Brett McGregor shot to fame as the winner of the first season of MasterChef New Zealand. He answers a few questions for us before his visit to Dunedin this weekend for the Fresh Food Show.
Q What are you up to these days?
Still learning, that’s for sure … what a journey it’s been: loads of travel, meeting new chefs and learning their creations, three books, a television show.
It’s all led me to creating products (Bodega Rubs), teaching others and executive chef roles.
My life is food focused and I love it. Where the journey takes me from here I don’t know, but what I do know is that I still love it.
Q Why is travelling a big part of your life?
I spent years travelling, trying new spice combinations and flavours around the world. I fell in love with culture and how food is so entwined in family history, all the while eating and watching people cook. This is how a self-taught cook works … you simply watch and learn. Even now I still head to the kitchen if I have eaten something new to ask if I can see it being made. This a a journey you can never finish and that is what I love about food and travel … there is always something new to see, taste and experience.
Q What is your favourite cuisine to cook?
I don’t know if it is about one certain cuisine for me … for sure I love Thai but what I am loving more is the fact that New Zealand is finally becoming a food destination – we are looking in at our produce more than ever and thanks to people like Monique Fiso challenging the food world with old Maori recipes with modern twists.
At the moment, Kiwi food is the hottest ticket in town and we are at the start of something quite unique. We are lucky to be able to apply old French or Italian techniques to produce the world is yet to try. This is going to be an amazing few years where Kiwi producers should be celebrated.
Q Where does your inspiration for cooking come from?
Travel and my life growing up in New Plymouth. My family loved food and travel and it simply got passed down.
Q How did you start cooking?
I watched cooking shows on TV, helped mum and my aunties prepare inside and then popped outside to help with the barbecue. I was into cooking, chopping and prepping dinner from a young age and I loved it.
Q What keeps you going?
Hard work and determination. This is a tough industry and people are always judging you by your last dish. It is the search for creating something new and, of course, striving to get better all the time. I still make loads of mistakes, but sometimes even those are amazing.
Q Why do you love cooking with a live audience and what are its challenges?
I think it comes back to my background as a teacher. I love the energy, getting people up to help and feel it’s a great way to connect and hopefully inspire the next generation.
The biggest challenge is usually time and ensuring you have all the gear. Most of the time there are a few things missing and you just have to grin and bear it. Every time at these demos the kitchen is different, so you have to make sure you test the gear before you start otherwise you look like a bit of a drongo when you can’t even turn on the oven.
Q What is your advice for dealing with the mixed messages on food and diet?
I am not a nutritionist but understand this – I don’t like the word diet. I don’t like the overuse of some ingredients, but I have a choice. I choose to cook my own food and eat a variety of produce. I like to keep my food world at home simple, fresh and seasonal.
Q The party season and Christmas is coming up: what advice can you give?
I like to make sure I can prep as much as possible before Christmas so the day itself is not too crazy – you want to be out and about with friends and family not stuck in the kitchen all day.
Q Do you do the cooking at home?
Every night. I try to keep it varied, but there will always be loads of vegetables.
Q What do you have in store for the Great Kiwi Food show?
A very interactive fun demo with great tasty treats and a few giveaways.
-The Great Kiwi Home Show is run by Allied Press, owner of the Otago Daily Times, in partnership with Dunedin Venues.