'Living off the land' inspires finalist

HANNAH MORRIS
Last updated 05:00 07/06/2012
Chelsea Winter
MASTER CLASS: Hamilton native and MasterChef contestant Chelsea Winter.

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Growing up in the Waikato helped MasterChef finalist Chelsea Winter develop her passion for all things fresh.

The Hamilton-born-and-bred woman was named a finalist on the third season of the show on Tuesday night, after a nail-biting episode.

Her proud dad, Mark Winter, is looking forward to the grand finale as much as anyone.

With producers and contenders sworn to secrecy until the official show broadcast, he's in the dark as much as the viewers.

"I'm pretty chuffed, absolutely. It's totally unexpected that she's got as far as she has," he said.

"I'm in as much suspense as everyone else."

Ms Winter will join Waiheke-based Ana Schwarz in the final show, which began with 16 contestants.

Mr Winter remembers his daughter's love for cooking from an early age, while living on a Tamahere farm.

"Her farmland childhood has certainly influenced her style of cooking - her no-nonsense attitude, but that's also her nature and personality."

Ms Winter is a former pupil of Tamahere Country School and said the best thing about growing up on a farm was living "off the land".

"Mum always had a giant vege patch growing everything under the sun, chooks roamed free so our eggs were always free range, and we'd have our own beef from home kills - a freezerload full of it," she said.

"Everything was homemade where it could be, and it was fresh, flavoursome, simple and tasted great."

Now an Auckland marketing executive, Miss Winter loved the chance to get back to the country.

"Dad still lived in Hamilton up until a year or so ago, and it was always nice to escape from Auckland's smelly, smoggy, traffic jams and chill in the Tron for the weekend. The Balcony used to be my favourite place for a special dinner."

But she's not the only Waikato person to feature on the grand finale episode, with 2011 masterchef contender, Putaruru's Cameron Petley, setting a special challenge for contenders.

Although Mr Petley wouldn't give away any details on the final result, he said his task was to create a wild game challenge, and to present a deer from which the girls would then create dishes.

He said the key to cooking venison was to do it quickly.

"The meat doesn't have much fat, so you have to be careful not to dry it out."

Mr Petley is now working at the Masters Table in Putaruru, and attributes his new edge in cooking to his time on MasterChef.

"I entered the competition knowing it would change my life, and if the finalists continue to cook and use what they've learnt in their time, I'm sure it will change theirs too."

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Miss Winter said MasterChef was the best thing she'd ever done: "I'm sad that there's only one episode to go because I love watching it happen all over again."

The final episode will show on Tuesday from 7.30pm on TV1.

- Waikato Times

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