him, ‘Dad, they picked me – you’ve got to wake up so you can watch me!’ It was a hopeful thing to have at that rough time.”

Luckily, Maxine’s father has since recovered and as well as getting to watch his daughter live out her TV dream on Snack Masters this week, he was also there on the 10th of April to see his beloved daughter tie the knot with Ben in an intimate wedding ceremony. Maxine, of course, took care of the food!

“I’m a bit of a control freak – I didn’t want anyone else to touch it,” laughs the bride, who served up a Middle Eastern/ Jewish feast, including beef brisket, hummus and a giant spread of miniature desserts, as a nod to her family’s heritage.

As for the cake? “It was a passionfruit chiffon cake, super-simple and light,” says Maxine. “No icing, just a passionfruit glaze – perfect, like the day itself!”

Snack Masters NZ is on TVNZ 2, 7.30pm every Wednesday.

Catch Maxine on Snack Masters NZ at 7.30pm Wednesday on TVNZ 2.

Related stories