Manu finds the right in­gre­di­ents

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Gaming -

BE­HIND Manu Feildel’s boy­ish grin is a man that has grown up. The My Kitchen Rules judge has turned 40 and his pri­or­i­ties have changed.

Feildel has traded the sin­gle life for a steady re­la­tion­ship with Perth jew­ellery de­signer Clarissa Weerasena.

The French­man has dumped his free-wheel­ing mo­tor scooter and is fi­nally learn­ing to drive a car.

Feildel is rel­ish­ing life with his nine-year-old son, Jonti, and been lucky enough to share his good for­tune with his mother Eve­lyne.

He has seen his Chan­nel 7 cook­ing show grow up too.

In four sea­sons, My Kitchen Rules has gone from be­ing a solid rat­ings success to a TV phe­nom­e­non. This year it has been av­er­ag­ing up­wards of two mil­lion view­ers per episode.

‘‘ I started work when I was 15 – shap­ing a job that I was very ded­i­cated to,’’ Feildel says.

‘‘ My son was born when I was 31. Then I had the pos­si­bil­ity of do­ing a bit of TV. My Kitchen Rules has be­come a big success. You try to find love as well.

‘‘ I am set­tled in ev­ery way in my life now. All the stars have aligned. I think I’ve got ev­ery­thing I could want at the moment.’’

A while ago it looked as if things could have gone in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion.

Last July Feildel made head­lines dur­ing a trip to Perth for the Good Food and Wine Show. He par­tied hard at the Malt Sup­per Club and was seen ly­ing on the floor strik­ing an un­flat­ter­ing pose along­side MasterChef judge Ge­orge Calom­baris.

The next day at the show, Feildel dropped uten­sils and re­peat­edly com­plained of a ‘‘ bad hang­over’’ be­cause of a ‘‘ big night’’.

Feildel also had a nasty scare when he clipped a car on his scooter. That was a big wake-up call.

All the stars have aligned. I think I’ve got ev­ery­thing I could want at the moment

‘‘ It is so easy to lose your life on two wheels,’’ Feildel says. ‘‘ When you’re go­ing to crash, your life flashes be­fore your eyes and the first per­son that came to me was Jonti.

‘‘ The bike is in the garage and I’ll never look at it again. I’ve al­ways wanted to have a car but it got harder as I got older and busier to take driv­ing lessons.

‘‘ I sud­denly had to thump my fist on the ta­ble and say ‘ I need to get a car’. It is about the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that I have got in my life – my work, my son.’’

A hic­cup came in Jan­uary when Feildel was busted driv­ing through Syd­ney’s east­ern sub­urbs on a learner’s per­mit with no L-plates or a su­per­vis­ing driver. He was fined $762.

Two years ago love was on the back­burner for Feildel. In­stead, he was driven to suc­ceed pro­fes­sion­ally.

In 1991 the then 17-year-old ar­rived in Lon­don from France with no friends, no money and no English.

He spent eight years in the UK, work­ing his way from the bot­tom to head chef at the pres­ti­gious Live­bait seafood restau­rant.

In 1999 he came to Aus­tralia for more slog – Toofeys in Mel­bourne fol­lowed by Syd­ney’s Hugo’s, Restau­rant VII, Bil­sons and then his own restau­rant, L’etoile.

There was a per­sonal cost for all that grind. His 12-year re­la­tion­ship with Jonti’s mother ended in Oc­to­ber 2009.

‘‘ I used to be a frus­trated guy who would come home from work­ing so hard go­ing, ‘ When am I go­ing to get the re­wards?’ ’’ Feildel told me in 2011.

One of Feildel’s great­est sat­is­fac­tions is that his mother, who re­cently spent a month in Syd­ney with the star, has been able to see those re­wards de­liv­ered in spades.

‘‘ She is ob­vi­ously very proud,’’ Feildel says. ‘‘ For me, it (success) is re­pay­ing the way I was brought up. My dad left when I was four – pretty much dis­ap­peared.

‘‘ She had to bring up two kids by her­self from the age of 22 – and I think she has done a great job. The only way she could bring us up was to work hard. Now she is re­al­is­ing that all the trou­ble she went through – all the tears and sweat – have paid off.’’

Life is set­tled. So are there any big dreams for the fu­ture?

‘‘ I never stop dream­ing,’’ Feildel says with a laugh. ‘‘ There is a lot of things I want to do. I want to con­tinue my ca­reer as a restau­ra­teur and chef – I’ll al­ways have a foot in that busi­ness.

‘‘ TV is some­thing I really en­joy. I think my big­gest dream would be to travel around the world with food (a TV food show). Then I wouldn’t mind putting a few ki­los on!’’ My Kitchen Rules, Chan­nel 7, Mon­day to Wed­nes­day, 7.30pm

Set­tled: Manu Feildel feels con­tent with his life and his TV work with fel­low judges Pete Evans and Colin Fass­nidge (left).

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