Nagi Maehashi Gave Up Accounting To Cook And We’re So Glad She Did

The chef tells T Australia about her new book, working on MasterChef and her proudest achievement.

Article by Hannah Tattersall

Nagi Maehashi. Photography courtesy of MasterChef.

Nagi Maehashi has become everyone’s favourite chef. She and her (very large) dog Dozer are just as well known in Australian cooking circles as her Sausage Ragu with Pappardelle Pasta or her Char Siu Pork.

The founder of popular and trusted food blog, RecipeTin Eats, Maehashi gave up accounting to become a chef. Her debut cookbook, “Dinner”, sold 500,000 copies, was a New York Times bestseller and the fastest-selling book by an Australian debut author.

Maehashi’s next cookbook, “Tonight“, is out now and she makes her MasterChef Australia debut tonight on Network10 and 10 Play. The popular chef answered a few questions for T Australia and kindly shared a recipe from her new cookbook.

T Australia: You used to be an accountant. At what point did you realise you wanted to change professions? Are there any similarities between accounting and cooking?

Nagi Maehashi: The decision to switch careers wasn’t too hard to make, because I wanted to follow my dream… But I know, at the time, everyone thought I was mad to ‘give up’ a safe and reliable job in corporate finance. As for similarities, there’s no doubt my corporate background gave me a thorough, comprehensive, business-skewed mindframe when it came to launching the RecipeTin Eats website.

T Australia: Everybody loves Nagi. I am yet to hear from anyone that one of your recipes hasn’t worked out. They all just seem to work (and taste) amazing. How do you do it?

NM: I know what it’s like to have to be conservative (or – frugal!) when it comes to eating well. My passion for creating recipes was born out of the fact that I got a harsh reality check when I moved out of home and could no longer rely on my mum (who has her own food site, RecipeTin Japan!) to cook me amazing food every day. So, now when I develop recipes, I am so conscious of putting out content that WORKS every time… This is the reason I am a “bit” (?) pedantic about testing and retesting dishes… I just can’t stand the thought of people buying produce (especially at the moment!) and it going to waste.

T Australia: Tell us about your experience working on MasterChef. What was the biggest surprise?

NM: To be honest, it took me a bit to process which side of the bench I was meant to be on, ha!.. But, once I got over that, I was blown away by the skill and cleverness of the contestants! I’m so excited to see what they’ll do next. Super, super talented and so inspiring as the “next gen” of Australian food.

T Australia: Congratulations on your new cookbook. What sort of recipes will this one contain?

NM: “Tonight” is a labour of love. I’m so excited for it to come out, it’s been such a different experience to my first cookbook, “Dinner”. I wrote “Tonight” with the aim to make dinner super easy and accessible for everyone, every day. Because we all – no matter who’s in your household – struggle daily with the “what’s for dinner tonight?” question…

T Australia: You seem to have mastered just about every platform now – blog/web, social media, book publishing and TV. What’s next?

NM: That’s very flattering but I will always feel like I’m just a home cook! My biggest priority will always be on growing RecipeTin Meals – the food bank I started in 2021 is my proudest achievement. We recently celebrated over 240,000 meals made, and we’ve recently increased our annual meal donations from 100,000 to 130,000. I am very motivated and focused on increasing those numbers and helping our most vulnerable.

Nagi Maehashi's Crunchy Baked Hot Honey Salmon recipe from her new book, "Tonight". Photography courtesy of Nagi Maehashi and RecipeTin Eats.
Nagi Maehashi has a new cookbook out, "Tonight". Photography courtesy of Nagi Maehashi and RecipeTin Eats.

Nagi’s Double Crunch Hot Honey Salmon Recipe

This recipe appears in “Tonight”.

Baked with a double crumbing for extra crunch!

Serves: 4  Prep time: 15 minutes  Cook: 20 minutes

This easy salmon has an extra-thick coating of seasoned panko crumbs for ultimate crunchiness! The honey sauce drizzled over the fish packs a mild chilli hum to keep things interesting. And the best part? It’s baked and all done and dusted in just 35 minutes. Serve with steamed rice (see pages 318–21) and roasted green beans or asparagus (see page 218). The vegetables can roast at the same time as the salmon – could a weeknight fish dinner be any easier?

4 x 180 g salmon fillets1,
skin on or off

1 egg
2 tsp dijon mustard

Double crunch crumb
1/2 cup (30 g) panko breadcrumbs*
3 tbsp finely grated parmesan*2
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp paprika*
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dried thyme, crushed
with fingers to make it finer
1/2 tsp cooking salt*
1/4 tsp black pepper

Hot honey
1/2 cup (175 g) honey
2 tbsp sriracha*
1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes*
1 garlic clove*, finely grated or crushed using a garlic crusher

To Garnish (optional)
Pinch of fresh thyme leaves


Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan-forced).

Preparation – Whisk the dredge ingredients together in a bowl. Mix the crumb ingredients together in a separate bowl.

Double crunch – Dip the salmon into the dredge to coat the top and sides of the fish – not the underside. Place the salmon on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Sprinkle/press the crumb onto the surface and sides of the salmon (most on the top). Use it all so you get a nice thick layer of double crunch!

Bake – Bake for 15 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 50°C using a cooking thermometer*3.

Hot honey – While the salmon is baking, put the hot honey ingredients in a small saucepan* over medium–low heat. Once it comes to a simmer, cook for 1 minute, then remove the pan from the heat and let the flavours infuse while the salmon finishes cooking.4

Serve – Once the salmon is done, remove it from the oven and immediately transfer to serving plates. Rest for 3 minutes. Drizzle with the hot honey just before eating, garnished with thyme, if desired!


  1. If you have skin-on salmon, you can just eat the flesh off the salmon skin if you prefer not to eat the skin. The skin won’t become crispy using this cooking method.
  2. Grate your own or use the store-bought sandy type.
  3. See the Internal Cooked Temperatures chart on page 335.
  4. If you want to reduce the spiciness, you can strain out the chilli flakes.
  5. Leftovers: Fridge 3 days. Not suitable for freezing.