Television chef spills her contest secrets

Jax Hamilton
Jax Hamilton

She knows how to cook under pressure on national television. Now Jax Hamilton is to judge wannabe chefs who will recreate dishes from around the world.

Hamilton is to head a panel of judges who will test secondary school students in a new culinary contest called the TSB Community Trust Womad Cook Off.

Teams of students from Taranaki high schools will be asked to cook a dish from one of the top 10 cuisines of the world. The competition will take place on March 12 in the week leading up to Womad Taranaki 2013. It's the first time the contest has been run.

Hamilton shot to fame in her role on the programme, MasterChef New Zealand. She won the affection and respect of hundreds of thousands of New Zealand viewers, and released her first cookbook in 2012.

Hamilton says if you love food and love to cook, competitions are the best forums to learn about yourself and from others.

"I believe the mistakes you make when developing dishes is how you end up with the best," Hamilton says. "Sometimes it's a gamble but it can pay the biggest dividends. There are no boundaries in food."

Learning to cook dishes from other cuisines is also important because food unites people, she says.

"The pantries of the world contain the most versatile ingredients, spices, vegetables and regional processes. You could live 1000 years and never experience it all."

Her advice to potential contestants is to keep it simple and remember that people eat with their eyes first, nose second and mouth last. Working together as a team will be important as will having fun.

Hamilton's first Womad experience was last year when she hosted the Nova Energy Taste the World cuisine marque.

She approached the experience with an open mind and says she wasn't let down.

"We cooked together but also shared intimate stories, laughed and were united even though we were from different corners of the globe."

She's looking forward to returning for Womad 2013 where she will work with local chefs Karyn Grant and Terry Parkes to judge the TSB Community Trust Womad Cook Off as well as host, once again, the Nova Energy Taste the World cuisine marque.

Students in the cook off will be tested on a range of criteria such as creativity, presentation, use of ingredients, hygiene and basics like knife skills.

The winning team gets the chance to recreate their dish at Womad on March 17, alongside Hamilton in the Nova Energy Taste the World marque.

Maria Ramsay, TSB Community Trust general manager, says the cook off is a fantastic way for students to be involved in Womad and a chance for them to not only learn from an expert like Hamilton but also to learn from each other.

The contest takes place on March 12 in the Impressions kitchen at Witt. Eight teams of four students have two hours to cook their pre-selected dish before presenting it to the judges. Entries close on February 25.

Members of the winning team receive a three-day youth pass while their teacher and principal receive adult passes.

All the finalists in the competition receive one-day passes for March 17, as do their teacher and principal.

For further information, contact the community programme co-ordinator Emere Wano on or (06) 759 6947 or 027 271 1859.

Taranaki Daily News