A taste for the open road

By Liz Dobson

MasterChef judge Josh Emett's passion isn't tied to the kitchen

BMW NZ ambassador and MasterChef judge Josh Emett says his X3 has "plenty of grunt".Photo / Ted Baghurst
BMW NZ ambassador and MasterChef judge Josh Emett says his X3 has "plenty of grunt".Photo / Ted Baghurst

While most Kiwis spend their OE taking in the sights of Europe, for MasterChef judge Josh Emett his road trip in a VW Golf GTi was taking in some of the best restaurants of the continent.

The seven-week, 8000km journey in 2005 started from his London base and took in France, Spain, Italy and Austria with a tent for accommodation and the 1998 hatchback as transport.

As a two Michelin star chef, Emett is as passionate about cars as he is about food. So it's fitting that, as BMW NZ's latest ambassador, he's hosting special classes at Taste of Auckland at Victoria Park from tomorrow through to Sunday.

As part of his role, Emett drives a BMW X3 3-litre diesel at his Queenstown base where he runs his new Rata restaurant, and a M3 cabriolet when in Auckland while filming the fourth season of TVOne's MasterChef or working on his range of pre-prepared meals.

But Emett was already a BMW convert before becoming an ambassador in August.

While working in New York for Gordon Ramsay, Emett owned a M3, and when he moved to Melbourne to establishing Ramsay's Maze restaurant, he bought a 1 Series for himself and wife Helen to drive.

Now, as a dad of two pre-schooler sons, the mid-size SUV X3 suits Emett's New Zealand lifestyle.

"It's an amazing vehicle and it has plenty of grunt. The first thing Helen said to me when she drove it was, 'Oh my God, I'm in love with this car'.

"As it's a diesel it has plenty of torque, plus it's really nippy. It's also easy to get the boys in and out of their carseats."

He's driven it "all around Queenstown" plus trips to Dunedin and around the central Otago region.

While in Auckland he's been able to extend his skills in the M3 thanks to lessons at Hampton Downs with BMW NZ's driving instructor Mike Eady.

"I learnt how to take corners and where the apex are, when to accelerate, when to brake, what the car can do. It helped me become a better driver," he said.

Emett first learned to drive growing up on a Waikato farm, thanks to the family tractor and motorbikes, before earning his license on his 15th birthday.

His first car was a Mazda 323 that he owned for three years "and drove it into ground and only changed the tyres once".

With a move to Auckland to work at the famous Cin Cin restaurant in the early 1990s came a change in cars - a burgundy Toyota Corolla GT.

"I drove that car everywhere."

In winter, Emett and pals would finish their shift at Cin Cin and drive in the Corolla to the central North Island ski fields.But unlike the Mazda, the Corolla received some attention from Emett.

"Once I won $600 on the dogs so I used the money to stick a new engine in the car," he said.

Emett sold the Corolla to finance his career move to London. For the next five years he was car-less, although his CV gained such impressive workplaces as Claridges restaurant and the Savoy Grill.

When he did become a car owner again at age 26, his wheels were a 1989 Mercedes-Benz 300ce - although the relationship was short-lived as it was stolen from outside his London home.

The replacement was the OE-mobile, the 1988 Golf, which he drove "all over Europe" with a friend.

"It was a massive trip. For seven weeks we ate and ate ... the only thing that was certain was we knew that on such days we had to be at certain restaurants," he said.

These days, Emett's itinerary is more defined. The restaurant he drives to in the X3 is his own, Rata, although with a cookbook and a few other projects on the boil, he'll be clocking up more miles next year.

* We have two tickets for one session of Taste of Auckland to give away. Email us at driven@apn.co.nz with the subject line Josh Emett and tell us what BMW he drives in Queenstown.

- NZ Herald

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