Lessons Learned: How MasterChef NZ Shaped My Relationship with Food
BY AMBERLEY KENNISH
From my time on MasterChef NZ, to working in a professional kitchen, it's been a wild ride full of twists, turns, and more than a few burnt dishes.
22 JUN - 2023
We all know the story. One day, your life completely changes in a blip. Well, my blip was going on national TV to compete in a cooking show.
As I sit here reflecting on the past year, I can't help but wonder if I would have applied for Masterchef, knowing how it has all panned out. The incredible experiences and opportunities that have come my way was something I never anticipated.
Looking back, I'm amazed by the amount of knowledge and skill I've acquired in such a short amount of time. I've learned how to create complex dishes from scratch, how to work under intense pressure, and how to deal with the occasional kitchen mishap (who knew a freezer door wouldn’t slam shut…?). But more importantly, I've learned what matters most to me in life and how to prioritize those things.
I never set out to make cooking my professional career, and in many ways, it was always a passion project for me. From experimenting with new flavors and ingredients to perfecting classic family recipes, cooking has always been a source of joy and fulfillment in my life. After months of sweating it out in a professional kitchen, I finally came to a realization. The 14-hour shifts, the pressure-cooker environment, and the sheer physical toll of it all were taking a massive toll on me. I had to make a choice, and after much soul-searching and internal debate, I decided to trade in my chef's hat for a pair of sweatpants and focus on cooking at home instead. Sure, it wasn't the easiest decision, and I had to battle the inner voices telling me I was "failing" or destined to become just another "washed up TV celeb." But you know what? Cooking at home allows me to experiment freely and without fear of failure, and to savor every delicious bite alongside the people I love. Whether it's whipping up a quick weeknight dinner or spending a lazy Sunday afternoon trying out a new recipe, cooking at home has become my happy place, my sanctuary, my creative outlet.
Of course, cooking at home isn't always easy. There have been plenty of burnt dinners and failed experiments along the way (note to self: never try to make homemade pasta when you're hangry). But that's the beauty of it - cooking is all about trial and error, and even the biggest kitchen disasters can turn into learning experiences.
I also want to take a moment to talk about the toll that going on national TV can take on a person's mental health. While my time on MasterChef NZ was an incredible opportunity, it also came with its fair share of challenges and struggles.
The pressure of performing in front of a camera and the weight of public scrutiny can be overwhelming, to say the least. And while I'm grateful for the experience, I also recognize that it's important to prioritize my mental and emotional wellbeing above all else. In the past year, I've made it a priority to focus on healing and growing as a person. Whether that means taking time for myself, seeking out therapy, or simply allowing myself to slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures of life, I've come to realize that there's nothing more important than taking care of myself and my mental health.
And through it all, cooking has been a constant source of comfort and joy. Whether I'm baking a batch of cookies to share with friends or spending hours in the kitchen perfecting a new recipe, cooking has been a form of therapy for me, a way to connect with my emotions and express myself creatively.
So while I may have stepped away from the professional culinary world for now, I know that food and cooking will always be a part of who I am. And I'm excited to continue exploring this passion, not just as a way to create delicious meals, but as a way to nourish my soul and bring joy to my life.
To any future women who dream of becoming chefs, I want to offer my support, my encouragement, and my love. Pursuing a career in the culinary world can be both rewarding and challenging, but I have no doubt that with passion, hard work, and perseverance, you can achieve your goals and find success in your own way.
Remember that success comes in different shapes and sizes. It's not just about accolades or Michelin stars, but about finding joy and fulfillment in what you do, and using your talents and passions to make a positive impact on the world around you.
And if you ever find yourself feeling lost or discouraged, know that you are not alone. The road to success is never a straight line, and setbacks and failures are a natural part of the journey. But as long as you stay true to yourself and your passions, you will find your way.
As for me, while I may no longer be cooking professionally, I know that I am still succeeding and thriving in my own way. By prioritizing my mental and emotional wellbeing, and by finding joy and creative fulfillment in cooking at home, I am living a life that feels true to who I am and what I value.
So to all the aspiring female chefs out there, I wish you all the luck and love in the world. Follow your dreams, pursue your passions, and never forget that your worth and your success are not defined by anyone else's standards but your own.