For the past six months Greg Bruce has been challenging a chef to make him lunch in less than 10 minutes. He sums up the experience.

Six months ago, tired of arriving at work every day with the same lame sandwich of pesto, ham, spinach leaves and a few drops of Kaitaia Fire, I set out with the ambitious project of convincing the city's leading chefs to replace it one day a week with a concoction of their choosing.

"What should I make?" they would sometimes ask me nervously, when we were in the early stages of correspondence, and I would laugh inwardly at their apparent belief that my knowledge of cooking might be extensive enough for me to offer a suggestion.

The conceit that they had to make their dish within 10 minutes was inspired by the misleadingly-titled cookbook Jamie's 15 Minute Meals, which I had been given as a gift a few years ago and from which I had cooked a few meals, completing none of them in under an hour.

The first thing I learned from the chefs was that cooking something in 10 minutes, even if you're a professional, is basically impossible. Fifty per cent of the first four dishes in the series were not cooked at all, and the central ingredient of one of the others was white Tip Top brand toast.

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Another chef served me a dish that included a sauce that had been made over three days, and still another spent more than his full allocation of time just fanning the flames of the open fire in which he was going to warm up some food.

I was asked more than once by chefs who had exceeded their time limit whether I could just pretend that they hadn't. Some chefs appeared to either completely forget about the time limit, or to completely disregard it. It was a carnival of excuses, workarounds, corner-cutting and obfuscation. I wasn't particularly worried; I found out that, by and large, you get what you wait for.

I ate in restaurants, homes and test kitchens. I learned that chefs in Auckland, by and large, are not rich, although the very best, and those who are on television, are mostly doing all right for themselves. In his kitchen, Sid Sahrawat has a wine cabinet where each shelf can be set to a different temperature. Ben Bayly's kitchen is the size of an average rugby clubroom, and offers uninterrupted views of the Waitakeres.

The meals were almost uniformly good, but the best chefs understood that eating is not just about food.

Bayly, for instance, exploited his knowledge that I am a noted family man by inviting his wife and two pre-schoolers to join us for a heartwarming meal in his spectacular dining room; Sahrawat served me my favourite wine, then refilled it, as an accompaniment to the roughly $100/kg karitane crayfish and his warm, charming company; Che Barrington served me two lunches; Kasey and Karena Bird spent the best part of an hour telling me how much they liked my writing.

I left each one of those lunches - and some of the others - feeling not just nourished and sated, but good about myself and about life. That is the real power of food.

There is now a little more ham and a little less delight in my weekly lunch. That's okay. What matters is not that the good times come to an end, but that they happen at all.

The full list + recipes and videos

Make My Lunch: Chelsea Winter takes the 10-minute challenge (+recipes)
Make My Lunch: Che Barrington makes lunch in under 10 minutes (+recipes)
Make My Lunch: Phil Clark makes lunch in under 10 minutes (+recipes)
Make My Lunch: Kasey and Karena make lunch in under 10 minutes (+recipes)
Make My Lunch: Sachie Nomura makes lunch in under 10 minutes (+recipes)
Make My Lunch: Burger Burger's Adrian Chilton makes lunch in 10 minutes (+recipes)
Make My Lunch: Nick Honeyman takes the 10-minute challenge
Make My Lunch: Pip Wylie takes the 10-minute challenge
Make My Lunch: Luca Villari makes lunch in 10 minutes (+recipes)
Make My Lunch: Megan May makes lunch in ten minutes (+recipes)
Make My Lunch: Nick Honeyman takes the 10-minute challenge
Make My Lunch: Dariush Lolaiy takes the 10-minute challenge
Make my lunch: Nic Watt takes the 10-minute challenge
Make My Lunch: Carl Koppenhagen makes lunch in 10 minutes (+recipes)
Make My Lunch: David Bach makes lunch in 10 minutes (+recipes)
Make My Lunch: Tom Williamson makes lunch in 10 minutes (+recipes)
Make My Lunch: Kyle Street attempts to make lunch in under 10 minutes
Make My Lunch: Sid Sahrawat takes the 10-minute challenge (+recipe)
Make My Lunch: Ed Verner takes the 10-minute challenge (+recipe)
Make My Lunch: Mikey Newlands takes the 10-minute challenge (+recipe)
Make My Lunch: Kate Fay of Cibo takes the 10-minute challenge (+recipe)
Make My Lunch: Ben Bayly takes the 10-minute challenge (+recipe)