New Zealand Woman’s Weekly - - THIS WEEK IN... - Kelly Ber­trand

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.

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