RecipeTin Eat’s Nagi Maehashi Is ‘Beyond Excited’ To Be Making Her MasterChef AU Guest Judge Debut

Ever since the first episode of MasterChef Australia, I’ve been waiting for one particular guest judge — the one, the only, Nagi Maehashi. After weeks of the show being on air, I can finally confirm that the GOAT of the online recipe world will be on our screens tonight for the biggest mystery box challenge in MasterChef Australia‘s history.

If you’re not familiar with Nagi, let me introduce you. Nagi is the creator of RecipeTin Eats, a website dedicated to great food with everyday ingredients. She’s also the author of “Dinner”, a cookbook with a heap of easy-to-make, cheap, showstopping recipes and has another one on the way called “Tonight”. While there are plenty of websites and cookbooks out there, Nagi has developed a cult-like following of young people who have turned to her to help decide what on earth to cook each night.

For many, she’s the reason they know how to cook — and that’s something that brings her a lot of joy.

“When I hear that kids, or people who have just moved out of home for example, have used my recipes from my website or book to learn how to cook, it just makes me so happy,” she tells PEDESTRIAN.TV.

“I wish I had that when I first moved out. It’s just too expensive to eat out every night these days, and with that, who wants to eat canned tuna and rice every day of the week?”

Nagi’s culinary prowess aside, her fans have also come to adore another lovable character in her world — her 12-year-old golden retriever Dozer. Although he couldn’t accompany her to the MasterChef kitchen, the sweet boy features heavily in her upcoming cookbook “Tonight”.

In celebration of Nagi’s long-awaited MasterChef episode, I had a cheeky chat with the recipe creator over the phone while we both sat rugged up in trackies and Ugg boots.

PTV: What was your reaction when you got the call to appear on MasterChef Australia as a guest judge?

I wasn’t sure if it was a joke. I actually didn’t call the first person because I thought it was a hoax call. I was like, what? I was very confused.

So they ended up chasing me to call them back because I genuinely just thought it was all a bit weird. But then, I think they thought I was playing hard to get. It was very strange. It’s just that they normally have professional chefs on, you know, like Jamie Oliver, Rick Stein, and Josh Nyland, those kinds of people.

I was like, ‘Why do you want me?’. It was a bit surreal but I was beyond excited.

You’ve been in the recipe creation space for around 10 years now. Was there ever a time when you considered going on MasterChef as a contestant?

Never. It just never even crossed my mind! All of those cameras, that’s what made me so nervous, the thought of it!

That’s what made me nervous about even appearing on MasterChef so I can’t even imagine being tested. Hats off to the contestants because I was watching them cooking with cameras right in their faces, and it just didn’t even phase them. Then, they go on and pull off these incredible dishes. I could never do what they do. I think what they do is incredible.

What was it like setting food on the iconic MasterChef set?

To see the real thing that you’ve seen on your TV screen for over 16 years is quite surreal to walk into the actual set. It was a great experience and everyone was so helpful. It’s the first proper TV filming I’ve done so I warned them, I said ‘I’ve never done TV before, so I have no idea how I’m going to go’.

I actually haven’t seen the episode so there’s every possibility that you’ll see me staring at the camera like a deer in headlights, with my mouth moving and nothing coming out. I have no idea how it went. I don’t even remember, it was so strange.

You seem to be a natural on camera in the trailers online! I think you’re going to be brilliant.

Maybe they’ve already used the half-decent takes. You never know, it could be a total flop!

I think I was on set for 14 hours and have a vague recollection but I feel like I didn’t really absorb the experience. There were so many cameras, producers and people talking in my ear, that I was sort of floating and watching someone else [laughs].

WHOLESOME!!! (Image: RecipeTin Eats / Rob Palmer)

On Monday night’s episode, we’ll get to see the Mystery Box Challenge that you developed. How did you come up with the items in the box?

You know, I literally walked into my pantry and listed out 50 ingredients and said to the MasterChef team, ‘This is what I’d like to put in the Mystery Box’. And then I got a response back saying: ‘You’re crazy. Not even a fraction of this will fit in the mystery box’.

So I asked how many I could get and that became my own personal challenge. We literally figured out how many of those items that I sent we could max out under the mystery box. So it’s the biggest Mystery Box Challenge MasterChef Australia has ever done.

That’s so exciting! I know you can’t tell me what is in the box just yet, but if you were a contestant would you be concerned about doing this particular challenge?

Well, I’d already be nervous because I just know I could not do what the contestants do. I would just freeze and be booted out in the first round. That’s exactly what would happen [laughs].

You show so much range in your cooking skills online and in your books but what would you say is your culinary weakness? Is there one recipe you just haven’t cracked yet?

Yes! I have never been able to crack the perfect Portuguese tart and I just love them so much. I’m dying to figure out how to do it at home. I know there are recipes online that swear they have cracked the code, but you know what, I just don’t think it’s possible. I’ve even had a professional French pastry chef helping me and I just don’t think you can do it in the home oven. I think you need a commercial oven, scorching hot at 450 degrees.

Since releasing your last cookbook “Dinner”, Dozer has become even more of a sensation. Do you think the attention has gone to his head or is he a humble lil’ guy?

Oh no, we call him Prince Dozer and there’s a reason for it. His head has gotten so big, it’s outrageous. And you know, he’s so big on the cover of this next cookbook. In the first cookbook cover, he was this tiny little head but this one is quite significant. He’s featured even more throughout this next book, so yeah, definitely arrogant.

Apparently, Dozer’s big head is emotional and physical now that he’s had a touch of fame. (Image: Recipe_Tin / Instagram)

Aw I love him! But recently he’s had some health issues. How is he doing now?

He’s bounced back really well from the surgery and his health problems. The fact is, he’s a 12-year-old dog so he’s a senior citizen. I’m just trying to enjoy every day I have left with him. Thank you for asking.

I’m so happy to hear that. And speaking of your upcoming cookbook “Tonight”, are there any recipes that you are just dying for your audience to try out?

Yes, there are quite a few in this one! What I really love about it is that the recipes are very specific, like even more than my first cookbook, and they’re all the kind of things you can make tonight. So there’s a whole chapter on pantry recipes.

I literally set myself the challenge of a pantry chapter where I walked into my pantry — no shopping allowed — and came up with 14 recipes based on those staple ingredients. Every single one of them made the cookbook because I’m so happy with them.

Some of those recipes in there got tested by professional chefs, and their favourites come from the chapter on pantry recipes, which really disappoints me. I was positive they’d pick something like the duck ragu or lemongrass coconut pulled pork. I was like, ‘surely it’s so chefy! They’re gonna love it’. But no, they loved these recipes from the pantry chapter. I was surprised, but I secretly love that those recipes were such a hit!

So yeah, I love this book because it genuinely is a book of recipes to make right now. There are some quick and easy recipes, but it’s more so about accessibility, so you’ll be able to get everything from the regular grocery store.

Two icons!!! (Image: Recipe_Tin / Instagram)

So, if you had to pick one dish to cook on a hot date or an occasion where you want to impress, what would it be?

I think the one restaurant-y classic that young people don’t think they can cook, but they actually can is Béarnaise Sauce! It’s a very classic French sauce sold at fancy French restaurants and served over steak or salmon. If you get it at a nice place, you will pay over $40 for it. But at home, you can make Béarnaise Sauce for less than $4 for four people and it is just so easy to make.

It’s less than $5, it takes about four minutes to make, it’s incredible, it tastes so restaurant and I think it’s just because people don’t know how easy it is to make. I call it ‘fancy but easy’.

(NOTE: I found the recipe she’s talking about! You can find it HERE and you better believe I’ll be using it to impress my next hot date.)

And finally Nagi, who are you backing to win this season of MasterChef?

Oh, I’m not allowed to say! I’ve been specifically told to keep my big trap shut!