Welcome to MasterChef New Zealand! It’s back after seven years and the controversy has kicked off before the opening credits have even rolled.

On Saturday, contestant Felina Kee posted a video to Facebook in which she accused the production of, among other things, unfair judging and “psychological manipulation”.

You know that of course; it’s the reason a lot of you are here at all. So what happened in this first episode?

Well, it starts with 23 people getting off a boat. It’s the Earnslaw, docking at Lake Wakatipu, because this season was filmed in Central Otago.

We’re here presumably because it’s home to two judges – season two winner Nadia Lim and much-accoladed head chef of Amisfield, Vaughan Mabee – and aren’t we lucky it is. That’s some stunning scenery they’ll be cutting away to.

Anyway – 23 people. I know 23 is a lot, but don’t worry! By the end of this week seven of them will be gone. The first week of MasterChef is really an extension of the audition process, with Lim, Mabee and fellow judge Michael P Dearth whittling the group down to 16 contestants based on their “signature dish”, which they are now given one hour to cook.

But – pay attention now – they’re not actually kicking anyone off just yet. No, each of the contestants will either get a “yes” from the judges, in which case they receive an official MasterChef apron, or a “maybe” in which case they will go into a final first week showdown to decide who gets how every many aprons are leftover when everyone has cooked.

There is one recognisable face among the 23 and that is Sam Low. I follow him on Instagram, you follow him on Instagram, 20,000 people follow him on Instagram. He is World Famous in New Zealand, so he will go first.

Sam introduces himself as a “coffee trainer and consultant”. Sam, honey, you’re an influencer. Embrace it.

Sam wants to be the out-and-proud queer Asian representation he didn’t have when he was growing up. He’s going to make a dish called Drunken Chicken, which, interestingly enough, was also one of my university nicknames.

Obviously it’s great. Sam is great and I’m already picking him as a fan favourite (I mean, he has the advantage of already having fans). He gets an apron.

Then he walks back into the holding room where all the other contestants hoot and cheer like they’re happy for him, which they cannot be. There are only 16 aprons and they know that. Every one handed out is one they can’t get. It’s kind of nice, I guess, that the producers are clearly trying to create this Bake Off-esque sense of camaraderie, but it’s also one of the least real moments in reality television I’ve ever seen, and I watched several seasons of Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

Next we have Rach. She’s from a small community in the Hawke’s Bay where she forages a lot of food and honestly she terrifies me. She makes a paua pie, which would be a bold choice if she was familiar with what Nadia calls Vaughan’s Famous Paua Pie (TM), but she isn’t. Vaughan likes it. After a dramatically placed ad break, she gets an apron.

MasterChef New Zealand All Seasons
MasterChef New Zealand Season 07

Episode 01 | Episode 02 | Episode 03 | Episode 04 | Episode 05 | Episode 06 | Episode 07 | Episode 08 | Episode 09 | Episode 10 | Episode 11 | Episode 12 | Episode 13 | Episode 14 | Episode 15 | Episode 16 | Episode 17 | Episode 18 | Episode 19 | Episode 20 | Episode 21 | Episode 22 | Episode 23 | Episode 24 | Episode 25 | Episode 26 | Episode 27 | Episode 28 | Episode 29 | Episode 30