Food has been an integral part of life for as long as I can remember.
I grew up in the North of New Zealand where I was surrounded by nature. Whether it was collecting shellfish on the beach, catching snapper from the boat, shooting rabbits or helping my grandfather butcher lambs and ducks on his farm, I couldn’t get enough of it. Sourcing the finest possible ingredients was simply a way of life.
After finishing university and getting a ‘good corporate job’ I was off overseas to explore the world. I first lived in Austin, Texas and travelled all over the USA during my first couple of years. It was a world away from where I grew up and I was finally seeing places I had only dreamt of visiting. New York, San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans. The more I travelled, the more I fell in love with travelling, the people and of course, food. When my assignment finished, I crossed the border on foot and travelled on my own through Mexico, Guatemala and Belize for several months. It was my first real adventure and I was absolutely captivated. I couldn’t believe the food in Mexico. The vibrant salsas, slow cooked meats, the handmade corn tortillas and the smell of chocolate roasting in Oaxaca. It was insanely good. Travel had by now become an addiction and one that I would never satisfy.
The next place on my list was Europe. I moved to the United Kingdom with work and ended up staying there for thirteen years, punctuated by huge amounts of travel throughout Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa. I also lived or worked in France, Denmark and Spain during that time and fell in love with European culture and food. I was lucky enough to dine at many of the best restaurants in the world and also devoured some of the most questionable street food. I loved it all.
During my time in the United Kingdom, at the age of 24, I was also diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL). It was a challenging time and thanks to the support of a huge number of people, I have been free of cancer for well over ten years. This is something I am eternally grateful for and it inspires me to do more and do better every single day.
Having travelled to over 100 different countries since leaving New Zealand, I decided to move to Australia when the opportunity arose. After a year here, I decided that I would give Masterchef Australia a try. I was a big fan and didn’t really think it would go anywhere. I put in the application, got an audition, made it into the house and the rest…is history. It was a fabulous time with massive highs and just as massive lows. I cooked with some of the most talented chefs in the world, learnt so much about food and myself and made some truly amazing friends. Looking back at it now, it is hard to believe it even happened, but I am certainly glad it did.
Masterchef was the first step in what I am hoping will be a long and fascinating journey. A journey that I look forward to sharing with everyone who enjoys food and travel like I do.