New Zealand Masterchef's first winner, Brett McGregor, left a career in education to pursue a passion. Now he appears on our television screens regularly doing what he loves most ... cooking. Colleen Thorpe asks Brett what's 'cooking' next for him.
HOW HAS WINNING MASTERCHEF NZ CHANGED YOUR LIFE?
Winning Masterchef was most certainly a life-changing event. It was the first time I had taken myself out of my comfort zone and tried something out of the ordinary.
I had always loved cooking and eating and grew up watching Ma and Pa entertain friends and family. The life-changing bit came through hard work and determination. I wanted to ensure I could continue to have a career in the food industry. I was hooked.
ARE YOU STOPPED IN THE SUPERMARKET BY FANS?
I am stopped all the time by people/foodies wanting to talk about the show, recipe ideas or just to say hello. I love it; I still find it hard to believe that this is actually happening.
WHAT IS YOUR FIRST MEMORY OF FOOD?
My first food memory is when my brother Scott and I decided to make hokey pokey. No one else was home and we did a terrible job that ended up with a nice melted circle in the lino floor in the kitchen. It may have started badly, but we both have got better with age.
WHO WAS THE MAJOR INFLUENCE IN YOUR LOVE OF COOKING?
This is easy - Ma. She is a fantastic cook. Mum has a superb knowledge of flavour profiles and world cuisines. This is simply because when Mum and Dad travelled they both loved to bring back new taste sensations for us to try. I reckon this is where I get my love of travel also. She has a little B&B; in Eltham, Taranaki - Stonewall House. Those who are lucky to stay are treated to a truly Masterchef experience.
WILL YOUR CHILDREN FOLLOW IN DAD'S FOOTSTEPS?
There is no doubt Jack loves his food. He started writing his own cookbook while I was doing mine and even invented a couple of desserts. But, to be honest, he loves to read, draw and write, so a career in food would not be his first love.
HOW ABOUT SCHOOL SANDWICHES ... DO YOU MAKE THEM AND ARE THEY GOURMET?
Jack is a true Kiwi kid. He does not like fancy sandwiches, but is a little worried about this Marmite shortage. We try to share that load in our house ... but Jack prefers Tracey making them.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE DISH?
I get asked this all the time ... and it changes constantly. But at the moment I am loving the curry. There is nothing better than a hot Thai curry. I love how complex in flavour they are for such a simple dish.
WHAT INGREDIENT COULD YOU NOT LIVE WITHOUT?
I must admit, life without garlic would be a little boring.
AT RESTAURANTS WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO EAT?
I love this question ... what I would usually do is order the dish I think I would like the least. I reckon this is a true test for any chef. To make people eat the things they dislike. On a recent trip to Sydney I was lucky enough to be treated out to Neil Perry's Rockpool. I read through the menu and decided on a tripe starter.
Let's just say that if I could cook tripe like that I would eat it every day. It was simply magical.
IN THE COOKING WORLD WHO DO YOU MOST ADMIRE?
Jonny Schwass from Christchurch. I love the way he uses every part of an animal. He really does justice to the food we consume. Jamie Oliver, because he is trying to change the way the world eats, one country at a time. Heston Blumenthal, simply because he has shown the world that you do not need to train under the best chef to become a superstar in the kitchen. He is self-taught and has become one of the world's best.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR BRETT McGREGOR?
My dream now is to ensure this continues. As the food and wine ambassador for Mondo Travel, I am involved in a pop-up restaurant called the Mondo Travel Tasting lounge. The Tasting Lounge is all about bringing some of the world's finest food destinations to Auckland for one night to raise money for Mobility Dogs New Zealand.
Countdown has been superb to me. I have learnt so much about recipe writing, shooting commercials, and I feel as though they have really helped shape who I have become.
I have said in the past that I would love to do a TV show. I have turned a couple down ... but when the time is right I know it will happen. The Food mag has been fantastic with guidance and ideas. I hope to continue writing as I love this part of the job. I could keep going but to be honest as long as I can still flip a burger now and then and continue learning about everything food, I will be happy ... follow your bliss.