19 - OCT - 2022
Meet Amberley Rose Kennish, the self-proclaimed master of soups, stocks and all things homemade.
I have had the pleasure of interviewing the lovely Amberley Kennish as we obsessed over her lineup of balsamic dashed bruschettas and grilled peach and feta salad. With her first distinct memory of eating her body weight in blueberry muffin ice cream at the age of 4, Amberley says “I have absolutely adored food my entire life.”.. Amberley’s taste buds have been feening ever since. “I think my parents noticed it on our trip to Queenstown in 2008. At the ripe age of 9 years old, the only thing I wanted to eat from Botswana Butchery was ‘Duck 3-ways’”.
It has been a wild few months since Amberley left MasterChef Kitchen. After learning a plethora of food knowledge from the series, she simply wasn’t done yet. Swapping corporate clothes for an apron stained with passion and nervous sweat, Amberley made the important call to follow her dream.
What helped you take the leap into applying for MasterChef?
My story here will sound familiar to those of many other families across the world. COVID-19 had many downfalls, but spending ample time in the kitchen definitely wasn’t one of them. Like many of you, I was baking homemade sourdough and perfecting my banana loaf recipe. The second lockdown consisted of a little less cooking, and a lot more of binge-watching old reruns of MasterChef Australia.
I wouldn’t initially describe my MasterChef application as a leap, but more of a *cover your eyes, point a gun at the wall and try to shoot any of the 1000 water balloons in front.* I’d come home from a very long day in the office, while Justin would work on his music,I would hibernate in bed with a glass of wine and a good book. I opened Facebook and the first thing on my feed was “MasterChef NZ Applications closing soon”. I very spontaneously clicked on it, filled out the entire form within 15 minutes, found a very scrappy old picture of some avocado toast, and tried to finesse my way through with some very dull food jokes. I clicked ‘submit’ and pledged not to tell anyone. 10 minutes later, Justin walks into the room, I tell him and we are both rolling on the floor laughing at my display of utter confidence and somewhat delusional faith that I might get in. It is safe to say that I spent the next 6 months of my life learning every skill I could possibly absorb and doing a lot of strange blind taste tests. The rest is history!
I see you made the move from Wellington to Auckland after the series aired, what made you move cities?
Until the day I die, Wellington will be my forever home. I have absolutely adored eating my way through the city and finding all the best picnic spots. But, like every other gal in their 20’s, I needed to broaden my horizons. I am incredibly lucky and grateful to have a partner that can work from his laptop anywhere in the world, so it didn’t take too much convincing on my behalf. Auckland is an incredibly vibrant city with so much to offer - and I am here to indulge in all of it.
“The culinary world is definitely very masculine-dominated and has been strongly competitive for such a long time. I am grateful to be entering a new wave of collaboration and innovation.”
What flavours are you excited about using as we enter spring and summer?
Summer is always going to be the best food produce, as 75% of the best fruit and vegetables are available at this time. I absolutely adore dinner parties and serving endless amounts of food. My vision when cooking at home isn’t to create a ‘meal’ anymore - but rather to have dishes and sides and sauces that work cohesively, but stand very strongly on their own. One of my favourite cheffy hacks is to always add fruit into my salads - and summertime is amazing for this. Whether it’s mango, grapes, strawberries, pears, etc., I always love the fresh crunch and bite that it has to offer. Don’t get me started on the endless summer cocktails and glasses of rosé that will be consumed while making this food!
Alta is one of the sexiest spots to eat on K’Road, how has your time been there? Did MasterChef prepare you for the heat of the real thing?
Alta is definitely the sexiest spot on K’Road - not to mention the all-female staff! I am grateful to have commenced my culinary journey at a restaurant like Alta. Alta is owned and operated by the incredible Georgia van Prehn, with Katie Riley and Jessie Mortensen-Cronin as indispensable teammates, who all welcomed me with such open arms. We are constantly evolving and changing the menu depending on what is fresh and best at the time. Georgia’s food comes from the ground up and highlights what is locally available. This is something I value immensely as a young chef learning and growing every day.
MasterChef was an incredible experience, and I definitely wouldn’t have quit the corporate world to pursue food without it. I am very thankful for my journey and everything I learned. It definitely is a pressure-cooked environment! I would add, however, perfecting the art of cooking isn’t something that you can put on a timeline - and most would argue that you never really reach the end, as the game is constantly changing. I learnt an incredible amount of knowledge during the show - but the reality is very different. In most professional kitchens, you will prep for hours, and then run a service, clean down and do it all again the next day. The idea of MasterChef is around creating, planning, shopping, cooking, plating and serving an entire ‘dish’ in one hour. With the additional pressure of cameras everywhere, you can’t get extra food or change your ingredients halfway through, and the tiniest thing wrong can send you home. It is a cooking competition, and I have the utmost respect for all of the contestants that went through it.
ALTA 366 Karangahape Road
Did you have a special connection with anyone from the MasterChef series, other contestants or judges?
I’m not sure how public this knowledge is, but all of the MasterChef contestants lived together during the filming of the show! We spent 15-hour days filming together, and then a lot of downtime studying together. I genuinely had a great bond with everyone on the show. It’s a very stressful environment and definitely brings out the best and worst in people, but I think we all handled it very well! Nadia, Vaughan and Michael were amazing assets to have. They couldn’t provide a lot of mentoring, but their words of encouragement went a long way!
It’s Monday, and I am knackered. Can you share a quick and easy dinner idea?
It is for this reason alone, that I always have emergency bolognaise or dumplings in the freezer! I really value having emergency food in the fridge. Currently, we have a lot of homemade sourdough, lots of homemade preserves like tomato relish, lots of hummus, fresh vegetables and chicken stock! That itself is about 30+ different things to eat. Otherwise, I really like to ‘uncomplicate’ food. I have stripped back the concept of having meat, veg and sauce, or a meal for dinner, and am really working with ingredients I have on hand. When in doubt - you can’t beat a toastie!
What are some of your favourite, more unusual ingredients that will improve anyone’s cooking game?
There are definitely some pantry staples that I couldn’t live without. Stay tuned on Chatty Chums to read my way through my pantry and fridge tour - and the one ingredient that every household must have!
What is next for you and your journey?
If you told me what 2022 would look like a year ago, I would never have believed you! Being on a TV show, packing up and moving my life in 4 weeks, quitting the corporate world, then quitting my actual job, pursuing food full time, actually doing social media as a side hustle, and moving to Auckland - I never would have believed you, and it’s definitely not what I had put up on my vision board. This has really allowed me to trust in whatever the universe has planned, and go with the flow. Throw away the timeline and schedule, and just live for the moment! This is definitely the philosophy I take when cooking as well.
I definitely see myself living in NZ for the next wee while - but cooking all over the world is close on the list. I have such a passion for food and the industry itself, I want to do a lot of researching, writing, cooking and most importantly - living!