Living on a student's income, Michael Gin says he cannot afford to cook the dish he produced to secure a place in the top 24 on Masterchef New Zealand.
Mr Gin was named a finalist on Sunday in the show that screens on TV One, after cooking gnocchi with blue cheese sauce, rocket, grilled pears and walnuts.
He could not disclose information on any upcoming episodes or where his journey finished, but he said the news of making the top 24 was mind-blowing.
"My face looked stunned," he said.
"I didn't know what was happening."
Mr Gin was born and bred in Oamaru and moved to Dunedin six years ago to study at Otago University.
He has grown up with a love of food and says the Chinese have a saying: "We don't eat to live, we live to eat."
After seeing the dishes the other contestants had created, Mr Gin thought he "had no show".
"I got mixed responses from the judges but overall they really loved my food," he said.
"They do critique your food, but you just have to listen and not take it to heart."
Mr Gin said he was just honoured the judges wanted to try his dish as they sometimes would not even go near them.
"It's a great experience."
Mr Gin said seeing himself on television on Sunday was "surreal".
"It doesn't get much bigger than being on TV," he said.
"I never thought I'd see myself on TV.
"It's a little bit daunting."
You can see him on Masterchef New Zealand this Sunday on TV One at 7.30pm.