After five days of planning, cooking, plating, and heat in the kitchen, the winners of this year's Junior Chefs of Aotearoa were announced.

And it was a tough decision for the judges.

The winning team, The Llamas, made up of Rotorua's Caitlin Kinsella, 11, and Kennedy Meads, 11, was announced at the gala evening at House of Spice.

The runners-up were Cambridge's Bella Lattin, 13, and Meeka Truscott, 13, of The IncrEdibles.

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Caitlin says it felt amazing when they were announced as the winners.

"It was such a great feeling. I don't even know how to put it into words.

"Just knowing we were the youngest team and came all this way to the finals, and then winning the competition, it was amazing."

Caitlin says her and Kennedy both like cooking with their mums and dads, and thought Junior Chefs of Aotearoa would be a great experience, though did not know it would be that difficult and intense.

Kennedy says they were pretty surprised when they found out they had won.

She says it was fun meeting new people, and getting to see and use different types of food.

Kennedy says she recommends others taking part in the competition in the future.

"At the start of this we had never cooked together and we were never expecting this to happen, so if you put your mind to something you can achieve it."

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They thank the organiser Deep Kumar, the judges and the parents for all their support.

Kennedy Meads, 11, (left) and Caitlin Kinsella, 11, are this year's Junior Chefs of Aotearoa winners. Photo / Stephen Parker
Kennedy Meads, 11, (left) and Caitlin Kinsella, 11, are this year's Junior Chefs of Aotearoa winners. Photo / Stephen Parker

Bella and Meeka said they were excited and could not stop smiling when they found out they were in the finals. "There were lots of hugs."

Meeka said the experience had been great.

"We've made so many new friends and we've had a great time."

Runners-up Bella Lattin, 13, (left) and Meeka Truscott, 13, having fun working on one of their finals dishes. Photo / Stephen Parker
Runners-up Bella Lattin, 13, (left) and Meeka Truscott, 13, having fun working on one of their finals dishes. Photo / Stephen Parker

Local chef and organiser Deep Kumar said there was an amazing turnout at the gala evening to announce the winners.

He said they had been expecting about 40 and there were about 70 or 80 who came along.

Kumar said they were both capable teams in the finals, and at the end of the day some hard choices had to be made.

He said it was great seeing the youngest team make it to the finals and win the competition.

All three of the judges said there had been hard choices to make throughout the competition.

Judge Marcus Dietzel from the Lakeland Queen said the skill and knowledge about food the young chefs had was amazing.

He said it was great to see the parents stand beside them and support them too.

Judge Josephine Carson, a teacher at Rotorua Girls' High School and former chef, said the young chefs had shown outstanding ability and skills.

"They are serving up restaurant-quality food."

Judge Chef Oat, who runs Mandwich, said for him it was about building a foundation of life for them.

"So they will grow up knowing it's not always going to be easy, to work hard, and getting them ready for the real deal in life."

He said all the contestants were lovely and he felt so bonded to all of them.

Both the winners and the runners-up will be cooking at Giovanni's Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria on August 17 as part of their prizes.

Tickets are now for sale, with 45 up for grabs. They cost $85 for a three-course meal, and can be booked through the Junior Chefs of Aotearoa Facebook page or by emailing
futurediets@gmail.com.