Technically, every competitor is in with a chance of winning MasterChef New Zealand. But if you're going to get squeamish about butchering meat, stop pulling your weight in the group and refuse to taste anything put in front of you, then don't bother applying, says Simon.
“Raheel is a vegetarian and wasn’t keen on dealing with a whole duck – I get that,” says Simon. “But some of the contestants on the show have given up their jobs to be there, and most of them are incredibly focused and dedicated.
“It’s very frustrating for us when someone comes in and treats the whole thing like it’s a laugh, freaks out at the idea of chopping the head off a duck, then acts like she doesn’t care whether she's in the competition or not. It’s actually really insulting, both to us and the other contestants. I mean, seriously. It’s MasterChef. What did she think she was going to have to do?”
But while Raheel's attitude and her lacklustre cooking ensured her swift ejection from the MasterChef house, Brenton firmly believes it’s possible for a vegetarian to do well on the hit show.
“You can’t go into a cooking competition and expect to not see meat. And saying that the food was disgusting and she didn’t really want to be there any more was really disrespectful,” he says.
“As a chef you have to taste everything you cook – but to me, tasting to check flavour and actually eating meat are two entirely separate things.
“A wine taster doesn't have to swallow to understand flavour, and it’s exactly the same for me,” insists Brenton. “To understand a flavour, you have to use your palate.”
“No-one is such a genius that they can prepare and present a meal without tasting to check seasoning and spice,” adds Simon. “You have to be flexible.” And that applies to all the contestants on MasterChef.
“If you want to be on the show, you have to be prepared to try everything. I have a great deal of respect for vegetarians – every one of my restaurants, including the steak houses, has a menu specifically designed for people who don’t eat meat,” says Simon.
“Sorry to the vegetarians out there who think they should be treated differently, but unless you’re prepared to taste the food, don’t bother coming on the show.”
MasterChef New Zealand screens Sunday, TV One, 7.30pm