Monday, 20 January 2020


Star-studded line-up of chefs at this year’s Scallop Festival

Five well-known celebrity chefs are set show the crowds what they’ve got at this year’s Whitianga Scallop Festival on Saturday 21 September.

Sisters Karena and Kasey Bird, Ray McVinnie and Gareth Stewart and Aaron Gascoigne (the “master and apprentice”) will all put their talents on display as they whip up some delicious creations to delight the crowds on the live cooking stage.

The sister duo, the winners of MasterChef New Zealand 2014, appeared at the Scallop Festival in 2015. Also in 2015, the sisters released their own cookbook, “For the Love of…,” which was included in the New Zealand Bestseller’s list which reached number one and was the winner of the Best Cookbook of the Year in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.

Karena and Kasey starred in their own TV series, “Karena and Kasey’s Kitchen Diplomacy,” where they toured countries all around the world, learning about local dishes and delicacies. 

Drawing from their overseas experience, the sisters also released a second cookbook, “Hungry,” in 2016, where they experimented with new flavours and techniques.

Ray McVinnie is a world-renowned culinary master. He has been a food writer and advisor at Cuisine magazine, a judge on MasterChef New Zealand and a food columnist for the Sunday Star Times and Sunday magazine, and has worked with Bite magazine. He has won numerous awards, cooked as a professional chef in some of Auckland’s best restaurants, and published several cookbooks.

Ray has travelled extensively in Asia and Europe, researching food and working as a professional chef. He is also a former lecturer at the Auckland University of Technology and is an experienced food stylist, consultant and guest chef for various restaurants and cooking schools. He was part of the MasterChef judging panel in 2014 when Karena and Kasey were crowned as the winners.

Chef Gareth Steward is a culinary legend, leading the charge of the Nourish Group (the owner of several well-known restaurants in Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown - including Euro, The Culpeper, Shed 5 and Soul). He is a regular at Taste of Auckland and was a judge on My Kitchen Rules New Zealand 2014 and 2015.

It was during 2014 that Aaron Gascoigne entered MKR New Zealand as a contestant with friend Josh King under the team name “The Corporate Dads,” where they received the lowest dessert score for “Nannas Pear Crumble,” a moment Aaron refers to as “Crumblegate.”

Gareth and Aaron have since become good friends and are excited to be involved in this year’s Scallop Festival, following on from Aaron’s appearance at the festival in 2017. Everyone will get the chance to witness Gareth the culinary genius in action, as Aaron joins his mentor and former judge on the stage.

Aaron and Josh made it to the semi-finals of MKR 2014, finishing third overall.  “The Corporate Dads” now own a catering company by the name of Two Fat Cats and also conduct product launches and demonstrations, and other public speaking engagements.

The Whitianga Scallop Festival has taken a gap year last year. This year will feature, in addition to the stellar line-up of chefs, a new festival village layout, top-class live entertainment and a wide variety of delectable dishes. To register for early bird ticket access, visit the Scallop festival website at

Photo: Karena and Kasey Bird. 


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