KAI FOR THE GUYS
THE MY KITCHEN RULES JUDGES ARE HAPPILY EATING THEIR WAY AROUND THE COUNTRY
MKR judges Manu and Pete’s foodie adventures in Aotearoa
As far as pairings go, Pete Evans and Manu Feildel have become increasingly unlikely during their nine years together.
One is a noted advocate of the Paleo lifestyle, favouring an existence rich in meditation, surfing and foods most Kiwis would be more than a little apprehensive eating – sea urchin and beef livers, anyone? The other appreciates nothing more than some butter-laden carbohydrates and, of course, lots of sauce.
But despite their differences and the constant rumours of a feud, when the Weekly sat down with MKR New Zealand’s Pete and Manu, it’s clear a brotherhood, fuelled by good food and a shared self-deprecating sense of humour, is stronger than any gossip.
Catching the judges before they head out for a lunch date together in Auckland’s CBD, the pair say they’ve been in awe of New Zealand ever since they first landed this summer, to film a mini-version of MKR.
“We’ve had an absolute ball, for sure,” says Pete (44), flashing his trademark grin. “Everything Manu and I do is driven by food.”
“It’s the first thing we look at,” Manu (43) agrees, nodding his head. “It’s, ‘Where are we going? What restaurant is there and what time can we make it?’ I was actually surprised when I got here because compared to the last time I came here – a few years ago now – the amount of amazing restaurants you have here is just, wow.”
During their five weeks in Aotearoa filming the series, both Pete and Manu made it a priority to explore as much as their packed schedules allowed, with Wanaka standing out as a highlight for both of them – though Pete admits to being a little disappointed about one thing.
“I just wanted to meet Gandalf!” he laughs. “But maybe next time.”
However, both admit to sneaking back to Australia every week to spend time with their families, with Pete jetting up to the North Queensland farm he shares with his Kiwi wife, former model Nicola Robinson (39), and his two daughters Chilli (12) and Indii (10), while Manu flew into Sydney, where he’s based with his partner Clarissa (36), their two-year-old daughter Charlee and Manu’s son Jonti (12).
“We were like yo-yos, going back and forth,” smiles Pete. “But it’s so close.”
“When we do MKR Australia, we have to travel to Perth and that’s further away than here!” adds Manu.
“But this is our brand now. We’ve been doing this for nine years together and when we were offered MKR NZ too, we were chuffed.”
Adding to the thrill was the fact that the Kiwi version of the hit show, which is now in its third season and will be returning for a fourth with Pete and Manu at the helm, focuses heavily on the instant restaurant rounds. These have always been the duo’s favourite part of the show.
“It’s where it’s at,” says Pete. “It gives us an introduction to the teams, who they are, their style and their story. We often get major emotion coming through, especially if they’re cooking family or cultural recipes. That’s what we find exciting. We learn something new every time we sit down at the table.”
Sampling all that’s good about Kiwi kai was the icing on the cake for the pair, who got to try foods such as kawakawa and paua, but it’s our seafood that’s left them pining for our shores.
“New Zealand has some of the best, if not the best, seafood in the world,” gushes Pete.
“That’s New Zealand on a plate.”
While they reckon the differences between our two nations are fairly small – “although, if you’re talking about pavlova, you definitely don’t like each other, do you?” says Manu, as Pete chuckles and nods in agreement – the chefs have noticed a bit of a language barrier and have been trying to get amongst the Kiwi slang.
“I like the word aroha,” smiles Pete, while Manu ponders.
“What was that one we learnt today?” he asks Pete.
“Stuts? Oh, skux!” Manu says, referring to the word popularised by Hunt for the Wilderpeople, which generally means cool or awesome.
“That’s my new word. I love it!” So, with just weeks to go until the grand final, and with the youngest team in the competition Charlotte and Maddie already eliminated, is the rest of the series as skux as we’re hoping?
“You wait until you see the food,” says Pete. “You’ll be proud – these teams have represented New Zealand very well!”
Waiting to be impressed by Aucklanders Charlotte and Maddie’s offerings at their Fresh instant restaurant.
Poles apart on what excites their palates, Manu (left) and Pete both agree on what constitutes good food.
The chefs with Rotorua contestants and best mates Tash Whitewood (left) and Hera Waitai.