Nico is owner and Head Chocolatier at Honest Chocolat. Before starting his own artisan chocolate business, he worked as a pastry chef for more than 18 years. He trained in France and has experience working with some of the best chefs in the world. One of them being French master chef Pierre Gagnaire, as well as working for Kauri Cliffs and Peter Gordon in NZ, Relais & Châteaux restaurants in the USA and the Coutanceau group in France.
Luke Owen Smith is the owner of 'The Chocolate Bar' - New Zealand’s premier retailer of bean-to-bar and craft chocolate. As well selling some of the best chocolate in the world, Luke runs regular tasting sessions and workshops to help spread the word of the bean-to-bar movement. He has extensive knowledge of the New Zealand chocolate scene and the international craft chocolate scene, and is looking forward to putting his skills to the test on judging day.
Debbie is content director at FRESH Creative www.fresh.co.nz and founder of Red Carpet TV. In both roles she draws upon her background in filmmaking, the fitness industry, nutrition and as a makeup artist and hairdresser. For the past three years with www.redcarpetnz.tv, she has covered entertainment and lifestyle for digital outlets, continually adding innovative outlets like the "Red Carpet TV" app. Debbie believes ‘chocolate makes everything better’.
Mitsuharu (Mitsu) grew up in Japan and moved to New Zealand 10 years ago. He has extensive experience as a pastry chef including; three years at Clooney, one year at Patisserie Vaniye and four years at Milse (part of The Hip Group) as pastry chef / chocolatier. In his spare time he is a beekeeper and has 20 hives in Kumeu. He loves all kind of sweet things!
Alison Leonard is best known for her wicked sense of humour and sharp wit. She has a wealth of radio broadcasting experience and hosts the popular Day Show on The Breeze - she's passionate about her role and the variety it offers to her listeners. Since hanging up her competitive dance shoes she has indulged her great love of food. Everyday there is a masterpiece created in Ali's Kitchen. An evening meal, preserving and pickling, or creating a Master Chef finale desert. When asked about Chocolate, Ali's response: "Are you serious ? You'd have to be minus a pulse to not enjoy a bit of choccy! We have so many wonderful local Chocolatiers! I can't wait! "
Karl is owner and Head Chocolate Maker at Hogarth Craft Chocolate, one of New Zealand’s few bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturers, based in Nelson. Hogarth began his chocolate making career launching four varieties under the name Hogarth Craft Chocolate at the Nelson Market in 2015. Hogarth recently won accolades at Academy of Chocolate in London, and the International Chocolate Awards, picking up a total of five Gold and two Silver awards for their products.
Ganesh has worked in USA and New Zealand as a pastry chef and is currently working at LSG Sky Chef’s as a Head Pastry Chef. He is a member of New Zealand High Performance Squad. He has won numerous awards at Culinary competitions locally and internationally.
After nearly 20 years in the hospitality industry, Vicki Ravlich-Horan started Nourish Magazine with the goal of creating a truly local food magazine that encouraged people to learn more about their food, be inspired by fresh seasonal produce and to enjoy cooking. With editions in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty, Nourish is the most read food magazine in the Waikato and BOP. Between each edition the Nourish team now offer clients great design, marketing and event management and have recently enjoyed working with wonderful local companies like NZ Winter Truffles and Peplers. Vicki, a proud Waikato gal, started and is still heavily involved in Waikato Food Inc, a not for profit member organisation championing food producers and eateries in the Waikato.
Niki Bezzant is a writer, speaker, editor and commentator. She is founding editor (now editor-at-large) of Healthy Food Guide magazine, a columnist for the Herald on Sunday and a frequent contributor to broadcast media. Niki has been involved in the food media for nearly 20 years. She founded the website for Cuisine magazine and was that title's first web editor. She is currently president of Foodwriters New Zealand and a proud ambassador for the Garden to Table programme which helps kids learn how to grow, cook and share food. She is a member of the Council of Directors for the True Health Initiative, a global coalition of health professionals dedicated to sharing a science-based message of what we know for sure about lifestyle and health.
Tamara was born in Europe and moved to New Zealand 30 years ago. She is a passionate Foodie, has a Science degree from Auckland University, is a member of the NZ Guild of Foodwriters, Head of Content at FMCG Business and experienced industry awards judge.
Lorna Subritzky has worked in radio and television for almost 30 years, mostly in managerial roles but more latterly her natural ability to communicate has taken her behind the microphone where she is currently the nationwide daytime host on Coast. In her spare time she wrangles three children, two cats and a dog with her husband. Other than family, her great loves are good food, good wine and good company.
A food writer, chef, caterer, restaurateur and has also presented on TV food shows. She has set up two cafes Byzantium in Ponsonby and later a second cafe, the Garnet Road Food Store, Westmere. After the cafe business she focused on developing recipes and writing cookbooks. She has written for Cuisine, Viva, Next magazine, and the NZ Woman's Weekly, and has had her own magazine. Le Clerc has published 15 cookbooks.
A self confessed chocolate lover Helen Jackson is pretty happy with her judging role. Helen can be found at www.foodlovers.co.nz, her award winning website that has been helping people with recipe solutions for the past 18 years. Early birds can hear Helen on the Radio Live Home and Garden show from 6-8am every Saturday morning. Helen is a keen travel and regularly hosts food tours to gourmet destinations.
Kathy Paterson’s career spans Cordon Bleu teaching in London and New Zealand, running her own successful catering business and co-authoring cookbooks. Kathie is a food writer and food stylist for the New Zealand Herald Bite Magazine and the New Zealand Beef + Lamb Magazine. Kathy is Immediate Past President of Food Writers NZ.
Long time broadcaster Trudi Nelson is the voice of TV3 and More FM New Zealand. A passionate foodie, Trudi launched Fresh in 2004. In 2016 she founded Saturday Fresh on Radio Live. With husband, Mark Nelson, Trudi also owns The Fresh Factory, a studio and event space in Auckland’s Eden Terrace. Trudi is a Past President of Food Writers NZ.
Chef and owner of All About Chocolate. He founded All About Chocolate to ensure that top chefs across New Zealand had access to top quality organic couverture. There is not much that Tony does not know about chocolate!
Sam Mannering loves good food and cooking with beautiful, fresh ingredients. He is a food columnist for Sunday Magazine and chef and co-owner of Homestead and Company in Auckland. His first cookbook, A Year’s Worth: Recipes from Dunsandel Store, focusses on the seasonality of food. His latest book, Food Worth Making, is an eclectic collection of recipes from home and abroad. Sam is a talented actor and a graduate of London’s Central School of Speech of Drama, with a Masters in Film Acting. In 2016 he appeared in the series Hillary on TV One. He’s passionate about New Zealand food and a member of Food Writers NZ.
Food Editor of NZ Life & Leisure, Anna Tait-Jamieson brings hands-on experience to the judging panel as a former restaurant owner and co-founder of a fresh food manufacturing and distribution company. She has worked as an agricultural journalist for Radio New Zealand, made food and farming features for broadcast and profiled many of the country’s artisan producers for newspapers and lifestyle magazines.