MasterChef New Zealand contestant Michael Gin might be carrying with him the hopes of his friends, family and hometown of Oamaru, but there’s one person he most wants to make proud – his dad Gordon, who is battling terminal bone marrow cancer.
Michael (23) is determined to make the cut in the highly competitive, top-rating cooking show for his dad. “It’s hard to deal with,” he says. “But Dad still has a bit of time left with us, and I want to do him proud.”
Michael never thought to enter the show, but a friend filled out the registration form on his behalf. He says watching his dad battle cancer has taught him to seize every opportunity that comes his way. “Life is short,” says Michael. “So I thought, why not. I'm going to do this!"
Michael owes his passion for food to Gordon and his mum Linda. Growing up on a market garden in Oamaru meant their backyard always provided the family with the best quality produce to cook with. And from when he was a boy, Michael always had his own little vege patch to tend.
“Well, when I say small, it was still the size of half a football field,” he laughs. “But I was responsible for the entire patch, which was cool.
“We have acres and acres of vegetables,” Michael adds. “We generally grow potatoes and brussels sprouts – as we do in Oamaru – but at one time or another we've probably grown everything you’ve seen in the supermarket.”
Growing up surrounded by fresh produce and with his family’s love of cooking, Michael’s career choice has been heavily influenced by his upbringing. He graduated with a masters degree in food science earlier this year in Dunedin, where he now works.
While Michael is getting used to people recognising him from the show, he reckons all the attention is a bit bizarre.
“My family are making scrapbooks,” he says. “It’s unreal. Although my dad’s a real Kiwi bloke, he’s just like, ‘Yeah, good on you mate, you’re doing all right!’”
As Michael progresses through the competition, his thoughts are often with his parents, who make sure to take a break from work and watch their son every Sunday night.
“I know I have to treasure every moment with Dad,” says Michael. “I’ll be there for him when he needs me, and hopefully through my cooking he’ll be proud.”