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

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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

and think

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

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.

My Kitchen Rules NZ kicks off on Mon­day, Septem­ber 25, 8pm on TVNZ 2.

Cue twinkly pi­ano music... judges Pete Evans and Manu Feildel are in the house!

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