They're known for being unique and new with food, and Kasey and Karena Bird keep on breaking barriers, all while staying true to their roots.
The self-taught Maketū chefs who won MasterChef New Zealand in 2014 are working on their third cookbook and it will be written in te reo Māori.
The sisters, of Te Arawa, Ngāpuhi, and Ngāti Manawa descent, believe it will be one of only a handful of New Zealand cookbooks published in the language, with the book due to be submitted to their publisher in June and released this year or next.
The Birds spent 2019 studying te reo fulltime at Waikato University, and this year are taking advanced classes.
"We've always felt like we were missing te reo Māori in our lives," says Kasey, whose mum Atarangi Te Awa, is not only a former teacher of te reo Māori but a fantastic cook.
"Learning [it ourselves] has been really fulfilling, and one of the best things we have done together."
As far as siblings go, Kasey, 30, and Karena, 32, are as close as you get.
Among a sea of autumn-coloured wardrobes, they stand out in matching, head-to-toe black.
They are laid-back and coolly casual but can dish up avant-garde food.
Their cooking, drawing on flavours from their childhood, has grown in the past seven years since MasterChef; as has their sisterly relationship.
"If she's away from me, I will literally call her five times a day if we're not together," Karena says.
"I think over the years, our relationship has gotten stronger, gotten better," adds Kasey.
Their opposing personalities make their partnership work.
Kasey is safe and precise, Karena creative and a risk-taker.
At high school, their "hobby" was to drive to Auckland with their youngest sister turned makeup artist Michaela, to spend all their pocket money on fine-dining.
But cheffing was never seen as a serious career option.
Karena was head girl at Te Puke High School and both sisters focused on academic subjects.
Before MasterChef, Karena was working as a quality control co-ordinator at Poutiri Trust while saving up for culinary school in Sydney.
Kasey was studying accounting at the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic thinking it a "safe" option.
Now they realise, cheffing was always their destined path.
After a television series; cooking for celebrities and dignitaries; being food contributors to Mana magazine and the Herald on Sunday; and two other cookbooks - For The Love Of, and Hungry - their next project will be ahurei (prominent and unique).
"There's obviously not many cookbooks out that are in te reo Māori," Kasey says.
"There might be some smaller, older ones, but nothing in recent times that I personally know of."
The cookbook will feature influences of Māori cuisine, with super-delicious, homespun recipes for families, with accessible, and sometimes foraged, ingredients.
But they haven't ruled out doing a subtitled reprint some time later.
"We want it to be about people using the language in their kitchen," Karena says.
She notes more Kiwis are learning te reo.
In 2019, the Government launched the Māori language strategy Maihi Karauna, which included the goal that by 2040, one million New Zealanders would be able to speak basic te reo Māori.
Last year it was reported the number of teenagers studying te reo Māori at secondary school had passed 30,000 for the first time.
The news is exciting for the pair who right now is working with local pop-up restaurant Kitchen Takeover to deliver the Taiao: Food of the Gods edition - a cultural, fine-dining feast.
The menu, designed by the Birds, draws from their whakapapa and upbringing.
"There's not always opportunities for people to connect with Māori culture easily, or in a way that they feel comfortable, so I think through food, and storytelling, that's a really, safe space for people to connect with it," Kasey says.
There's not always opportunities for people to connect with Māori culture easily, or in a way that they feel comfortable, so I think through food, and storytelling, that's a really, safe space for people to connect with it.
Diners are taken to a secret location and delivered a superlative six-course degustation dinner by either the sisters or Kitchen Takeover's head chef Rob Forsman, who has been head chef for Al Brown and Simon Gault.
All meals are wine-matched but there's also a non-alcoholic match, which was both Karena and founder of Kitchen Takeover Stacey Jones' idea after Karena went a year without drinking.
"Every year I give up something," she says, explaining she's done a year without alcohol, potato chips, and this year, it's American takeaways.
"The next one, I think I'll give up fizzy drinks."
It's been good to return to cooking for the public, they say, with the hospitality industry in general, going through a challenging time with Covid-19.
"We love the creativity with events," Kasey says, explaining they've moved away from the idea of ever having their own restaurant, as events and pop-ups tend to have more flexibility.
With a passion for travelling, not going overseas has been hard for the Birds, who used their foreign learnings to do a series of lavish Creation Dinners around New Zealand in 2018.
In the same year, they also cooked for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle when they toured New Zealand, joking they were more nervous cooking a "fancy hangi" for 180 locals at Rotorua's Te Papaiouru Marae, than royalty.
Then, in 2019 they cooked for Hollywood star Hugh Jackman when he visited with his The Man. The Music. The Show.
Prior to the Covid-19 lockdown, they were working overseas doing paid promotion work for New Zealand food products; on the back of two seasons of their TV show Karena and Kasey's Kitchen Diplomacy, which saw them travel to a new overseas destination each episode.
The shows rescreened here over lockdown, thrusting the Birds into the limelight again, something they enjoy, but simultaneously struggle with.
When not doing interviews and promotion work, they keep their heads in their pots.
"I think for us, it's catch-22, because we like having a private life, [but then] the opportunities you get are amazing," says Kasey, adding that no matter how famous they get, living in Maketū (population 1197) will always keep them grounded.
The last seven years since winning MasterChef have been a whirlwind ride.
"I think we definitely take moments just to appreciate it all," Kasey says.
"I think about that all the time," agrees Karena.
"We still don't take it for granted."
# Kitchen Takeover has just a few remaining tickets left for you to experience the Taiao edition with Kasey and Karena Bird in Tauranga, in April. For more information and to book, go to www.kitchentakeover.co.nz
Quick fire questions
Complete this sentence. It's embarrassing just how much I love ...
Kasey: "I thought you were going to say cats."
Karena: "No, I'm not embarrassed about my cat ownership, Kasey. I'm a proud, proud cat lady." As a sidenote, she has three cats (Abraham, Robert and Amanda).
Kasey: "Mine is Celine Dion."
Karena: "Are you embarrassed about that?"
Kasey: "I'm actually not, but I can't think of anything."
What's a dish that you have to order when you see it on a menu?
What's the worst kitchen disaster you've ever had?
Karena: "When we were cooking for Hugh Jackman (in 2019), we had slow cooked some pork, packed it up in Maketū, and put it in the chilly bin to take it up to Auckland. Then, when we got to this private lodge, I opened the chilly bin, and it wasn't in there. It was 45 minutes before the guests were arriving. We were 15 minutes out of town and the pork takes three hours.
"I was calling around all of the local restaurants asking if they sold cooked, pork belly, and this one restaurant did, so I'm driving hands-free, while they say: 'You have to buy the whole meals'. So, I had all these sides too.
"We got the pork, sneaked it in, smoked it in the oven with wood chips that we had for smoked fish, then served it to Hugh Jackman, and he goes: 'Man, this pork is amazing', but it wasn't from us, it was someone from a barbecue steakhouse who cooked the pork belly."
Kasey: "Yeah, so you've got to be a problem solver."
Buffet or sit-down dinner?
Both: "Sit down dinner."
Edible gold or wearable gold?
Kumara or potato?
Butter or olive oil?
Baked or fried?
Kasey: "It depends on the situation."
Karena: "I'm going for fried."
Breakfast for dinner or dinner for breakfast?
Both: "Dinner for breakfast."
Fish or steak?
Cake or pie?