Anna King Shahab

Auckland-based freelance food and travel writer Anna King Shahab is a frequent contributor to titles such as the New Zealand Herald, Cuisine, Metro, and Toast, and over the past decade has sat on the judging panels some of the country’s most prestigious culinary awards programmes.    

Emma Rawson

Emma Rawson, Senior Editor Group Content at the NZ-owned publishing company Lifestyle Magazine Group, heads up one of the country's fastest-growing digital publications,, and edits the prestigious In Your Backyard annual editions for NZ Life & Leisure. Emma's magazine writing career includes weekly magazines TV Guide, Women's Weekly, monthly magazines Kia Ora, Next and NZ Lifestyle Block, the digital publication Unlimited and she is the senior writer on NZ Life & Leisure as well as the launch and ongoing editor of the highly successful thisNZlife. Emma has been an enthusiastic chocolate eater ever since she stole her brother's Easter eggs as a four-year-old. She's graduated from hoarding Creme Eggs in a doll house to savouring craft chocolate, and had a true bean-to-bar experience when she visited a cacao farm on a trip to Hawai'i earlier this year.

Ganesh Khedekar

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.

Ginny Grant

Ginny Grant is freelance food stylist, recipe developer and a senior food writer for Cuisine Magazine. She contributes regularly to Stone Soup magazine and is a member of Food Writers NZ. She regularly judges for a number of New Zealand’s food awards including Cuisine's Good Food Guide and Silver Fern Farms Premier Selection Awards.

Head Judge 2018, Elle Crocker AKA Elle Coco

Elle Coco is an experienced chocolate judge at the British Academy of Chocolate and the International Chocolate Awards. She recently moved to Wellington from London travelling the long route starting in Mexico, before covering off all of Central America and the western countries of South America. She visited cacao plantations, met growers and tasted chocolate along the way. In London, Elle ran chocolate making workshops and classes for British chocolatiers, department stores and global companies, including William Curley Patissier, Harrods and PWC. In addition to running workshops, Elle has worked with new and established chocolate makers, including Damson Chocolate (UK), Tri Island Chocolate (Grenada, Caribbean) and Stamba Chocolatier (Georgia, Caucasus). Elle has hosted education and tasting sessions at London’s ‘The Chocolate Show’ and ‘The Grenada Chocolate Festival’ in the  in the Caribbean. Elle will be supported by an independent judging panel of food experts. In 2018 the only chocolatiers in the judging panel will be those without products in the competition.  

Jasbir (Jaz) Kaur

Jaz has caused ripples around the world with her unique approach to cooking, encompassing every nationality. She has worked in top hotels and restaurants in five countries. Recently returning from working in Disfrutar, arguably the best restaurant in the world. From her roots as an event planner at the Renaissance Marriott Hotel Mumbai, Jaz has worked in Wales, (UK), Colorado, Miami and South Carolina, (USA) Spain. Jaz represented NZ at the World Tapas Competition in 2017. She was guest chef on Good Morning on TV One, completing 50 shows detailing seasonal, fresh and healthy produce. Currently General Manager of Ignite Colleges, Jaz is now sharing some of Disfrutar’s creative culinary concepts to tertiary students in Manukau. Jaz holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Hospitality Management, a Diploma in Gastronomy, Diploma in Adult Education, Diploma in Psychology in Nutrition and recently completed a Diploma in Spanish Gastronomy at Disfrutar.

Kathy Paterson

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.

Lorna Subritzky

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.

Luke Owen Smith

Returning for his second year as a judge, 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.

Mahesh Manthena

Mahesh Manthena is pastry chef at Harbourside Ocean Bar Grill
Mahesh started his career with a stint in the USA for the internationally recognised Marriott and Hilton group of hotels.
He arrived in New Zealand in 2010 and immediately started working for Soul Bar and Bistro, where he was for five years in the pastry section
Mahesh then moved to the Nourish Group at their flagship restaurant, Euro for 18 months before moving to Harbourside Ocean Bar Grill.

Sam Mannering

One of the judging panel in the inaugural awards, 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.

Sarah Harrap

A trained pastry chef, Sarah has worked in New Zealand and in one the UK's Michelin star restaurants. She is currently working at Criollo chocolates and dessert. Sarah is a regular competitor representing New Zealand in international patisserie competitions.  

Shaun Tyagi

Shaun Tyagi is head chef at Harbourside Ocean Bar Grill and the 2015 Chef of the Year,

Trudi Nelson

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. She was a judge for the inaugural 2017 competition and is looking forward to being part of the action again in 2018.

Vicki Ravlich Horan

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.