Thank heavens the right team won

GORDON BROWN
Last updated 13:20 13/05/2014
karena bird, kasey bird
WINNING SMILES: Sisters Karena and Kasey Bird were the popular winners of this year's MasterChef NZ.

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The two-hour MasterChef NZ final was a fitting end to the marathon series.

Ultimately it worked because the right team won. Sisters Karena and Kasey Bird were deserving winners of more than $100,000 in prizes, including two cars, kitchen appliances, kitchenware and groceries, as well as the exclusive cookbook deal.

And good on them. They were nice, organised, talented and look to be stars in the making. The tedious format which saw one pair ejected only after every second episode wasn't their fault and their home town of Maketu is now famous for something other than pies.

While we warmed to their infectious grins, it wasn't quite as easy to warm to fellow finalists, Arrowtown friends Bec Stanley and Jaimie Stodler. They could cook, albeit in a frenetic fashion, but Jaimie's demeanour eventually grated and got in the way.

An American, she was typically confident, but only to a point and wanted to be a victim when things went wrong. Nothing seemed to be her fault and towards the end when she lost the plot in the kitchen, judge Josh Emett declared he'd never have her working in his kitchen.

To Mrs Brown and me, and dare I say it, a lot of other viewers, that seemed eminently sensible. To say she was needy would be an understatement and chaos often ensued when she was under pressure. She was likeable in many ways, but right from the start we queried how she even got into the competition, which is for amateur cooks.

She owns a small boutique "treat shop" in Queenstown which specialises in cakes, cupcakes and other tasty dessert morsels. That raised a question over her eligibility and it all seemed just a little unfair.

As it turned out, her problem with Judge Josh started to eat away at her (pun intended, it is a review of a food show) to the point where she became a whinger with all sorts of real and imagined sins against her.

From the viewers' perspective it didn't help her cause one bit, and we were firmly in the camp of the modest Maketu sisters. Increasingly it became more about personalities than food.

Much was revealed when the two teams were flown to Queenstown to help with the food preparation for the opening night of Judge Josh's new restaurant, Madam Woo.

Kasey and Karena are thrilled to be part of the opening, if somewhat nervous about feeding 180 guests. "I can't believe he is trusting us in his kitchen," says Kasey reverently.

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The contrast could not have been greater. Jaimie reaches new depths of sarcasm in her reaction: "Sorry, I didn't think I was ever going to work for him. I didn't think he was going to have me in his kitchen?" Delivered with an increasingly trademark sneer, it was somewhat less than endearing.

Josh acknowledged he had a lot at stake.

"Tonight you are in my kitchen. You know what I'm like about cleanliness and organisation - do not make a mess!" He will judge them on how they work in the kitchen, fellow judges Simon Gault and Ray McVinnie will be out in the front with the guests judging the food.

Jaimie mucks up one dish, which Josh's head chef points out to her. Jaimie denies it's her fault. "I measured everything very specifically," she protests.

"It's very strange," observes the chef.

Later on Jaimie slams the oven door. "Jaimie don't slam the 'bleeping' door, that's exactly how it breaks."

By now Bec has bought into the victimisation of her partner and points out that Josh overreacted. "He didn't need to say 'don't slam the 'bleeping' door', he could have said it nicer."

We suppose he could have, but he's hardly Gordon Ramsay who bleeps more than he talks. Jaimie sits beside Bec looking every centimetre the victim.

Jaimie admits she feels "quite horrible about" even being in Josh's kitchen.

She then has a go at the opposition. "They're supposedly not professional chefs, if they aren't, then surely, they'll have a bad day or two."

An interesting attitude, but not one that endears her to, well, anyone. Mrs B sums it up nicely when she says, "How bitchy, especially from someone who owns her own food business." As usual she is spot on.

There were a few more flare- ups, but it actually overpowered the food to be honest. Somewhat charitably, the two teams are marked the same by Josh, which means it all comes down to the final dish back in the MasterChef kitchen. It's actually three dishes, and mercifully the sisters doing it for themselves, prove to be the better. The nice girls win, the drama queen and her mate lose, we're happy.

One final plea though, for next year's MasterChef, go back to solos, rather than pairs.

- The Timaru Herald

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