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A stellar local chefs for My Kitchen Rules NZ panel

MKR NZ Tasting Panel Judges announced

A stellar line-up of local chefs has been confirmed for the My Kitchen Rules NZ Tasting Panel.

Filling four spots at the Kitchen HQ judging table are local celebrity chef, Nadia Lim; former TV producer andMasterChef US contestant, Grace Ramirez; international award-winning chef, Robert Oliver; and acclaimed restaurateur, Sean Connolly.

Nadia Lim:

No stranger to Kiwi television screens, Nadia Lim is passionate about delicious, healthy food that is simple and easy to prepare.

The Otago University qualified dietitian, shot to fame after winning the second series of MasterChef New Zealand in 2011.

Nadia’s second cookbook, Nadia’s Good Food Cookbook quickly reached the top of the best sellers list, winning best TV cookbook in New Zealand. It also gained critical acclaim as runner up in the prestigious International Gourmand Cookbook of the Year awards, furthering Nadia’s profile globally.

Continuing her message of healthy eating on the international stage, earlier this year, Nadia finished filming the TV series, New Zealand with Nadia Lim - a primetime show produced for the Asian Food Channel.

Back at home, Nadia’s work is published across a raft of key media, and she also helps host a weekly radio food show on Newstalk ZB.

“I’m beyond excited to be a part of MKR NZ and seeing what Kiwi teams can bring to the table. Having been on the other side, I’ve certainly experienced first-hand how tough it can be in such a pressured environment!" Nadia says.

“I’ll be looking for the team who makes best use of local, seasonal produce to create nutritious and delicious dishes in this competition.”

Grace Ramirez:

Grace Ramirez recently returned from New York where she worked in the TV industry for more than a decade, but her true passion has always been food.

In 2007, Grace decided to follow her dream and started working with Chef Bobby Flay at The Food Network, where she directed and produced Throwdown with Bobby Flay. In 2010 she was picked out of 60,000 contestants to be in the first MasterChef US with superstar chef Gordon Ramsay; and shortly after was awarded a scholarship to the prestigious French Culinary Institute in NYC.

While attending FCI she also worked at Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich’s kitchen, but Grace is the kind of chef that still considers herself a very passionate cook who loves bringing people together and feeding them well.

Grace’s culinary inspiration is from a melting pot of Latin American cuisines. Her family hails from Venezuela, and she’s spent time absorbing the gastronomic delights of a host of Latin America countries. Grace’s family was in the fashion and entertainment business, but food was a serious business too: a typical weekend at home would see Grace’s grandmother cooking Venezuelan specialties for the often 50-odd family members visiting.

Grace hopes to inspire the MKR NZ teams to push the envelope and experiment with world flavours and styles.

“I’ve been looking to sink my teeth into a rewarding project here in New Zealand, and am ecstatic to be in the company of such acclaimed chefs for MKR NZ,” she says.

Robert Oliver:

Robert Oliver is a New Zealand chef who was raised in Fiji and Samoa, with a passion for the flavours and foods of the South Pacific.

He has developed restaurants in New York, Miami, Las Vegas and Sydney, "farm to table" resorts in the Caribbean and food programmes feeding homeless people and African immigrants with AIDS in New York City.

Robert returned to the South Pacific to write his first book, Me’a Kai: The Food and Flavours of the South Pacific(Random House, New Zealand), with Dr Tracy Berno and Fiji photographer, Shiri Ram.

Written with a development mission to connect Pacific agriculture to the regions tourism sector, Me’a Kaistunned the food world by winning top prize of Best Cookbook in the World 2010, at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Paris, considered to be the Pulitzers of cookbooks, beating the books from NOMA and The New York Times.

In 2013, Robert released Mea’ai Samoa: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Polynesia (Random House). The book won Best TV Chef Cookbook in the World 2013 earlier this year, at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Beijing.

Robert is Chef Ambassador for Le Cordon Bleu, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, and is the presenter ofREAL PASIFIK, a television series based on the food culture of the South Pacific. He was a keynote speaker at TEDx in 2013 and was one of the authors chosen to represent New Zealand at the Frankfurt Bookfair in 2012.

My Kitchen Rules NZ will be a brand new experience for Robert.

“I haven’t worked on a reality series of this nature before, and can’t wait to embrace the challenge and bring my opinions to the table. The MKR format is just fantastic, and I’m a huge fan of the Australian series that’s currently airing.”

Sean Connolly:

Hailing from the UK, Sean Connolly is one of our most well-respected and recognised chefs.

First arriving in Australia in 1988, Sean worked in various Sous Chef roles at high-end hotels. He was mentored by renowned chefs, learning about multicultural cuisines and techniques as well as how to manage a kitchen.

In 1995, Sean was offered the role of Executive Chef of Astral restaurant in Sydney, winning accolades such as SMH Good Food Guide Chef of the Year in 2008 and launching the casual restaurant, Sean’s Kitchen, in the Star City Casino.

In 2009 he hosted the award-winning series, My Family Feast, and released an accompanying cookbook, which won best Celebrity Chef Cookbook in the world at the 2011 Paris book fair, beating international stars like Nigella Lawson.

Sean then travelled to New Zealand, and in 2011 he, together with Skycity Auckland opened The Grill by Sean Connolly. The restaurant received rave reviews and in 2012 won Best Restaurant at the prestigious New Zealand Cuisine Awards.

In 2012, Sean also started a Restaurant Consulting arm of his brand; development and production of his own range of home-cooking Chef Sean Connolly products; and opened The Morrison, a New York style restaurant and oyster bar in the heart of the Sydney CBD.

On joining MKR, Sean says, “I’m looking forward to tasting restaurant-quality dishes on this series. I’m going to be honest in my critique of the food that’s put on the table, and I can’t wait to see how the teams develop each week.”

The Tasting Panel Judges first appear in the Kitchen HQ phase of the competition, following the Instant Restaurant rounds.

My Kitchen Rules NZ is coming soon to TV ONE. It is hosted by Ben Bayly and Gareth Stewart.

© Scoop Media

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