Manu finds the right ingredients
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).