Why MKR is a blessing — and a curse — for Manu Feildel and Pete Evans
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 difficult.
“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 flock 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 benefited me in the competition. It’s like that in business; it’s like that in anything you do.”
MY KITCHEN RULES
SEVEN, MONDAY TO WEDNESDAY, 7.30PM
Hot in the kitchen: MyKitchenRules hosts Manu Feildel and Pete Evans.