Sticklers for the Rules
Pete and Manu eat a well-worn path to their first instant restaurant, where the guests – quelle surprise – include a token villain, writes
Iconsider myself perfectly placed to offer an unbiased analysis of the new season of TVNZ’S cooking show My Kitchen Rules, given that never to my knowledge, have I seen an episode of any iteration of MKR.
Indeed, I couldn’t tell you what the defining differences are between MKR and I have, though, seen
Masterchef. The Great British Bake Off
Mary Berry is very cool.
I do know that TVNZ have had two tilts at MKR before and it’s clearly not been delighted with either, given season two was pitched as a reboot and now season three dispenses entirely with local judges (the last hosts were chef Gareth Stewart and restaurateur Ben Bayly) and brings in Pete Evans and Manu Fieldel, who have made the Australian franchise a rip-roaring success.
Manu, despite his name, isn’t Tongan, but French, and seems quite a charmer. ‘‘Paleo’’ Pete you may have heard of for his habit of consistently conceiving of the most ludicrous ideas then boldly saying them anyway.
So I’m sitting there feeling fairly prepared for reviewing this one – quiet room, eyes on the screen. And then... stirring orchestral music, Pete and Manu standing on a lush green hillside, Manu waving his finger around and declaiming: “Are you ready?”
Well, I thought I was, but this is clearly pretty big stuff. Incidentally, the music changes a lot but doesn’t stop
from minute one to minute 50. Plenty of licensing fees spent there, surely.
We’re off at once from the hillside to Rotorua, to meet Tash and Hera, “too blessed to be stressed” lifelong best mates, who prove this bond by consistently repeating what each other says. “At the end of the day, it’s about what it tastes like,” says one. This seems unarguable.
Within 10 minutes, we’ve got to know Tash and Hera, got the other combatants inside and seated at their ‘‘instant restaurant’’ Makuie, and we’re off to the first advert break. Bloody good work. No mucking around, perfect for the modern attention span.
In the break, I reckon I’ve worked out the format: teams of two, everyone cooks a feed for everyone else, and gets some sort of vote, and Pete and Manu preside over it and the winner gets something; not sure what, nobody’s said yet. Not sure what the Rules of the title are either.
However, this is TV, so once we’re back pretty much everything gets repeated for the hard of thinking. Again, and again. I lost count at six times that we learned their starter was pāua, and their main lamb racks with kūmara and dukkah. Dukkah, by the way, gets said in about eight different ways, but I’m sadly disappointed in Pete and Manu, who both pronounce kūmara and pāua adequately, robbing me of what is usually the easy bullseye of bagging an Australian for their cultural ineptitude.
In this second segment, following the official reality television manual, we meet our villain, Heather, a strongminded woman from Christchurch who is here to win, and to tell everyone so as often as possible.
And then we meet 19-year-old students Charlotte and Maddie, who’ve clearly been selected as the lame sheep to Heather’s salivating wolf. “I’m concerned for the little girls,” she says, with no concern evident. “What are they gonna cook for us? Chicken nuggets at the kids’ table?”
Strangely, we’re 22 minutes in before Pete delivers a welcome speech to the assembled teams. Then the food comes. Heather bags it. One chap, Chris, says: “I find it quite hard to listen to someone’s opinion when it is so wrong.” But it’s all good. Manu loves the kūmara. A bit of twinkly piano. Warm fuzzies. Pete loves the lamb. Warmer fuzzies. Heather reckons they burned something. Not so warm.
I won’t give you the scores, but no real spoiler to say Heather and her mostly mute sidekick Mitch deliver the lowest rating. As for MKR itself, I’m giving it a six: it’s solid, unflashy Monday night dining.
Welll, ell, today’s the day. The last three years, the last eiig eight weeks, the last-minute pushes have all led too to t this. I don’t know how I’ll be feeling this morning (spoiler: wee we d don’t actually write these columns the same day you read the them), but it will have been a long, complicated week at work, invvo involving some travel and a gig last night, so it’s a pretty fair beb bet that I’ll be tired, possibly a little hungover, and wanting a liie lie in.
There will b be a second or two just after I wake up where I think to myself: “W “Wouldn’t it be nice to just stay here, in bed, and not get up and v vote?” But I will. I’ll tidy mys myself up, and head to a polling booth, maybe stop for brunch on tth the way and maybe go for a beer afterwards. And I’ll do it for a vva variety of reasons.
I’ll do it foorfor my maternal grandfather, who fled Denmark ahead of the occup occupying Nazis. He resettled in Canada, joined their air force and wwe went back to Europe to fight.
I’ll do it foorfor my paternal grandmother, who used to tell stories of taking the bus into Dublin and lying on the floor while revolutionary bullets flew through the windows on the top deck.
I’ll do it foorfor the Uber driver I met last weekend who came here from Burundi, while her husband was stuck in Rwanda looking after his mother when the genocide started.
I’ll do it for the sick, the hungry, the homeless and the infirm. I’ll do it for the addicts, the anxious, the depressed and the downtrodden. And I’ll do it for myself. I’ll do it so that when whoever wins this election does something I think is wrong, unfair or just plain stupid – as they inevitably will – I can feel entirely justified in complaining about it, and them, either in print, onstage or just in conversation. Because if you don’t take part in the process you simply have no right to criticise the outcome.
Mainly I’ll do it because I want to. I’ll make an event out of it, and savour that brunch and/or beer, enjoy the trip to the booth, and feel proud and lucky when I tick my boxes.
I have a list of things that I would like to see happen in this country, and while my list may not be the same as yours, I respect that you have one as well, and today is the day we both get to put our hands up and see how many other people agree with us. We don’t have to agree with each other.
That’s democracy, and I urge you all to take a moment today to enjoy it. Happy voting.
This will be my 13th election. I have no doubt that I will embarrass myself as I always do by having a little cry in the stupid corflute booth. There I am with the orange Vivid marker, suddenly thinking of my great-grandmother voting in 1914, having arrived in a country where women had won that right. I will think about her, and I will also think about that time I visited the site of the 1999 Suai Church massacre where hundreds of East Timorese were shot and burned, because they’d voted for independence from Indonesia. It’s hard not to take the act of voting seriously after you’ve seen en earth scorched by bodies set alight.
I have never belonged to a political party, though ough I’ve helped raise funds for a couple that I’ve oftenen voted for. Once – it might be twice – I’ve cast an “informal” vote, spoiling my ballot paper becauseause there was no-one I could heartily support, but I still wanted to exercise my democratic right. When ni I was a kid, my mother raised funds for a party I’ve ’ve never voted for. I’ll take her with me to the polls.ls.
MMP being what it is, it could take days for our next government to coalesce. It will be eitherher delayed gratification or deferred disappointment. ent. Even so, one of the things I like about democracyacy is that, if you participated, you have the right to continue to raise your voice till our next turnn rolls around.