Sis­ter act

Ta­sia and Gra­cia Seger, sea­son 7 win­ners of Aussie re­al­ity cook­ing show My Kitchen Rules, talk about com­pet­ing – and life af­ter winning.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Taste - By ABI­RAMI DURAI star2@thes­

SIS­TERS Ta­sia and Gra­cia Seger make as much of an im­pres­sion now as they did when they stole the spot­light (and emerged vic­to­ri­ous) in the sev­enth sea­son of mega-suc­cess­ful Aus­tralian re­al­ity

My Kitchen Rules cook­ing show

(MKR) last year.

When I first meet them, the girls are in the mid­dle of an an­i­mated dis­cus­sion about how they sur­vived – and even­tu­ally thrived – on MKR.

“I just told Gra­cia we should do our best,” says Ta­sia, at 27, the older of the two. To which Gra­cia, 25, replies: “Ac­tu­ally, you were psy­chotic – pure evil!”

Ta­sia de­nies this, and the girls end up hav­ing a cute lit­tle dis­agree­ment which in­evitably ends in peals of laugh­ter.

It is this dy­namic that cap­tured the at­ten­tion (and af­fec­tion) of mil­lions of Aus­tralians who tuned in to watch the In­done­sian-born girls win the show.

The sis­ters were con­stantly bick­er­ing, but they some­how came off as adorable.

“Ta­sia and I are very close in age and we’re also re­ally good friends. So go­ing into the show, some­times we for­got that yes, ev­ery­one sees us as sis­ters but we in­ter­act as friends as well. There were mo­ments when we were re­ally, re­ally an­gry but ev­ery­one found it funny and we were like, ‘OMG, this is sooo frus­trat­ing!’” says Gra­cia.

The sis­ters grew up in In­done­sia be­fore their whole fam­ily (there are five sis­ters in to­tal) moved to In­dia, be­fore fi­nally set­tling in Mel­bourne, Aus­tralia.

They re­main firmly teth­ered to In­done­sia, as they make fre­quent trips back to visit their beloved grand­mother, who is one of their ma­jor culi­nary in­flu­ences as well. The girls’ mother made In­done­sian meals an ev­ery­day sta­ple, en­sur­ing that they never for­got their culi­nary roots.

When they moved to In­dia, the sis­ters started cook­ing In­done­sian dishes for friends and fam­ily – but by the time they moved to Mel­bourne, their culi­nary con­coc­tions had taken on a more ex­pe­ri­al­ready men­tal tone.

“We were eat­ing out at restau­rants and com­ing up with new ideas. So I think Mel­bourne rep­re­sented an ex­per­i­men­tal side of things for us, whereas when we were grow­ing up in In­dia and In­done­sia, it was about de­vel­op­ing our palates and know­ing what we liked and didn’t like,” says Gra­cia.

In Mel­bourne, the fam­ily of­ten MKR watched to­gether and the girls thought of sign­ing up to be on the show; how­ever, that only hap­pened

when they had some time on their hands af­ter both fin­ished their de­grees – Ta­sia has a Bach­e­lors de­gree in psy­chol­ogy and Gra­cia has a Masters in biomed­i­cal re­search.

“Ta­sia was do­ing part-time work for a year af­ter she left uni and as soon as I grad­u­ated, it was like ‘Oh now what do I do with my ca­reer?’ So we had the time, and we ded­i­cated that to be­ing on MKR, and ev­ery­thing af­ter that kind of fell into place,” says Gra­cia.

The show starts off with teams of two host­ing three-course din­ner par­ties in their homes. Each team’s meal is judged by the other con­tes­tants as well as the show’s hosts and judges Pete Evans and Manu Feildel.

This goes on for some time as there are mul­ti­ple groups and teams, and of­ten a redemp­tion round. Once the fi­nal teams have been as­sem­bled, the show pro­gresses to a se­ries of chal­lenges and cook-offs.

The whole se­ries of­ten comes up to a to­tal of 40 to 45 episodes, which is lengthy for view­ers at home – but even longer for the con­tes­tants.

The girls agree that it was a “looong” pro­duc­tion pe­riod, but they loved the ex­pe­ri­ence and ended up meet­ing a lot of peo­ple, mak­ing a lot of friends and learn­ing new things.

And they cooked a lot, im­prov­ing at ev­ery turn and im­press­ing with dishes that ranged from lob­ster tail in yel­low curry sauce to crispy fried bar­ra­mundi with ap­ple, co­rian­der and tamarind dress­ing to chicken ribs with chilli and sweet soy. The girls’ predilec­tion for fiery food even earned them the moniker “spice sis­ters” on the show!

“On MKR, we cooked a lot of tra­di­tional In­done­sian dishes. We owed it to our mum and grandma to not de­vi­ate too much from the orig­i­nal recipes, but we love to mod­ernise things.

“When you’re try­ing to win a com­pe­ti­tion of such a high stan­dard, you can’t re­ally serve as you would on a day-to-day ba­sis. I think that was a big chal­lenge for us – try­ing to make it more so­phis­ti­cated, which I think In­done­sian food can be, it just needs to be more re­fined,” says Gra­cia.

Ta­sia says that no­body, not even their fam­ily, ex­pected them to win, so they strove hard to take things as they came.

“To be hon­est, Gra­cia and I didn’t ex­pect it at all. Our fam­ily and friends were like, ‘Oh, yeah, we knew you would win!’ And we were like, ‘No, you didn’t. Don’t lie, you didn’t!’

“Our goal was to be in the top 10. And then we made it into top 10, so we took it day by day. I think even if you fail but you do your best, you don’t have any re­grets. So I tried to push Gra­cia that way,” she says.

The girls have since thrown them­selves into learn­ing as much as pos­si­ble about the F&B in­dus­try. Their MKR win came with an AUD250,000 (RM817,000) cash prize, but they say that money is still safely in the bank, and they’ve only spent a tiny por­tion of it on a camera.

While their ul­ti­mate goal is to one day open a restau­rant, they still feel like fish out of wa­ter in the in­dus­try, so they’ve taken a softer ap­proach – by launch­ing their own range of sa­tay sauces, avail­able on­line via their web­site tasi­aand­gra­ A chilli sauce range will soon be in­tro­duced.

“Gra­cia and I re­ally want that restau­rant, but for now, we’re still in the process of learn­ing. Open­ing a restau­rant is very ex­pen­sive and to a lot of peo­ple, we are just home cooks.

“So if we open one, we would like to col­lab­o­rate with some­one, be­cause that would mean we would be learn­ing from them,” says Ta­sia.

The eighth sea­son of MKR is cur­rently air­ing, and the girls say it is sur­real to watch other con­tes­tants on the show now, sim­ply be­cause they have a much deeper un­der­stand­ing of what goes on be­hind the scenes.

“It’s very dif­fer­ent now – we’re more ap­pre­cia­tive of the peo­ple on the show.

“In the past, you can crit­i­cise peo­ple for mak­ing sim­ple dishes and be like, ‘How did you not man­age to do that?’ But now we know how fast time goes, and we feel their pain be­cause it could be as sim­ple as two el­e­ments on a plate and one could fail be­cause you don’t have the time, and it’s very stress­ful,” says Gra­cia.

The sis­ters think MKR con­tin­ues to be a fan favourite be­cause it has such a strong fam­ily el­e­ment, which draws view­ers of all ages and eth­nic­i­ties to­gether.

“There are peo­ple who just love cook­ing and want to show their tra­di­tions to ev­ery­one else, so I think a lot of peo­ple can re­late to MKR,” says Gra­cia.

My Kitchen Rules Sea­son 8 airs Mon­days to Wed­nes­days at 9.25pm on Diva (As­tro Ch 702/HD Ch 723).

On the show, the sis­ters cooked tra­di­tional In­done­sian dishes but had to learn how to im­pro­vise the aes­thet­ics of their dishes. — DARRAN TAN/The Star

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Ta­sia and Gra­cia came up with all sorts of in­ven­tive recipes dur­ing their time on My Kitchen Rules, like this de­li­cious-look­ing dish of grilled king prawns with bal­ado and quail egg. — MKR

Al­though the sis­ters say their stress lev­els on the show were high, they took each ac­com­plish­ment as it came and even­tu­ally emerged vic­to­ri­ous on the sev­enth sea­son of MKR. — MKR

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