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Stepping up to the plate: MasterChef NZ contestant Alice Taylor

By CASS MARRETT

For MasterChef NZ contestant Alice Taylor, filming the show in Queenstown was both a homecoming and dream come true.

The reality cooking show, in which 16 home cooks compete against each other in a variety of cooking challenges, was filmed all over the Whakatipu for about two months from the end of February, with the MasterChef kitchen based at Vingard, formerly Mt Soho, near Arrowtown.

Taylor, who this week made the top 10, says she has a ‘‘really strong attachment’’ to Queenstown.

‘‘I used to go there pretty much every single year, and my grandparents had a bach there … I felt like I was going back home.’’

At 22, she’s one of the youngest contestants, but has stepped up to the plate, last Sunday winning the favour of judges Nadia Lim, Vaughan Mabee and Michael P. Dearth during a team Air New Zealand challenge, with her olive oil and Manuka honey cake scoring her free flights back to Queenstown.

To date, it’s been her favourite challenge because it required an ‘‘attitude adjustment’’.

‘‘In those early days I was experiencing a lot of self-doubt and just second-guessing everything I was doing and just not backing myself and I sort of got my stuff together for the Air NZ challenge … and I had the most incredible, supportive teammates,’’ Taylor says.

Before filming, Taylor was completing a masters in politics at University of Otago, and says, as a student, she had limited resources to practise her creations.

But she’s relished the challenge of cooking with ingredients she hasn’t used before, and with some of Central Otago’s finest produce.

‘‘The honey, for example, is absolutely beautiful, I use it in my honey and olive oil cake, also stone fruit as well … which is incredible.

‘‘So is the wine, the rabbit, the lamb … the great thing about Central Otago produce [is] you actually don’t have to do a lot to them and they just taste absolutely delicious,’’ Taylor says.

Since filming wrapped, she’s taken some time to figure out her next move, but says the show’s made her realise ‘‘how much I love cooking’’.

‘‘Being on MasterChef has already brought me so much joy … and so I’m hoping to pursue a career in food, for sure.’’

cass.marrett@scene.co.nz