Details about the reality television show MasterChef NZ are under tighter wraps than a sous vide steak. Restaurant critic Kim Knight attempts to lift the lid on the latest production.
Take three top-secret judges, add one spectacular (but undisclosed) location and mix with an unspecified number of contestants. Voila: MasterChef NZ!
It's six years between local versions of the reality television cooking competition and production details are more mysterious than a mystery box challenge.
A spokesperson for the Discovery production could not tell the Herald on Sunday where the show would be filmed, when it would be screened or even the number of contestants who would compete.
Any clues? The three judges would be "world class". The location was "stunning" and "a first for MasterChef" and "hundreds" of people had applied for the show. Aotearoa has an abundance of beautiful backdrops, but with its film and foodie reputation, we're picking Queenstown for the win. As for the judges? That's anybody's guess, so here are a few of ours . . .
Judith Collins: Politicians are accustomed to hot water and constant stirring but Crusher Collins has added cred - she once owned a restaurant with her husband. Has the former leader of the opposition taken the knives from her back and put them to use in the kitchen?
Any of the Black Caps: Nobody is better prepared for a high-performance lunch break.
Peter Gordon: Who better than the Godfather of Fusion to pass judgment on fermented lobster ice cream and wasabi wafers et al? Gordon's new Auckland restaurant literally incorporates a cooking school AND a kitchen garden - in these financially straitened times, we'd definitely hire a judge who comes with a built-in set.
Nadia Lim: The country's single most successful reality television show contestant now lives the rural idyll in central Otago growing organic salad greens and her own personal brand. The former MasterChef NZ winner "inspires" the My Food Bag meal kits and produces a quarterly eponymous lifestyle journal. She is the pupil who has surely become the MasterChef judge. We can't wait for her grated carrot challenge.
Jordan Rondel aka @Thecaker: Nobody bakes a better camera angle.
Vaughan Mabee: Amisfield Restaurant's executive chef is an actual award-winning chef, taking out the top title at Cuisine magazine's most recent awards. Last week, his restaurant served a dish that consisted of approximately 4 million individual whitebait layered over a whitebait mousseline that encased a piece of butterfish - and if that doesn't scream "pressure test" then pull up a chair and take a look at his red seaweed pepperoni with plant-based back fat.
Albert Cho aka @Eatlitfood: Look, even the enfant terrible of gastronomic Instagram needs the occasional family friendly outlet.
Ben Bayly: Kina pappardelle with Stewart Island pāua at Arrowtown's Aosta; Hāpuka with kohlrabi fondant and summer nettle at Auckland's Ahi - the chef with restaurant menus in both islands is quite well-placed to judge Aotearoa on a plate.
Chris Parker: The funnyman of the moment won Celebrity Treasure Island on a diet of beans and plain rice. Imagine what he might achieve under the influence of risotto.
"Linda" (aka Chris Parker): Two judges for the price of one?
Monique Fiso: The Hiakai restaurant chef and owner once made Gordon Ramsay climb a tree, hunt a goat and dive for pāua - and he didn't even shout back. It's time to give this calm, cool champion of Māori cuisine her own show.
Rewi Spraggon aka The Hāngī Master: During lockdown, he produced 1000 meals a week for distribution to food banks and the homeless. Wrangling amateur cooks out of the frying pan and into the hāngī fire would be a comparative doddle.
Rebecca Gibney: Currently honing her skills as a Celebrity MasterChef contestant across the ditch, the beloved actor could use a bit more time at home to remind herself how to actually make a Southland Cheese Roll.
Ray McVinnie: It's a travesty his raised eyebrow doesn't already have its own show.
Yvonne Lorkin: More bubbly than, well, a bubbly, the effervescent wine expert once insured her tastebuds for $1m. Plus she knows more flavour words than a food dictionary.
Sid Sahrawat: A multiple award-winning chef and restaurant owner, currently starring at the Aotearoa New Zealand Pavilion at the Expo in Dubai, but yet to be granted the golden ticket of television celebrity chef status? It's a scandal akin to pineapple on a pizza.
Lucy Corry aka The Kitchenmaid: The Wellington-based author of one of this summer's most joyous cookbooks once won an aioli making competition. In France.
Ben Shewry: First, they came for our pavlova . . . Shewry is arguably more famous in Australia than New Zealand, but the Attica chef and owner is Waitara born and bred.
Sam Low: Some people spend their time in managed isolation sleeping. Others rinse the syrup off their breakfast pears and cut them into cubes, before reshaping mascarpone into quenelles and cutting decorative windows out of a waffle. It's a badly kept secret that cooking show judges always eat the contestant's food cold - no problem for this food and beverage creative who spent 20 minutes every MIQ mealtime making his plate pretty.
Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and/or Matt Preston: Going cheap?