Ready, set, cook

Judges cooking up a storm: Pictured filming in Queenstown recently are MasterChef NZ judges, from left, Michael P. Dearth, Nadia Lim and Vaughan Mabee. The resort's playing a starring role in the 2022 season.


Queenstown’s set to dazzle on-screen when MasterChef NZ returns, after a seven-year hiatus.

Filmed across the Whakatipu for about two months from the end of February, the season starts with 27 contestants auditioning for 16 spots at Walter Peak.

The selected few are then put to the test in a variety of challenges, at a host of scenic spots across the
Whakatipu, and at the MasterChef NZ kitchen at Vingard (formerly Mt Soho).

Network executive producer Virginia Hodgson says the team wanted to ‘‘make New Zealand shine’’, and basing the production in the resort’s a no-brainer.

‘‘Queenstown is such a bespoke region with world-class local wines and produce, and is a hunting and foraging mecca,’’ she says.

‘‘With all this, and such spectacular scenery, it was not a hard decision to choose to set the series here and make our local version really stand out from the international versions.’’

This year’s judges are MasterChef NZ 2011 winner, entrepreneur and Whakatipu resident Nadia Lim, Amisfield exec chef Vaughan Mabee and Auckland restaurateur, Michael P. Dearth.

A taste of Queenstown: MasterChef NZ judges, from left, Michael P. Dearth, Nadia Lim and Vaughan Mabee on location at Walter Peak

Due to 14-hour filming days and trying to avoid Covid, the trio say they didn’t get much time to sample the offerings at Queenstown’s eateries, but Lim did recommend Mabee’s house for taco night.

Dearth relished the idea of an extended stay in Queenstown, and hit the hills hiking on days off.

Mabee even made a hunting buddy out of him — Dearth nabbed his first rabbits while here.

Lim says the trio ‘‘got on like a house on fire’’.

‘‘I laughed so much I had to bite my tongue.’’

As locals, Lim and Mabee say they’re well aware of the challenges the local hospo industry’s facing.

‘‘My heart really goes out to all these people,’’ Mabee says.

‘‘Where I work, we have had to work harder and pull everything together, but one thing I can say, [is that] we’re very happy right now because it seems like we are starting to see the end of the tunnel,’’ he says.

MasterChef NZ premieres later this month on Three.