Ever since their win on MasterChef nearly a year ago, Karena and Kasey Bird have been the darlings of the local food world. Choosing to forgo the book deal that was part of their prize package, the duo instead self-published their first cookbook together, and on the Wednesday the 22nd of April, Unity Books Wellington played host to an event celebrating the new book: For the Love Of…
There were some very excited fans in attendance, some even getting permission to pop out of school, just to get a chance to meet their favourite TV cooks. The women have obviously had a fair few chances to share their story by now, and as such, carried off a slick storytelling performance. Before they elaborated on their road to MasterChef and beyond, Karena explained that in creating the book, they wanted it to be as much about their life and journey as the food. Looking through the beautiful hardback (in their team colour – pink), it’s easy to see that this was the case.
The story of their journey was peppered with little anecdotes that got the audience laughing, like Karena telling us her flatmate’s surprised reaction when she announced she wanted to go to cooking school – ‘I’d never cooked anything while living there’ – or the perplexed paua divers of Maketu who couldn’t understand why the pair (in secret training for MasterChef) needed one fresh paua every day.
The elaborate lengths that the pair went to in their training and prep, both before the show and while competing, certainly would have contributed to their success. Methods employed included practising their audition dish twice every day (hence the need for daily paua), creating extensive spreadsheets, and noting the culinary preferences of judges (‘Simon loves peas, Josh loves rice’).
Getting back to the topic of the book itself, Kasey and Karena told the audience how they wanted to have total control over the book. ‘We don’t do things by halves,’ they explained. They tracked down their own food photographer, picked a designer who they’d seen do beautiful work on cookbooks, and knuckled down to create the vibrant collection of recipes and Bird family life moments.
It’s no small task, to write a book, let alone produce it yourself, so looking at the finished product and considering just how busy these master chefs have been is quite something. Kasey read an extraordinary list out, detailing the sorts of things that they’ve been up to – from becoming food editors of Mana magazine, to writing a column for the Herald on Sunday, to all kinds of cooking demonstrations across the country – to their latest venture, this book tour. Despite all this madness, they are already planning ahead – the future holds more books, more travelling, and – could there be any doubt? – definitely more food.
For the Love Of… (Karena & Kasey Bird) is $60 and available in store now or from our online shop HERE.
Review and photos by Briar Lawry