MasterChef ace set for cafe challenge

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 11:59 03/06/2013
MasterChef
PATRICK HAMILTON/FAIRFAX NZ

Paula Saengthian-Ngam holds her daughter, Natia, 6, and, with mum Kathleen Kilkenny, left, and sister Jo Kilkenny, watches last night’s MasterChef New Zealand final in the Stoke School hall.

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Nelsonians hooked on Stoke chef Paula Saengthian-Ngam's amazing MasterChef fare will soon get to sample the goods for themselves.

The television chef, who bravely staved off a badly bleeding hand to miss by a fraction taking the MasterChef 2013 title, is opening a cafe in Nelson next month.

Paula's Plate will open in the former Pomeroy's premises on the corner of Rutherford and Hardy streets

A private opening for friends, family and supporters was planned for later this month, Mrs Saengthian-Ngam said, after partying on Sunday night with the community who gathered to watch the MasterChef final at Stoke School.

She spent the day baking and cooking for the crowd who gathered for the final which was recorded several months ago. She had to keep the result secret. Her three children knew, but they vowed to stay silent.

"They have been incredible," Mrs Saengthian-Ngam said.

Stoke School principal Peter Mitchener said it was wonderful she had invited the school to celebrate the special moment of being in the final.

"Paula has been great at often coming in and cooking for us as well. She's put on staff lunches and that has been really special."

He said the whole Stoke community had been "really buzzing" over the last few weeks as Mrs Saengthian-Ngam scaled the ranks of the television cooking show.

It was won by Aaron Brunet of Raglan, who said it was some advice he was given by a sportsman before going into the series that pulled him up from what seemed like an insurmountable challenge.

"It was that . . . even if things looked like they're over, do not ever stop until that final whistle blows."

In a tense grand finale, Mrs Saengthian-Ngam cut her hand while grating a radish. She believed the adrenaline-charged event contributed to how bad it looked.

"My hand just kept bleeding. My heart was pumping so fast and there was so much adrenaline running - I had to keep changing gloves."

The medics were called and a strategically placed ad break created the drama.

Mr Brunet said he "completely bombed out" with his entree of a cobless corncob, while Mrs Saengthian-Ngam earned herself a perfect score of 20. Over the next two challenges Mr Brunet was able to gather himself and regain the points he needed to win.

Mrs Saengthian-Ngam had to start again from scratch half way through the towering croqembouche dessert challenge.

She said today she was relieved it was over.

"It's nice to have that weight off my shoulders."

The focus now was the new cafe, which would have an accent on Asian flavours.

"I don't think I would have opened a cafe if I hadn't done MasterChef. It was only ever a plan, but after the filming finished I sat down over the Christmas holidays and had a think about what I wanted to do. That's when I decided and I'm lucky my family has helped make it happen."

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- The Nelson Mail

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