Fast food­ies

Why MKR is a bless­ing — and a curse — for Manu Feildel and Pete Evans

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE - By Holly Byrnes

THEY say too many cooks spoil the broth. But in TV land, does too much suc­cess on a cook­ing show spoil the ac­claimed chef?

Ask My Kitchen Rules co- host and for­mer restau­ra­teur Manu Feildel and the painful mem­o­ries of hav­ing to shut down his dream eatery in Mel­bourne af­ter just four months of ser­vice sim­mer quickly to the sur­face.

Le Grand Cirque, co- owned by MasterChef judge Ge­orge Calom­baris and opened to celebrity fan­fare in 2014, re­mains an in­cred­i­bly sore spot for Feildel.

Merg­ing his pas­sion for French cui­sine with his clown- like per­son­al­ity had re­alised a life­long am­bi­tion, only to see it end swiftly af­ter a bar­rage of bad pub­lic­ity, as well as site and staffing is­sues.

Com­ing hot on the heels of the clo­sure of his first Syd­ney restau­rant, L’Etoile, Feildel ad­mits: “It was more than a lit­tle bit of a low … it was a big kick in the butt.”

While his small- screen stocks could not be stronger – fronting Aus­tralia’s No. 1 re­al­ity show and pre­par­ing to film a new spin- off travel and cook­ing se­ries this year – the 41- year- old has been forced to make peace with not hav­ing his own work­ing kitchen to rule.

“Peo­ple ex­pect more of those in the lime­light,” he ex­plains to TV Guide.

“When you judge other peo­ple’s food and crit­i­cise, your head is on the chop­ping board and you have to deal with it. In some ways it’s not fair but I think that’s the price you pay.”

As a new sea­son of MKR presents op­por­tu­ni­ties for an­other group of wannabe chefs, Feildel says watch­ing his ex- col­leagues and food peers man­age suc­cess­ful com­mer­cial ven­tures with their TV ca­reers has been diffi cult.

“Some­times I’d love to be in­volved with what they do, but I’ve just had to make a de­ci­sion with my life. It was hard to make the de­ci­sion ( to fo­cus on TV) and I’m not say­ing I’m giv­ing up on restau­rants and cook­ing, but I’ve put a stop on it for the mo­ment be­cause it’s im­pos­si­ble for me to do all of it.”

His co- star Pete Evans’ ex­pe­ri­ence in the spot­light has also been both a bless­ing and a curse, en­joy­ing in­ter­na­tional suc­cess for his pa­leo mes­sage, while en­dur­ing a con­stant stream of hate for it on the home front.

But the Emmy- nom­i­nated pre­sen­ter is tak­ing the high road, see­ing the sil­ver lin­ing in the life­style con­tro­versy.

“For me, ev­ery neg­a­tive crit­i­cism out there is a step in the right di­rec­tion be­cause it’s bring­ing about more aware­ness. I’ve had 30,000 fam­i­lies go through my 10- week pro­gram and each and ev­ery one of them has im­proved their lives,” he says.

The in­sa­tiable ap­petite for food pro­gram­ming and recipe ideas has not only fu­elled the show’s pop­u­lar­ity but Evans says has charted the im­prove­ment and education of the av­er­age cook.

“We’re see­ing home cooks who could quite eas­ily own their own restau­rant and have peo­ple fl ock to it be­cause of how up- to- speed ( con­tes­tants) are with trends.”

Speak­ing from his lush farm in the By­ron Bay hin­ter­land, Evans uses a surfer’s anal­ogy to de­scribe what this year’s cooks need to do to win the se­ries.

“Just like a surf­ing con­test, they go out there and try to in­tim­i­date each other, jos­tle for a wave.

“If I was out there, I’d def­i­nitely have a strat­egy in place and find out what works and what benefi ted me in the com­pe­ti­tion. It’s like that in busi­ness; it’s like that in any­thing you do.”

MY KITCHEN RULES SCT, MON­DAY TO WED­NES­DAY, 7.30PM

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