With a restaurant menu that currently boasts Clevedon venison with Indian pumpkin purée, black garlic pâté and a brandy Worcestershire sauce with potato fondant, Simon is no stranger to an inventive dish.
But while Aaron Brunet may be the viewers’ favourite to win, Simon isn’t convinced, and wasn’t impressed with the lamb/chicken liver/pear/cheese creation he presented at the invention test.
“A lot of my dishes get invented after I look in the fridge and see what we’ve got,” he says. “These guys are always saying they want to cook their own dishes to show us what they can do, but when we give it to them, they freak out!
“Aaron got away with it by the skin of his teeth – but I have to question whether ‘crazy’ is actually inventive,” he says.
“I wouldn’t put Aaron’s dish on my menu because, honestly, you have to make dishes that people want to actually eat.
“To me, Kelly is the superstar – but no-one seems to talk about her. Every Sunday night my Twitter account goes crazy with people discussing the show, but everyone goes on about Aaron being the best. No-one seems to back Kelly. She is good enough to win, absolutely no question.”
“My money’s still on Aaron all the way,” argues Brenton.
“He’s an incredibly technical cook and has shown a wide skill set throughout the competition – I was impressed with how he tied his meat! I wasn’t completely convinced it’d work, but I’d love to try it. It’s hard to make calls on whether things really do in fact work together, especially when you’re not there on the spot to try it yourself.
“Making different ingredients combine successfully is pretty crazy – but it looks like he pulled it off… again.”
While no-one was surprised Vanessa was eliminated – “I think everyone was anticipating that” – admits Brenton, there are plenty of shocks in store.
For Simon, the biggest surprise at this stage is Paula.
“Firstly, she made incredible fish balls. I usually don’t like them, but hers were superb.
“But we also saw her unravel, which I wasn’t expecting. It wasn’t until she admitted that her family didn’t think she could ever win MasterChef, that I realised she is proving to herself she can do this,” he says.
“And she can. No matter what her family say, Paula can seriously cook.”
MasterChef New Zealand screens TV One, Sundays, 7.30pm