With a star line-up of judges, a new set, filming in beautiful Queenstown and a bumper crop of contestants, Three's new look MasterChef NZ looks set to deliver.
The new-look trio of judges is led by MasterChef Season 2 winner, celebrity cook and entrepreneur Nadia Lim, who is joined by renowned three-hatted chef Vaughan Mabee, most famous for being executive chef of Queenstown favourite Amisfield, and multi award-winning restaurateur Michael Dearth of Auckland's The Grove and Baduzzi.
Since filming began at the beginning of autumn, the three judges have been having a blast in the tourism mecca, both on set and off.
Twenty-seven contestants started the competition at Walter Peak, cooking off to win one of the 16 coveted aprons and make it to the new bespoke designed MasterChef kitchen at Vingard, which was previously called Mt Soho vineyard, near Arrowtown.
"We loved every contestant, they all seemed like genuinely good people. It made it blimmin' hard to eliminate them," 36-year-old Lim tells Spy.
"There was a real mix of contestants who cooked from their hearts, others who were more calculated. Some played the game of playing it safe, others were more akin to taking risks.
"Shooting the show in Queenstown was epic and the MasterChef kitchen is located rurally, in the rugged Central Otago countryside. It would have to have been the most beautiful MasterChef location in the world. We were surrounded by the mountains. I reckon, as a contestant, it would have fuelled a lot of inspiration."
Of course, the area has new meaning for Lim now - she moved with her husband and family from Auckland to Queenstown more than two years ago, setting up an ethically friendly 480ha sheep and crop farm on the outskirts of Arrowtown.
She says the show is very different from when she competed in the big smoke of Auckland where the kitchen was in a warehouse.
The format for the show - which comes soon to Three and ThreeNow - has changed too Lim says, with the focus even more on the food.
Expect the unexpected with chilli bombs, chocolate soup, (which Dearth says is a must-see episode,) seaweed icecream, and tears - not just from the contestants.
"There was a lot of heart," Lim says. "Unlike my series, we got to know all the contestants very well, so we all became very emotionally invested in them. It was more than just a food judging role, you also became their cheerleaders and mentors."
Lim thinks it's much nicer being a judge than a contestant. However, her obsession with cooking and being competitive came to the boil during a few challenges, where she really just wanted to jump behind a bench and get into it.
She reckons the three judges together are the dream team, each with a dead honest judging style, and says Mabee is the scary judge, describing him as a "loveable crazy genius".
"I couldn't have asked for better co-judges and we had so much fun together. You know you have a good team when you can tease each other all the time and get it back. We had many fun moments on camera and off camera.
"We are all so different and have such different careers and backgrounds in food, yet we all had the common denominator of just having an insatiable passion for good food."
Mabee has cooked in some of the world's best restaurants and was the first Kiwi nominated as a contender in the prestigious global Top 100 Chefs of the world. He describes his judging style as simple.
"I like great food and I like to see someone work to make it great. If it tastes great, the technique is sound and the idea is bright, I like it, and if it's not, I'm going to tell you why with no filter."
Dearth, famous for running the best chefs at his establishments, wanted to see growth in the contestants.
"I wanted to see contestants learn from their mistake, take on our feedback and evolve as home cooks and competitors. I definitely like to see a love of extracting deep flavour through skill, or recipes handed down from family."
Mabee also says the judges got along like a house on fire.
"My son Milton is the same age as Nadia's boy, Bodhi, so they are two little cool dudes who hang out. Michael and I became great friends. We went hunting and joked around a lot throughout the show and had dinner parties at my house with Dearth and crew in our bubble."
Dearth loved seeing Mabee's favourite hotspots for hunting and says the two really bonded the day they foraged for different types of mushrooms.
"From that mushroom day, Vaughan and I were all on - by the end of it I was hunting with him and getting my first-ever wild rabbits."
Lim met Dearth, 52, after her MasterChef win in Auckland and was in awe of the larger-than-life hospitality legend.
"Michael can be hilarious, boy does he have some stories from his past ... I wish I could tell you some, but what gets shared in the green room, stays in the green room," she says.
Lim says, since filming ended, the judges' love triangle of affection has not ended.
"For the whole week after we finished filming the show, we all definitely had post-show blues ... we were so used to hanging out and we missed each other and kept sending joking texts around the group.
"Vaughan and I have been cooking for each other at our homes a bit and Michael sent my boys his kids' favourite storybooks from when they were little."