It will not be long until 20 budding chefs don their aprons and put their best cooking skills into action, with the top 10 teams for a local cooking competition now selected.

Previously known as Junior Masterchef Rotorua, Junior Chefs of Aotearoa is back this year and will be held from July 14 to 16.

Local chef and organiser Deep Kumar said there were 528 registrations this year, far outstripping the 200 received last year.

He said he did 150 auditions through Skype or in person.


Kumar said it was difficult narrowing the entries down to the top 10 pairs.

"All the kids are very talented. We had to make some hard decisions."

He said there were registrations from all over New Zealand, with one of the selected teams coming from Cambridge to take part.

"They are happy to travel to Rotorua because they really wanted to give the kids this opportunity."

Kumar said the young chefs were being mentored, had been given guidelines and had been told how the show would work.

There are six rounds in the competition, including a mystery box, cooking at the Farmer's Market, cooking for some special people which would be a surprise on the day, and a five-course meal for the final.

The prizes for 2019's winners included $2000 cash, a holiday package in Rarotonga thanks to Helloworld (excluding airfare), cooking for the public in a restaurant, family membership for a year at Flex Fitness, and two global knives donated by Bidfood Rotorua.

Both the winners and runners-up will be involved in writing a cookbook, he said.


Kumar said the competition's aim was for the young chefs to encourage other children to cook.

"It's giving them that survival skill which is much needed in this country."

John Paul College pupils MacKenzie James and Rhiannon Ward, both 12, said they were very excited to be selected.

"We couldn't stop smiling."

They said they both cooked a lot at home.

MacKenzie, who took part in the competition last year, said she and Rhiannon liked cooking together.

"We thought we would be a great team and that it would be a great experience to learn new things."

She was looking forward to getting in the kitchen and cooking, and meeting the other teams.

MacKenzie said she liked being in the kitchen with her friends and making people happy with food she had made.

Rhiannon said she loved cooking and thought it would be fun to go in a competition.

She looked forward to the mystery box because it would be fun to get a surprise, she said.

"It [cooking] just puts me in a happy place. I find it so relaxing."

Fellow John Paul College pupil Flynn Haines, 11, said he felt excited when he found out his team had made it into the top 10.

He said he had done lots of cooking and enjoyed eating the food afterwards.

He felt nervous about the competition but was looking forward to it.

The teams
Mackenzie James and Rhiannon Ward
Bella Lattin and Meeka Truscott
Minka Crouch and Georgia Van Den Broek
Caitlin Kinsella and Kennedy Meads
Freyja Bjarnadottir and Grace Rotherham
Avanni Beehre and Flynn Haines
Teuila Schuster and Mary Schuster
Lauren Stephan and Sarah Turner
Drayarna Hudson and Kaytalia Coles
Ethan Wolland and Apollo Cameron-Boot