HOT IN THE KITCHEN

Manu Feildel and Pete Evans serve up a new sea­son of My Kitchen Rules

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - FRONT PAGE -

HIS pas­sion for food has opened a world of ca­reer and life op­por­tu­ni­ties for Manu Feildel.

As a young­ster, the French­man cut his cheff­ing teeth in his fa­ther’s bistro in France, then headed to Lon­don armed with a com­pleted ap­pren­tice­ship, but no English, to rise through the restau­rant ranks.

In 1999, he moved to Aus­tralia, work­ing briefly in Mel­bourne be­fore mov­ing to Syd­ney to work at Hu­gos restau­rant.

The boss who gave him a start at Hu­gos – Pete Evans – be­came his mate. The pair­ing came full cir­cle five years ago when the duo took up roles

on fledg­ling cook­ing re­al­ity show My Kitchen Rules.

MKR, which fo­cused on home chefs pit­ted against sim­i­lar pas­sion­ate food­ies, be­came a jug­ger­naut. Last year, the fi­nale was the most-watched TV event of the year.

The 2014 sea­son kicks off tomorrow night and it seems Feildel isn’t the only one whose ap­petite for the show re­mains – and the serv­ings are big­ger than ever.

“The show had changed so much since that first sea­son,” Feildel says.

“There’s a lot more to it – it’s longer, there are more ‘acts’ there’s more food, it’s gone crazy.

“In sea­son one, it was hard enough for me to get in front of the cam­era and host a show. I was mak­ing the move from do­ing a bit of TV as a guest to host­ing a show – they are very dif­fer­ent roles.

“All I was think­ing was mak­ing sure I pro­nounced all my words prop­erly so all Aus­tralia could un­der­stand me.” Fast-for­ward to sea­son five and

MKR now takes up half of Feildel’s year. “It’s six months on ( MKR), six months off,” he says.

“When I say ‘six months off ’ though, that means it’s the six months I have back in restau­rants (he has L’etoile in Syd­ney’s Padding­ton and re­cently an­nounced plans for his first Mel­bourne restau­rant – which he hopes to have up and run­ning by March).

“As I say to peo­ple (about time away from chef du­ties), Louis Vuit­ton doesn’t sew ev­ery hand­bag him­self. He has a whole team do­ing that.”

Feildel has also man­aged in the past year to fit in a healthy per­sonal life, in­clud­ing writ­ing books, be­ing a dad to son Jonti (from his first mar­riage) and get­ting en­gaged to part­ner Clarissa Weerasena. “I don’t think we will be able to have our wed­ding this year, be­cause it is pretty much full al­ready, but some­time in 2015 it will be – we are still look­ing at dates,” he says. “She has said yes, so we are on the way.”

Back in TV land, Feildel says MKR is ready to serve up another feast of tal­ent, twists and per­son­al­i­ties. There’s also the ad­di­tion of the MKR Food Truck, a semi-trailer decked out with a state-of-the-art com­mer­cial kitchen. It’s hard to miss and al­lows for a host of new – and very pub­lic – cook­ing chal­lenges.

“The show’s pop­u­lar­ity and the qual­ity of the cooks I think is a re­flec­tion that Aus­tralians are more and more in­ter­ested in and more knowl­edge­able and ad­ven­tur­ous about food,” he says.

“The con­tes­tants are al­ways push­ing the en­ve­lope. There are some great char­ac­ters and great peo­ple, and great food and great drama.”

Five sea­sons in, Feildel ad­mits he still finds it hard to sit by and watch when things go pear-shaped if the wait for a course stretches into another hour as home chefs lose the plot in their own kitchen.

It makes great tele­vi­sion, but his heart goes out to them.

“Some­times I feel like tak­ing my jacket off, putting the chef jacket on and go­ing out there and help­ing out,” he says.

“Of­ten they haven’t re­alised how much work they took on board, they start swim­ming, then they end up drown­ing in the kitchen. It’s hard to watch.”

He and Evans have had their share of awk­ward mo­ments – most of­ten when a dish goes wrong.

“Pete and I have been mates for 15 years – we were em­ployer and em­ployee, then mates, then started work­ing again to­gether through this,” Feildel says.

“It’s a good bal­ance be­tween the two of us. We some­times look at each other and with­out a word – we don’t need to say it – you know we are hav­ing this whole con­ver­sa­tion along the lines of ‘what on earth are they do­ing here? What are we do­ing here?’ It’s funny.

“In five years, there has been one dish that still haunts me – I think it was se­ries three – a blue­berry and laven­der cheese­cake. And it tasted like a bar of soap.

“I try to keep a poker face and never judge a dish un­til it is ac­tu­ally in my mouth. “Some­times it tastes bet­ter than it looks – and of­ten it can look bet­ter than it tastes as well. “But this was just hor­ri­ble. “Pete and I love pos­i­tive com­ments more of­ten than not, but un­for­tu­nately some­times we have to be bru­tally hon­est.” MY KITCHEN RULES MON­DAY, TUES­DAY AND

WED­NES­DAY, 7.30PM, SEVEN

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