Kirsty Wynn

Kirsty Wynn is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Chef contest comes to the boil

More than half a million viewers expected to watch tonight's showdown between pairs of cooks.

Karena (left) and Kasey Bird.
Karena (left) and Kasey Bird.

The MasterChef champagne corks will be popping tonight - but will they be loudest in Arrowtown or Maketu?

More than half a million viewers are expected to tune in for tonight's final of the hit cooking show, to see whether the hot favourite Maketu sisters Kasey and Karena Bird will take the trophy.

They are competing against Queenstown friends Bec Stanley and Jaimie Stodler.

Family and friends of the pair are gathering at opposite ends of the country to find out too - the contestants have been sworn to secrecy since filming finished late last year.

"We haven't been able to tell anyone the outcome - not even mum and dad," Karena Bird told the Herald on Sunday this week.

"Everyone at home in Maketu has been really good about it though and no one has put pressure on us to say who won."

The extended Bird whanau will gather at the family home to watch the final.

Stanley and Stodler will party at the local bowling club.

The sisters are neighbours and live right across from their parents in the small North Island town famous for its pies.

"We cook dinner together every night and watch the show together but this time there will probably be around 70 people there," Kasey Bird said.

Since filming finished the Bird sisters have been working part time at the Elizabeth Cafe and Larder in Tauranga and the Arrowtown mums are enjoying a return to family life.

While away filming, Stanley missed out on all three of her sons' birthdays, her husband's 40th and her son Willie's first day of school.

All of the women said the support from their local communities had been amazing.

"I have people coming in all the time wanting a photo and a woman popped in today and dropped off a bottle of champagne," said Stodler, who owns Queenstown cake shop Cup and Cake.

Ratings for the reality TV show continue to be strong in its fifth season, the first time duos have competed.

Last Sunday's show attracted a season-high audience of 558,700 aged over 5.

Sisters have it sewn up

They have been the viewer favourites since the start, and Auckland's real "master chef" agrees - Kasey and Karena Bird will win tonight's MasterChef final.

Sid Sahrawat, named this week as Metro's chef of the year, thinks the Maketu sisters have what it takes to take the TV title.

"They are very natural cooks, and they're creative as well. They've got a great approach," said the owner of Sidart, an upmarket Ponsonby restaurant.

Sahrawat says the popular pair have an impressive technical knowledge given their inexperience, and their passion for food shows.

"And they never seem to get in a flap in the kitchen.

"The couples thing can be tricky - too many cooks spoil the broth. But these two seem to have managed it."

Playing favourites

Kasey Bird, 23

Favourite judge: "That's impossible, it's like choosing your favourite child - they are all so different."

Favourite contestant: "My sister Karena, we hang out all day everyday and I couldn't have done it without her."

Favourite food: "I'm not loyal to anything. I love all food."

Failsafe Sunday meal: "Thai beef salad - it's easy and everyone loves it."

Last meal? "A big eye fillet steak with bearnaise sauce and a huge bowl of mashed potato.

Karena Bird, 25

Favourite judge: "Ray McVinnie, he was cool."

Favourite contestant: "Well I have to say Kasey now don't I?"

Favourite food: "I love carbs - noodles, bread, potatoes, I could eat mashed potato on toast!"

Failsafe Sunday meal: "A slow cooked pork roast you can put in the oven and forget about."

Last meal? "Boil-up with white bread and butter, doughboys, and potatoes."

Bec Stanley, 39

Favourite judge: "Josh Emett. I love his food and sophisticated flavours and he has a great sense of humour."

Favourite contestant: "Jack Tan. He was hilarious and he made me noodles for breakfast every morning."

Favourite food: "Anything Asian"

Failsafe Sunday meal: "Vietnamese poached chicken - it takes 10 minutes and my kids love it."

Last meal? "Bluff oysters, crayfish and beef tartar, sushimi, pork and prawn dumplings and Cloudy Bay clams."

Jaimie Stodler, 35

Favourite judge: "I loved being in the realm of all three."

Favourite contestant: "Verena and Tanisha were awesome."

Favourite food: "Homemade pasta and oysters."

Failsafe Sunday meal: "A lamb roast boned and rolled and stuffed with loads of rosemary and garlic."

Last meal? "Oysters, beef carpaccio, steak and crayfish - and escargot."

- Herald on Sunday

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