Papamoa's MasterChef contestant Hayley Bilton has made it through to the final three of the competition.
Miss Bilton said the television show had been a "massive rollercoaster" and it kept getting better.
She had relished the opportunity to learn from famous chefs and said she had been a bit "star struck" during some moments of the show.
Since Richard Harris was eliminated from the show last week, Miss Bilton and the other three remaining contestants, Tim Read, Leo Fernandez and Glenda Clark, had been filmed in Dubai, cooking Middle Eastern dishes. "Dubai is amazing. How many people get to go to Dubai with four of your close friends?"
Miss Bilton said the teams had just completed a challenge which involved cooking in 45C heat. She and Glenda Clark lost the challenge and faced elimination last night.
"I'll have to step my game up going into the semifinals," she said before last night's show. "I'd hate to be going back on the plane by myself."
Miss Bilton had hoped she would get a chance to get back into her comfort zone and cook some Kiwi food for last night's challenge, although she realised this was not likely to happen in Dubai.
Visiting Dubai was Miss Bilton's favourite part of the show, followed closely by meeting previous winner Nadia Lim.
"She's a major inspiration. She cooks and has the same philosophies as I do. Meeting her was awesome."
She had also enjoyed having access to the freshest produce, especially seafood.
After leaving the show, Miss Bilton said she would love to do festivals and shows with some of her fellow contestants. She said there were people she would remain friends with for a long time.
Miss Bilton wanted to start her own cooking show with celebrity cook-offs and teaching people how to buy smart.
If that failed, Miss Bilton hoped to start a cooking school at Papamoa.
Former MasterChef winner Kasey Bird of Maketu said that during her time on the show with sister Karena they had received a lot of support from the Bay of Plenty and thought it would be the same for Miss Bilton. Kasey remembered the pressure at this stage of the competition.
"It's a pretty full-on process but when you get there it gets pretty exciting."
Kasey said she and Karena loved watching MasterChef but she had been overseas so had missed most of this season.