Guess who’s coming to dinner?
My Kitchen Rules is back on screens, and there’s a new sheriff in town_ Darren Robertson of Three Ducks fame. MARIAM DIGGES caught up with him and fellow judge Colin Fassnidge to discuss their new alliance
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 4fourteen.floktu.com
“A sex symbol? I don’t think so. Nobody knows who I am”