Even for a master chef himself, Ray McVinnie says judging the hit series on TV ONE was still an opportunity for him to learn.
The first season of MasterChef NZ has now finished but McVinnie, a lecturer in gastronomy at AUT University’s School of Hospitality and Tourism, is already looking forward to the next one.
McVinnie says the point with food is that you never stop learning.
“Every time you cook you learn something new and that’s the thing I love about food. I learnt from every chef who came on the show, from the other judges, from the contestants. In fact I’d say if I hadn’t learnt anything then I should probably go and do something else.”
For the man who came across as having nerves of steel and completely unflappable he says it was sometimes hard to just stand back and watch people make mistakes.
“People are people, they’re all different, sometimes they do silly things and sometimes they do great things. There are times when you can see they are doing something wrong and your natural instinct is to help them or tell them to do it another way but you’ve got to be fair to everyone, it was a contest after all.”
It’s natural for all cooks to want to help and share their skills, he says. “It’s more than just sharing the food at the end it’s also about sharing the process. I always tell my students that they can have everything in my head. I’m happy to share it.”
So how does the average New Zealand cook really stack up compared to the masters? McVinnie says he was surprised at the skill of the amateurs and how they improved so quickly.
“Thirteen episodes aren’t really a lot and these guys didn’t get any training or much at all. I think it could be a trait that kiwis have and it’s part of that no.8 wire thing. We’re good at turning our hands to anything. I wouldn’t really like to say but could cooking be a National trait?”
What you see is what you get with McVinnie. He says they all had a role to play but the show let them be honest and direct in that.
“That was the great thing about the show; all they wanted me to do was what I do. I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t like. The Ray you see on TV really is the Ray who teaches at AUT. We are literally the same person. I didn’t have to be anyone different.”
The next series of MasterChef is due to screen next year some time.