In May 2014 Karena and Kasey Bird were announced as the winners of Masterchef New Zealand, the fifth series of the televised reality cooking show. The victory, the first for a duo anywhere in the world, was to change their lives. They have now established themselves as award-winning book publishers, authors and television hosts - having their own cooking/travel series ‘Karena and Kasey’s Kitchen Diplomacy’.
Background: Karena and Kasey were brought up in the small Bay of Plenty coastal village of Maketu with a population of just over 900 people. It was there they learned the values of fresh produce and celebrated traditional Maori recipes that take advantage of nature’s bounty. Life was simple but full. During their teenage years they developed a love of food and eating, saving their modest allowances to spend weekends in Auckland dining at the latest hot spots.
In 2008 following school the sisters went their separate ways, Kasey to Melbourne and Karena to Wellington, the culinary meccas cementing their appreciation of good food. On returning to Maketu the sisters perfected their cooking style. Importantly, they entered Masterchef with a study and practice plan to fill in the gaps in their culinary knowledge and skill base.
The challenge became a family affair with dad providing words of caution helping the sisters realise they would have to make sure their odyssey was worth it. Meanwhile mum encouraged their enterprise, buying kitchen equipment and washing the piles of dishes resulting from the culinary quest.
Television: Since Karena and Kasey’s Masterchef win and their love of creating delicious food based on their unique Maori heritage has seen many exciting opportunities come their way.
2016 was a very exciting year and saw the girls take up one of their most exciting ventures - filming their 10-part travel and cooking series “Karena and Kasey’s Kitchen Diplomacy”. The series sees Karena and Kasey spending 6 months visiting 10 different countries around the globe and learning all about the local food, culture and customs.
Columnists: They have a regular food and travel column in the Herald on Sunday and are the food editors for Mana Magazine. Their fun and unique approach to food has kept them in high demand across the country for cooking events.
In 2015 they spent time in some of Auckland’s best Kitchen’s (Baduzzi &The Grove) under the guidance of Cuisine Chef of the Year 2015 Ben Bayly. Following their stint with Ben Bayly, Karena and Kasey took up the opportunity to work in the South of France at the restaurant Le Petit Leon where they spent the summer cooking delicious local French fare with NZ chef Nick Honeyman.
Authors: In 2015 they also self-published their first cookbook ‘For the Love of…’. It includes an array of delicious recipes from everyday favourites to special recipes handed down from their beloved family members. They decided not to go with the usual book deal they won as a part of their winning prize package and decided to make the cookbook themselves from their hometown in Maketu. This was a massive risk taken by the girls but has proved worthwhile. The book has received many accolades including being on the NZ best sellers list and winning the 'Best TV Cookbook in the World' at the Gourmand World Cookbook awards in May 2016.
Karena and Kasey believe cooking is all about impressing those you love with tasty recipes using simple ingredients and celebrating New Zealand’s unique culture. All for the love of food, family and friends.