Quick thinking and confidence in the kitchen
Childhood sweethearts from Hamilton are going great shakes on The Great Food Race, but almost turned the show down.
Libby Buchanan and Elliott Jones, both 23, entered the cooking challenge on their flatmate's suggestion but when called for an audition they decided they didn't have time.
Wintec student Mr Jones was in the middle of a dissertation for his honours in sports nutrition, and real estate agent Miss Buchanan was opening her new St Andrews business The Pregnancy Loft.
"We ended up saying no, and getting another phone call . . . We went to Auckland on Tuesday, on Wednesday did some cooking, and then on Wednesday found out we were in the show," Mr Jones said.
So after filming each day Mr Jones hit the books and Miss Buchanan was into keeping up with work - although they say it was harder for couples with kids.
TV3's The Great Food Race mixes adventurous challenges with a cooking competition, and began on February 2 with eight teams of two.
The remaining contestants will soon move into the third of its four stages - home hosting, pop-up kitchens, overseas, and finals - aiming for a $40,000 grand prize pack.
When the Hamilton team are at home in their flat Mr Jones is head chef and is known for rustling up a spontaneous meal with experience from kitchenhand jobs throughout his studies.
"Libby will be like ‘there's nothing nothing to eat' and I'll go into the pantry," Mr Jones said.
Spontaneity and making a decision and sticking with it proved to be a strength on the show, they said, as they often had just moments for key choices.
That was the case when they were race controllers and put James and Melissa up against Johnny and Lucy.
There was no time for discussion, so they picked the teams they saw as the biggest threat for what sounded like a difficult challenge.
In the latest episode they were pitted against Jasmine and Flora for a challenge involving motorbikes, blindfold tasting, and selling at the Marlborough Summer Farmers Market.
With lengthy lines by their stall, they thought their corn and bacon fritters, wild rabbit and smoked tomato chutney were doing well.
Yet the girls and their pre-prepared fare beat their sales by around $20.
"It was just taking us ages to cook the fritters," Miss Buchanan said.
But after lugging their pantry up a hill for another challenge, they got through to the overseas round.
"We find out like half an hour before we get on the plane . . . They don't tell you anything on this show, honestly. It's just five minutes before you do it," Mr Jones said.