The 2015 Tasting Panel

Posted 1 year ago

Meet this year's guest judges! These hungry chefs are looking forward to new faces and new flavours. 


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.


Grace Ramirez

Grace Ramirez splits her time between New Zealand and NYC. Having working worked in the TV industry for more than a decade, 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.

She is also an ambassador for Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH), a not-for-profit organisation that helps orphaned, abandoned, and at-risk children in South America and also volunteers for the Garden to Table programme.

This October Grace will be releasing a cookbook, La Latina on how to cook fantastic, authentic Mexican, Central and South American food.


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, 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 Kai stunned 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.  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 of Real 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.


Liz Egan

A well-known face on MKR Australia, Liz Egan joins our MKR NZ esteemed tasting panel for 2015.

With over 20 years’ experience in the food industry, Liz believes it’s very important to picture the dish you are planning to cook, imagine its taste, and then balance textures and flavours. This balance is really the best way to sum up what she looks for in her home meals, her Becco menu, and is what she’ll be looking for from the MKR teams.

Firmly believing that less is more when it comes to creating a dish; three or four elements which are beautifully in harmony will be more memorable than a cacophony of ingredients all jostling for attention and resulting in a disaster.

Liz grew up on Wantirna Estate vineyard in the Yarra Valley, surrounded by wine and food. Her mother is Italian and a wonderful cook, and Liz quickly learnt that the best way to ensure she got to taste everything her mother cooked at family dinner parties was to help in the kitchen. She learnt about the innate side of cooking, by following the bones of a recipe then using her senses to lift it into an extraordinary dish, by tasting and adjusting.

After working in commercial kitchens almost by accident, Liz then moved on to form a catering company which ended up as Onions, a highly regarded restaurant in Melbourne’s east. Onions was successfully developed into a Two Chef Hat venue and that recognition still counts as her proudest career moment.

Liz appears regularly in culinary publications such as Vogue Entertaining, Gourmet Traveller, Delicious magazine, Taste in the Herald Sun and Epicure in The Age. She was executive chef and co-owner of Becco in Melbourne until 2011. She recently launched her own website  as well as a new project with her two daughters, Bella and Lily, who are both at university studying nutrition.


guest judges