My Kitchen Rules is back on screens, and there’s a new sher­iff in town – Dar­ren Robert­son of Three Blue Ducks fame. MARIAM DIGGES caught up with him and fel­low judge Colin Fassnidge to dis­cuss their new al­liance

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Dar­ren Robert­son from Three Blue Ducks joins My Kitchen Rules.

Colin Fassnidge and Dar­ren Robert­son have been spend­ing a fair bit of time to­gether lately. But you wouldn’t know it be­cause the well-known chefs have kept their new work­ing re­la­tion­ship un­der wraps for months, stealth­ily avoid­ing the me­dia’s gaze by catch­ing sep­a­rate planes and never be­ing pho­tographed to­gether. What’s with all the se­crecy? Three words: My Kitchen Rules.

The Seven Net­work jug­ger­naut is back, and Robert­son is join­ing Fassnidge for a judg­ing stint on the re­al­ity se­ries over the next few weeks. Al­ready, the sandy-haired co-owner of the Three Blue Ducks restau­rants in Bronte, Rose­bery and By­ron Bay is field­ing an­noy­ing ques­tions from jour­nal­ists. “A sex sym­bol?” he asks, look­ing be­mused. “I don’t think so. No­body knows who I am.”

On a re­cent morn­ing, Fassnidge and Robert­son were be­ing pho­tographed in dap­per tuxe­does, and ban­ter­ing like the old friends they are. At times they re­sem­bled a cou­ple of wise­crack­ing char­ac­ters in a Tarantino movie, or per­haps that should be a Guy Ritchie film as Robert­son has an English ac­cent and Fassnidge has an Ir­ish brogue.

“It was pretty in­sane,” Robert­son says of be­ing asked not to re­veal his TV role.

“It’s go­ing to get a lot worse mate,” Fassnidge warns. “The worst is when they print your kids’ names, where you live. But I live in Syd­ney. You’re all right I guess Daz, be­cause you’re in By­ron Bay.”

“Yeah, no­body cares what you do or who you are up there,” Robert­son says.

Their on-screen ca­ma­raderie works nicely be­cause they are well-ac­quainted with each other. “We met 16 years ago at a bar. I was at Tet­suya’s at the time and Fass was at Banc,” Robert­son says.

“We were quite ine­bri­ated when we met,” Fassnidge says, laugh­ing. “It’s great to have some­one you trust on set. Some­one you can bounce off.”

Join­ing MKR as a guest judge in 2013, Fassnidge was soon given his own restau­rant round on the show. His role as the hard-nosed judge, along with his kil­ler dim­ples and bad-boy per­sona, el­e­vated him to celebrity sta­tus. His pri­vate life soon be­came weekly tabloid fod­der and his Surry Hills restau­rant, 4Four­teen, was staked out by fans.

More re­cently, Fassnidge has been hounded by tabloid sto­ries al­leg­ing that he’s be­ing given the chop from the show, and that he clashes with fel­low hosts, Pete Evans and Manu Fieldel. “I’ve just signed a two-year con­tract,” he says, dis­mis­sively. “And we all get on well.”

For the most part the feed­back is ef­fu­sive – ex­tremely so. “My part­ner is used to it now,” he says, in ref­er­ence to his wife Jane Hyland. “If I was 23, I’d be the big­gest d***head in the world, be­cause ev­ery­one tells you you’re the best even when they don’t know you.”

Fassnidge in­stinc­tively as­sumed the role of men­tor to Robert­son dur­ing film­ing. “He took me un­der his wing a bit,” Robert­son says. “You hear hor­ror sto­ries of prima donna celebrity chefs, but it hasn’t changed him.”

Tele­vi­sion star­dom has been known to fill restau­rant ta­bles. “It’s good for busi­ness,” Fassnidge ad­mits. “Some peo­ple come to 4Four­teen and they want to see you, talk to you, get a photo.”

Since leav­ing the Four in Hand pub in 2015, all eyes have been on his next move. “I’m think­ing of get­ting back into pubs,” he says. “But this time, I’ll own it.”

For Robert­son, who added two more Ducks with his busi­ness part­ners last year, this year is about con­sol­i­da­tion. “The temp­ta­tion is al­ways to open an­other venue,” he says. “But By­ron has so many mov­ing parts.”

Robert­son is dad to 14-month-old son, Archie, with his part­ner, TV pre­sen­ter and me­te­o­rol­o­gist, Mag­dalena Roze.

“Mags is very sup­port­ive, but it’s harder with a baby, just be­cause you don’t re­ally want to be away; there’s so much Skype. You’re away for three days and you come back to a dif­fer­ent kid.”

“I give him baby ad­vice now,” Fassnidge says. “I’ve got two kids, so I’ve made all the mis­takes.”

“Do they watch the show?” asks Robert­son.

“They watch a lit­tle, but they think I’m quite bor­ing. They say, ‘Where are the My Lit­tle Pony books?’”

Of what to ex­pect on the MKR sea­son ahead, Fassnidge says there are a few tal­ented young guns, and some shock­ers, too. “Peo­ple who get in just to be fa­mous – I’ve got no time for them. You’re like a school teacher: you don’t have to like ev­ery­one, but they’re in your class.”

As we draw closer to Robert­son’s de­but, Fassnidge of­fers his buddy some ad­vice. “Keep your friends close and your en­e­mies closer. And don’t change be­cause of this, be­cause it’s good when it starts, and then it ends.” Join Colin Fassnidge and Dar­ren Robert­son at Take Two Chefs, the new monthly din­ner se­ries by de­li­cious. The four-course meal will be held at Syd­ney’s 4Four­teen on March 22. Book at 4four­

“A sex sym­bol? I don’t think so. No­body knows who I am”

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