Host of NZ’s inaugural MasterChef was one paper from completing his masters degree.

Former celebrity chef Ross Burden unexpectedly died from an infection following treatment for cancer. He was 45.

Born in Napier, Burden became a household name in the United Kingdom as a host on Ready Steady Cook following his appearance in the BBC MasterChef final in 1993.

The self-trained chef, who cooked for several well-known clients including Princess Anne and actress Joan Collins, lived in London for nearly two decades before returning to New Zealand as a judge for the country's first MasterChef series in 2010.

His younger sister Kirsten Hughes said he was diagnosed with a form of leukaemia last July but died unexpectedly in Auckland City Hospital on Thursday following complications in his cancer treatment.


A bone marrow transplant led to the fatal infection, said Mrs Hughes.

She said her brother had just one paper left to complete his Masters degree in Maori studies at Auckland University. He had also graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the university last March and was working part-time as a waiter at Sails restaurant before becoming ill.

Mrs Hughes described her brother as a "larger than life" figure, who thought of his illness as "a blip on the horizon".

"He's just a friendly, compassionate guy - nothing was too much trouble. He was my big, fantastic incredible, larger-than-life brother.

"Right up until probably a week-and-a-half ago, he was making his next lot of plans. He had the world map out," Mrs Hughes said.

MasterChef judge Simon Gault said he enjoyed working with Burden on the programme's first season.

"He was great to work with. He was never a minute without a laugh or a joke - great sense of humour."

In his younger years, Burden honed his skills in front of the camera by signing up with a modelling agency.


A service celebrating his life is due to be held at Auckland University's MacLaurin Chapel on Wednesday at 11am.

A follow-up memorial service in his home town of Napier has been planned for Monday next week.