Consign shows like Master Chef and Best Home Baker to the back burner.
Rotorua has our own culinary superstar and we wager no high-profile telly cook can tell you how many spuds it takes to feed 1500, or the difference the count will be depending on whether they're boiled, roasted or mashed.
Iri Te Kowhai rattles the relevant details off the top of her head. She's Rotorua's caterer extraordinaire, a feat recognised when this newspaper named her our 2009 Person of the Year.
That was in the aftermath of Sir Howard Morrison's tangi where her talents feeding crowds of biblical proportions
attracted national headlines.
Iri's still bemused by that, she's regularly catered for events bigger and longer-lasting. If an event's Ohinemutu-based it's Iri and her "pa bunnies'' who'll be keeping the kai coming ... and coming.
Add to that the nightly meals she oversees at Tamaki Maori Village and the headcount of the number she's "given a good feed'' over several decades defies calculation.
Staggering, yes ... so too is the fact that her body is, to put it bluntly, buggered. Cancer's claimed one breast and
for the past two years she's spent three mornings a week hitched to a hospital dialysis machine. Her heart's not in the best of nick either.
"They [doctors] reckon I work too hard but I reckon it's work that keeps me going,'' the indefatigable Iri chortles from the depths of her armchair.
Talking to us in her Koutu home is one of the few occasions (dialysis time apart) she's forced off her feet. Sleep's
something she considers a time-waster ``four hours is enough .... I don't have time for more.''
Away from Ohinemutu's kitchens and the Tamaki tourist spot it's Koutu and her whanau who populate it that consume her.
To all and sundry she's "Aunty Iri'' and, by golly, they're proud that she is.
Iri (nee Haronga) is equally proud that the blood in her veins is that of the "royal family'' of Ngati Whakaue.
Royal or otherwise, Iri's a child from the "other side'' of the Koutu tracks, growing up at the far end of Railway Rd, in a house train drivers dubbed Petticoat Junction, with good reason.
"There were five girls in the whanau so there were always five bras, five knickers and five petticoats on the washing line.''
Growing up Iri was not a good little girl. She giggles her way through the story of how, at 12, she and two girlfriends became bar flys.
However did they get away with it and however could they afford it?
She blames her brother for the financial input.
"It came from an uncle's `treasure chest' he tended to help himself then give me 50 pounds ($100). I'd take the girls to the hairdressers, get dolled up so no one at the pubs would know we were 12.''
Older and wiser, Iri hasn't touched a drop of drink since her second son's birth. "I can't stand the stuff and what it does to people.''
But back to her earlier days. At 15 she was expelled from Western Heights High. "I got tossed out because I wore
my sister's honours blazer to school _ she was a foundation student, I wasn't. The principal hauled me up in front of the whole assembly, I told him he could stick his school you know where.'' In a typically Iri gesture, she'd lent her own blazer to a girl without one.
With her educational bridges burnt she went straight into the workforce, lasting a day at her first job in a warehouse office. "It was boring.''
A girlfriend told her about a job tying flies at Kilwells. By 18 she'd become supervisor. Although she'd known Pat Te Kowhai "for ever because he's a Koutu kid too'' their paths merged at Kilwells _ he supervised the male staff.
Iri became an ace rod binder. "I worked on all the flash rods, game rods, the really expensive ones on contract at home. I'd be out in the garage until 3am.'' Her second pregnancy sent her into temporary retirement.
Her next job was with Social Welfare's Koutu family home. Next she managed Fenton's Tavern. It was a family affair, Pat ran the sports bar, elder son Joe the lounge bar. Seven years on Iri `took crook'. ``My eyes were burning, I was delirious.''
Hydrogen sulphide poisoning was diagnosed. Iri had been working in the hotel's fume-filled basement. ``I was advised to get out of the job because it was no good for my cancer.''
That's when her marae catering career began in earnest.
"The Nannies doing it were getting on so I sort of took over, they stayed to polish the silver and I got my cuzzies in the help. I called them the Pa Bunnies; we've always had a ball. They're the heroes, the ones who deserve honours, they do all the hard work,''
Let the record state that Iri Te Kowhai's no professionally trained chef. The only qualification she has is a Food & Hygiene certificate form Waiariki.
"I never cooked until I married, Pat used to throw my kai out the window for the neighbour's cat.''
Iri Te Kowhai (nee Haronga)
Born: Rotorua, 1951
Education: Rotorua Primary, Sunset Intermediate (foundation pupil), Western Heights High
Family: Husband Pat, sons Joe and Boss, daughter Diane; 8 mokopuna (grandchildren)
Interests: Whanau, fishing "though I can't go out any more because I don't have the stability to pee over the side'', co-founder (with Pat) of annual Tanagroa marae fishing contest, played women's rugby for Waikite Wombles. "I'm too busy catering to do anything else these days''.
On the secret to her successful catering career: "I'm a thrower, I don't follow any recipe''
On being The Daily Post Person of the Year: "I was embarrassed, I work for my people to get income for our marae upkeep, everything rusts because of the ngawha [hot springs]
Personal Philosophy: "Health and serenity''