Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

Knives sharpened for cooks' battle

Tension and tantrums guaranteed as two cut-throat kitchen competitions arrive on TV screens on same night

The Great Food Race features head chefs Lorenzo (left) and Leonardo (right) Bresolin and Maitre d' Zoe Marshall.
The Great Food Race features head chefs Lorenzo (left) and Leonardo (right) Bresolin and Maitre d' Zoe Marshall.

Reality cooking contests are always a hit with viewers. Tomorrow night the knives are out as two shows go head to head.

Previous ratings winner MasterChef New Zealand returns for a fifth season to TV One with twice the spice: pairing wannabe chefs - from fathers and sons to flatmates, fiancees and friends - to create teams of two in the fight for the coveted title. The show has started high profile careers, such as season two winner Nadia Lim, who launched My Food Bag last year.

Hitting back half an hour earlier on TV3 is competitor MediaWorks' new programme, The Great Food Race.

Hosted by Australian Zoe Marshall - wife of new Blues rugby team recruit Benji Marshall - the competition features home-cooking enthusiasts who love to entertain.

Created by the makers of the home makeover show The Block, the format has eight teams of two racing around the country from their own homes to pop-up kitchens and a mystery overseas destination where they must impress with their cooking and hosting skills.

MediaWorks publicist Megan Stuart said it would be a pressure-cooker competition the likes of which had never been seen before.

Wellington restaurateur brothers Lorenzo and Leonardo Bresolin will judge the racing cooks, and the winner will be revealed in a live final.

Ms Stuart said the show, a mash-up of other formats including The Great Race and The Block, took contestants out of their comfort zone with exciting results.

"We really want the viewers to come along on this journey with us to discover this new format and what it means.

"There's a lot of twists and turns to keep everyone on their toes.

"I can say that the overseas location creates a bit of a culture shock and definitely pushes it to the limit of their imagination to make sure they can succeed in the challenges."

Ms Stuart said the fact the format had never been seen before would draw viewers in.

"It's new, it's exciting. If you're wanting a bit of a change and you're someone who wants to be inspired - you're a home cook who loves the opportunity to get amongst it yourself - then this is going to get you ..."

On TV One, MasterChef New Zealand has already built up a loyal following, and this year the new format is expected to deliver more kitchen drama.

MasterChef judges Simon Gault, Josh Emett and Ray McVinnie said they were expecting big things from this season's double acts and were predicting teamwork and tantrums.

TVNZ commissioner Tony Manson said the new line-up was a way to give viewers more content, more tension, and more drama in a format they love.

"While some duos will thrive with the challenge of working together, others will have friendships tested. Be prepared for the knives to come out, with breakups and relationships left in tatters."

This year, the contestants will get around - from Auckland's Avondale markets to the Duke of Marlborough Hotel in Russell to new Queenstown restaurant Madame Woo and overseas to the tropical hot-spots of Samoa and Bali.

Mr Manson said what set MasterChef apart from other reality food shows was that it offered a genuine platform for contestants to enter the food industry, launch careers and earn the respect of industry peers.

Past contestants have become food professionals, including season one winner Brett McGregor.

- NZ Herald

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