Karena & Kasey Bird
Despite their hectic new lifestyle, sisters Karena and Kasey Bird have not been tempted to move from their Maketu home since their 2014 Masterchef win. They still live next door to each other in the small Bay of Plenty town. ”It’s a safe haven for us to unwind and be creative,” say the pair who have never had any formal cooking training. Kasey was studying accounting and Karena a quality control coordinator at Poutiri Trust before they entered the competition. “Now, we do not have typical days any more. One day we are doing cooking demos at food shows, the next we are in our office writing recipes, the next we are doing photo shoots for magazines.” Their favourite kind of day? “Those we get to spend in the kitchen, perfecting dishes we have thought up.”
In their new column for the Living magazine of the Herald on Sunday, they will be showcasing the flavours they love but in recipes that are not intimidating for readers. “We want to make recipes which can be whipped up easily. With our new lifestyle these are the kind of dishes we have been favouring ourselves!
“We want to do a variety of different styles of food and, hopefully, inspire people to try something new with one of their favourite dishes. The majority of the photographs will be shot here in Maketu so the readers are able to see where our inspiration comes from.”
Tell us a little about your food style and what you each bring to your cooking partnership.
Karena: I love trying new things and being creative with food. I love bold flavours and lots of spice. I’m not sure what I bring to the partnership, maybe that extra bit of crazy?
Kasey: I definitely think anything goes. It is amazing what you can come up with from ingredients you have at home, in the cupboard or fridge. I think in our cooking relationship I am the voice of reason. Karena has all the crazy ideas and I am the one who says whether it is just a bit too crazy or not.
Do you cook together at home? And will you continue to cook as a duo professionally going forward?
Karena and Kasey: We do cook at home together a lot but we don’t mind cooking on our own if the other is too tired or busy to help. Going forward we are definitely going to continue cooking together.
We hear you are working on a cookbook. What can we expect to see and when will it be published?
Kasey and Karina: You can expect recipes we have grown up with which have been given our own twist as well as recipes we have learnt and developed over the years that have become our favourites. We will keep you posted on when the book will be coming out!
Happy birthday, Kasey! Did Karena cook for you on your big day (May 30)? Do you have a favourite birthday cake?
Kasey: Thank you! Yes 24 years old now. Time definitely feels like it is flying. I love all kinds of cake but I am definitely partial to vanilla ones and Karena actually didn’t cook for me. There were big plans of a huge dinner party but after a hectic week in Auckland we decided pyjamas and pizzas were the way to go.
We know you love seafood and make a mean creamed paua ravioli but what would your favourite cuisine be and all-time favourite dinner?
Karena: I change my favourite cuisine every couple of months so I always struggle answering these types of questions. At the moment I am loving Asian and I cannot stop eating dumplings. My all-time favourite dinner also changes often. This week it is my mum’s roast chicken and stuffing with pan gravy.
Kasey: I have to agree with Karena. I don’t think we are very loyal to any type of cuisine. I am loving Japanese at the moment and my all-time favourite dinner is steak with mushroom sauce, potatoes and green beans.
What is the greatest thing you learnt on Masterchef?
Karena: Always listen to people who know more than you!
Kasey: The greatest thing I learnt on Masterchef is to be a nice person and treat others the way you wish to be treated and that with hard work and determination you can make anything happen.
Has your style of cooking changed since the show?
Karena: I think my style has remained the same. I have always loved bold flavours and putting my own twist on things. I just think I am a little bit tidier and more efficient when I’m doing it now.
Kasey: I think I still have the same style and cook with the same essence but my skills have definitely improved and I am able to work with more different ingredients and put my own spin on them.
Who are your chef heroes and why? Where do you find your culinary inspiration?
Karena: I have so many chef heroes: Peter Gordon, all three of the Masterchef judges, Al Brown, Michael Meredith, Ben Bailey, Daniel Wilson. They have done great things for New Zealand cuisine.
Kasey: I have to agree with all of the above.
What do you eat on a typical weeknight?
Karena and Kasey: I don’t think we have a typical weeknight meal. Last week, for example, on Monday - falafels with homemade wraps and hummus; Tuesday – parmesan-crusted lamb rack with kumara puree and leeks (courtesy of Brownwyn and Fiona); Wednesday – Mum’s mince pie with mash and peas; Thursday - Tuscan chicken and steamed vegies; Friday we were in Hawke’s bay eating venison at Church Road Winery…. As you can see there is no typical weeknight meal at our place and we love it that way.
Must-have kitchen utensils?
Karena and Kasey: A really good, sharp knife and a large chopping board.
Chocolate or vanilla?
Karena: Vanilla (Heilala).
Earliest food memories?
Karena: I remember (while Mum was out) taking a tablespoon of jam and rolling it in Milo to make some kind of jam truffle thing then thinking it was a great idea to microwave it. It exploded all over the microwave. Needless to say, Mum was not impressed.
Kasey: Baking rewana bread early in the morning with my mum on cold and rainy days.
If you could eat anywhere in the world where would it be? Why?
Karena: Noma. One day soon, hopefully. (Copenhagen two Michelin-star restaurant, No 1 in the 2014 San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.)
Kasey: Such a hard question. I really want to eat everywhere in the world! I do have to say there is something about Santorini that really makes me want to visit. It looks absolutely incredible.
Why do you love cooking?
Karena: It is the way I unwind after a busy day. It is one of my creative outlets. There isn’t a more satisfying feeling than making people happy with something you have made for them.
Kasey: Eating is something that everybody has to do so why not make it special? There is nothing better than sitting around with your family sharing a beautifully cooked meal.
Tell us about a very memorable meal.
Karena: A meal I have had at Baduzzi while we were on the show. The style of food and the simplicity of the dishes really cemented the type of food I love and also the style of cooking I would like to have.
Kasey: A very memorable meal for me was during summer, making our own bonfire and cooking pipis on a piece of tin as the sun was setting on the beach in Maketu.