Local foodie friends Natasha Whitewood and Hera Waitai are one of six pairs to make the final cut of My Kitchen Rules New Zealand - season 3. The workmtes have a five year friendship largely established and definitely strengthened through their mutual passion for food, and to into the TVNZ cooking competition under the motto "too blessed to be stressed". Indulge asked the pair some questions.
How long have you been friends and how did you meet?
We have known each other for five to six years and would say we are more like whanau than friends!
We met at our current workplace - Te Wananga o Aotearoa.
Tell me about your families - do you have partners/kids?
Hera: I have two teenage children, a son called Whakaruru who is 15 and a daughter Ria-Maieke who is 13. Along with my fiancé of 16 years, these three are my whanau that keep me grounded. Between my five siblings, my parents have 24 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren!
Tash: I currently don't have a partner or children. I'm from a big whanau up north and the east coast. My sister is a local fashion designer (Adrienne Whitewood) and our family has instilled a love travel, food and fashion in us both.
What did your family think about you entering MKR NZ?
Hera: They were all very proud but not surprised! Anything and everything I have done in my life my family have and will always be my No 1 supporters!
Tash: There were two opinions - about time and why not! My whanau are very supportive of Tash and I. They've tried to get me to enter MKR NZ for years now.
What do you for work in Rotorua?
Hera: We are both marketing co-ordinators at Te Wananga o Aotearoa. Tash specialises in marketing and I specialise in events. We are based in Rotorua but work across Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Gisborne areas.
How would describe your cooking style?
Hera: Our style would be raw, rustic and real. I am a home cook not a chef, so everything I cook is always made with aroha.
Tash: I love to get creative with flavour combos and lately that has been Maori fusion cooking.
What is your favourite meal to cook?
Hera: Fried or baked fish or anything with kaimoana.
Tash: Risotto! Loads of flavour combinations but kumara, lemon, spinach and parmesan is definitely my favourite.
What is your favourite meal / cuisine to eat?
Hera: My favourite cuisine hands down has to be Maori/Kiwi kai. My favourite meal would be my mum's roast pork with all the trimmings or my sister's seafood platters.
Tash: I have three! I love kaimoana and rewena with real butter, Raro BBQ with creamed mushrooms, raw fish and taro. My final favourite would have to be a garam masala chicken Indian curry with chapati.
What will your instant restaurant say about your personality?
Hera: Our instant restaurant will show the unity of Tash and myself. It will have aspects of all things that are extremely important to us. It will display our love for our culture and showcase who we are as strong, proud Maori women.
When the other teams walk through the door to our whare they will feel a warm, inviting environment and most importantly full of aroha.
Tash: It will show we are strong, independent Maori wahine.
What do you hope to get out of the My Kitchen Rules NZ experience?
Hera: I hope I get the opportunity to learn from the other contestants as well as the judges. I also hope the judges really get to see what we offer in terms of our amazing local produce such as kaimoana within Aotearoa.
Tash: I'm just going to roll, enjoy the journey and see what happens!
What will you find challenging in the kitchen?
Hera: Not knowing how to use certain equipment in the kitchen will be daunting for us both!
What is your main strength in the kitchen?
Hera: My strengths in the kitchen would be the ability to multitask, stay calm under pressure and communicate with Tash!
Tash: I would have to say creation of flavours, food knowledge and presentation skills.
What do you think girls from the Bay/Rotorua have an edge over the competition?
Hera: I think all contestants have an edge one way or another! What we will bring into the competition is honesty, uniqueness, Maoritanga, whanaungatanga and respect for others.
Tash: Being the only Maori contestants from a town rich in culture and manakitanga speaks volumes. Plus we have pretty unique personalities as well!
What would you like to do after the show? Do you want to continue cooking?
Hera: Cooking is a passion for me and I would love to teach children how to cook. In society today most parents have to work and I am finding children are being left home at a young age to fend for themselves and siblings, so to be able teach tamariki these life skills would be amazing. I would also love to eat all the top seafood restaurants on offer around the world, learning and adapting my food knowledge as I go! The dream would be to open my own restaurant specialising in kaimoana.
Tash: After the show I'd like to continue my Facebook food page @tashzkai where I write about food and create recipes. In time I would love to develop food products. I'll always cook as everyone has to eat!
My Kitchen Rules is on Mondays, 8pm, on TVNZ 2.