You know, for a cooking show, MasterChef New Zealand spends an awful lot of time talking about maths.

"Tonight 24 must become 16," the voiceover man tells us. Simon Gault expands: "A third of you will be going home today."

45 seconds later I've forgotten how many people are standing there. Ray comes to the rescue. "There are 24 of you standing there, one of you will be New Zealand's next MasterChef."

I'm looking forward to next week when - hopefully - all this padding out and clichéd voiceover is replaced by useful cooking information. Did you know standards were at an all-time high? Do you wonder who will make the cut? Get the chop? If you have 24 apples, and you only need 16 apples, how many apples do you need to throw at the TV?

But at least we're in the MasterChef kitchen now, where the shelves look like a wedding present registry and the pantry is full of "every ingredient you could possibly imagine." I'm possibly imagining horsemeat.


I don't know what Josh Emett is imagining but it sounds truly awful. "You'll have to cook your heart's out in some of the most grueling conditions you can imagine." Cripes where are you taking them this year, North Korea? Afghanistan?

Auckland. "You'll be divided into four groups of..." Oh I know this one.. six?

Josh Emett, who rather strangely sounds just like Dr Boyd Rolleston on Shortland Street, lights up like a fan boy when describing the first chef - Simon Precision Wright of the French Café. But that's nothing compared to the amateur dramatics from the contestants as they react to the rest of the roll call - confirming for all of us that yes they have indeed heard of them. Whether they have or not.

That is until they get to The Langham's Volker, who receives the kind of canned laughter more at home on TV3's The Radio.

I do feel sorry for Volker. The man obviously knows his stuff but whenever this show trots him out it seems more for comic relief.

But it's Ben Bayly who delivers the most honest line I've ever heard on any Masterchef episode.

"The primary role of a chef is to buy a product, jazz it up and sell it for a profit. If you can't do those three things then what are you, you're not a chef." Brilliant! Now I'm the fan boy.

Watching Ben fillet the Snapper reminded me that I'd be completely screwed on a show like this. Like many of you, I'm okay at a few things but pretty useless at everything else. I think filleting a fish will be my task for this week.


Last week's task was to make that beer bread Kris the Builder whipped up in his audition. OMG! Never has an hour in the kitchen been so satisfying.

Homemade bread is one of those things food-wankers like myself long to conquer, second only to the construction of an outdoor pizza oven. In fact it was only weeks ago I pronounced to my wife that I was going to bake a different kind of bread every week this year for a blog called Fifty Shades Of Whey. Kneadless to say nothing eventuated.

Anyhoo the bread could not have been easier. In the comments from last weeks blog Kris suggested Speights but I ended up going with Tsingtao. It was, how do you say it, "on special". The whole experience was an hour from start to finish. My wife didn't appreciate the smell. My son concurred, "it smells like poo", but Chris Badenoch would be proud.

Meanwhile the knife skills test was sorting the wheat from the chaff. We learnt that you can peel peas, that you should use the whole edge of the knife when cutting (Ganesh: "everything I had built in my head, was just taken away"), and that Michael's dining room is dominated by an oversized tribute to Kozmic clothing.

We also learn more about David. He must be sticking around for a while because it's the second week that we get a video about life outside the competition, and he wisely uses it to let potential future employers know he'd like to be a food writer.

Or perhaps they're introducing us to more contestants simply because the knife competition is actually pretty boring. The four chefs may be trying their damndest to create a sense of urgency - I guess it's hard to muster when you're not actually cooking anything. Maybe Paula can liven things up?

"Me and the person next to me are the slowest and I'm like oh God, oh God, oh God."

Yeah nah.

Next we meet Raheel. She seems nice enough so it's a surprise to learn she's a real-estate agent. Perhaps to fight that impression she explains that she likes to take baking to her elderly neighbour.

"Oh you've got some, ahh, another loaf for me." Yes, another. She has baked for you before right?

Finally the challenge is all over. "My mise en place is mise en crap," says Dana.

A few more education puns later and we're getting closer to the final 16. I can't decide if I'm going to miss Trent and his blind optimism or not "I still think it could have been used in a restaurant", but his exit should show those cynics who suggest people are kept in for the drama.

"I feel like Mr Trump just fired me. Trent, you're fired."

Actually, Trent on The Apprentice. Now there's an idea.

Mystery box time, and after a quick once-around the contestants to hear the different pork plans it seemed no one was particularly on their game. True I'd be stumped with a pork chop too, but the ideas from the wannachefs are all so pedestrian I'm crying out for a Nadia Lim. Someone who is equal parts batty and brilliant.

Corinna thinks it's a good idea to start plating up half an hour out from the end, "I'm going to make a little route of, ah, pleasure," but alarm bells ring for me. Won't it get cold? Are they allowed a little pre-judging warmup? (Contestants are you allowed to say?).

Temperature is also troubling Tracey. The pressure cooker, perhaps knowing it's a bad idea to pressure cook a pork chop, throws Tracey a lifeline by "turning off during the cooking, somehow." Looking broken she puts the pork under the grill to try and save it. I always thought you were meant to leave the oven door open during grilling? That's not me being a smart arse, I'm really asking - answers in the comments please.

Jennis is first to the judging table with her dish, the tenderly named Sticky, Stuffed & Stacked, and I'm quite sure the stuffed tomato is going to get torn apart by the judges, and not in a good way. I'm wrong and not for the first or last time this episode.

Next up I'm wrong about Raheel's grilled pork sandwich, I thought it looked great. McVinnie, "it's death by relish."

After both Shushil and Kris breeze through the judging it seems adding pecans to anything is a free pass. Except perhaps for Tracey, who I am quite sure is about to get routinely roasted for the star anise sitting atop her chop.

Emett, ever the charmer, breaks the ice with a casual how you doin?

"It's yet to be seen, I'm curious to see what state of cookness the pork is."

Never having used a pressure cooker in my life I thought Tracey's idea to use it to tender up the pork was reasonable enough. Emett sets us straight. "I think you absolutely buggered the pork.

Blooming heck. If last week's viewer reaction to Gault's use of the word "bloody" was anything to go by, then any mention of pork buggery is bound to send a few Nanas in search of a new channel.

Meanwhile, Ray's comment to Ella was telling. "You've AGAIN shown us you're good with flavour." Now I'm thinking she's one to watch. In a cooking competition, flavour is bound to be important.

He also must be a fan of Corinna. Despite "three bad things" in her Route Of Pleasure he still turns a blind eye to the star anise for the second time. My world is falling apart. There was a time when such an offense would have resulted in a death Ray.

Up till now I had thought the show was being edited to make Johnny's dish rise like a phoenix, but no, it turns out it really was a bit of a shitter. If would have to be a pretty great piece of meat to overcome that suburban seventies salad.

As we see Kelly's dish the music goes all positive, so it's a good bet she's going to be ok. McVinnie loves it. "You're the first person to give me extra sauce, I haven't had enough sauce all day." Amen brother.

For some reason I assumed the pork-chop-pie was a bad idea. I had visions of judges saying it was a waste to cut up a chop like that for a pie. My cooking creativity confidence is at an all time low.

So finally 24 became four, and the remaining 20 became 12, before the four joined the 12 to make the final 16. No major surprises really. Sure I hoped Johnny would go through but hey he won 14 grand so he probably had a good Christmas. In fact the most disappointing thing of all is Gault's insistence on trotting out the red herrings.

"I'm sorry. But you're both going to have to phone your families and give them the bad news...

... that you're not going to be seeing them for a while." Yes we knew they were going through, and so did they by the faux-worried looks on their faces.

From what I've seen so far there are plenty of adequate contestants, but no real Nadias or Pos. Gault disagrees. "From what we've seen so far you're an incredibly talented bunch. So we are convinced the competition this year is going to be really tough."

Convinced? Who are you trying to convince.

Episode 2
Best line: "You've absolutely buggered the pork." Josh Emett pays homage to Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror.
Worst line: "I'm sorry. But you're both going to have to phone your families and give them the bad news... that you're not going to be seeing them for a while." Simon Gault serves up a double helping of Herring.
Current favourites: David, Corinna, Ella

Episode 1: Fourteen Grand Up

-NZ Herald Online