Pete Evans and Manu Feildel share foodie mo­ments and their favourite recipes

From ban­ning tomato sauce from the ta­ble to what edi­ble in­sects are re­ally like, Pete Evans and Manu Feildel have lots of culi­nary ex­pe­ri­ences to talk about. Monique McKen­zie sits down with the My Kitchen Rules judges to find out what’s ex­cit­ing them in

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WWhen Pete Evans en­ters the room, a white­walled in­dus­trial chic loft space in the heart of Auck­land’s Pon­sonby, the first thing you no­tice is his pierc­ing blue eyes and ridicu­lously white teeth. The celebrity chef, along with his much-loved part­ner in crime, Manu Feildel, are squeez­ing in a press tour be­fore fly­ing back home to Sydney that af­ter­noon af­ter film­ing an­other suc­cess­ful sea­son of My Kitchen Rules New Zealand (they’ve now done nine se­ries since MKR Aus­tralia first de­buted over the ditch in 2010, and it’s still a toprat­ing prime-time show over there and in New Zealand). With a black cap and crisp white T-shirt on – sans any sauce stains you might ex­pect from a chef – the 45-year-old in­tro­duces him­self, shakes my hand and sits down. Pete’s po­lite and pa­tient, but no doubt keen to get home to see his two young daugh­ters, Indii, 11 and Chilli, 13, who fea­ture heav­ily through­out his In­sta­gram, pre­dom­i­nantly in surf snaps along­side their surf­ing-mad fa­ther. Manu walks in later with a cheeky grin, com­fort­able and re­laxed, and greets me with a kiss on both cheeks be­fore mak­ing him­self right at home. An avid movie­goer, Manu was also re­cently an­nounced the 2018 brand am­bas­sador for Hoyts Lux, with his menu of­fer­ing Kiwi cinema-go­ers one of his per­sonal favourites: duck bao. The iconic pair hap­pily oblige to a selfie, both are pho­to­genic and clearly not cam­era-shy, and then we get chat­ting. More of­ten than not, Manu in­ter­rupts Pete. But that’s not at all sur­pris­ing given the duo’s play­ful on-screen per­sonas. We caught up with the duo to find out about their favourite Kiwi food ex­pe­ri­ence and why they wouldn’t want their chil­dren to fol­low in their culi­nary foot­steps.

What are your thoughts on cur­rent food trends – what are you into and what’s passé?

MANU: I don’t think there’s any­thing passé like fash­ion – food trends shouldn’t just come and go. I think they should come and stay, and there should be enough choice for ev­ery­body be­cause ev­ery­body likes dif­fer­ent things. For me, what

should go is over­worked foods, things like fine din­ing – too many dishes when it comes to a de­gus­ta­tion and then you go home and don’t re­mem­ber what you had.

PETE: What’s ex­cit­ing at the mo­ment is beau­ti­ful nose-to-tail seafood cook­ery like our friend Josh [Ni­land] is do­ing at Saint Peter in Sydney, and chefs bold enough to cre­ate their own cui­sine. We’ve got a friend, Dun­can [Wel­ge­moed] in South Aus­tralia, who’s South African. He’s opened up an African-in­spired restau­rant, Africola, and it’s just won best restau­rant in South Aus­tralia. So bold cook­ing, where once upon a time peo­ple would want to dumb down their tra­di­tion.

What are your thoughts on ve­g­an­ism?

MANU: Each to their own. You could be here for a cou­ple of hours. See you later (laughs).

‘We’ve got dif­fer­ent life­styles when it comes to food’

PETE: I think for the health of the planet and the in­di­vid­ual, I think it’s the wrong path. It’s not a nat­u­ral di­etary ap­proach for hu­man be­ings for long-term sus­tain­able health.

Have you tried eat­ing crick­ets or any other in­sects?

MANU: I’ve had deep-fried crick­ets.

I’ve had ants as well, mag­gots in cheese.

PETE: I’ve had spiders, crick­ets, and ants. There’s a rea­son they’re not on a lot of menus. They’re not re­ally flavour­some.

MANU: They’re not dis­gust­ing ei­ther. They’re just there for tex­ture pur­pose.

PETE: It’s not like eat­ing a piece of fish or a steak, that’s for sure. In Viet­nam they have spiders and crick­ets and they deep fry them and coat them in a sticky, sweet, spicy sauce, just to give it some­thing.

What’s been your best food ex­pe­ri­ence in New Zealand?

PETE: Bluff oys­ters.

MANU: Yep, the Bluffs are amaz­ing. PETE: We got them in the South Is­land. We were lucky enough to have the first day of the sea­son; they opened them fresh for us. We were in the right place at the right time. That’s pretty spe­cial. I know Ki­wis love their oys­ters.

You two are ob­vi­ously re­ally good mates. Do you in­spire each other’s cook­ing?

MANU: Nope (laughs).

PETE: We take in­spi­ra­tion from each other, for sure.

MANU: Yeah, we’ve got dif­fer­ent life­styles when it comes to food. But we’ve also been trained the same way.

PETE: But I went over to your place for a fish curry the other night with a fish

I caught, which was de­li­cious, so we’re al­ways shar­ing food. Even on the way here, three days ago I picked up some food to share at the air­port. We had some French ter­rine. We of­ten share, which is pretty cool.

What are your thoughts on the clas­sic Kiwi bar­be­cue? Could we do any­thing dif­fer­ently?

MANU: I vis­ited Texas last year and I think Texan bar­be­cue is the real thing, and I think we should share it with the rest of the world.

PETE: South­ern US knows how to bar­be­cue and it’s not how we bar­be­cue in Aus­tralia or New Zealand, it’s very dif­fer­ent. Lots of slow-cooked meats.

MANU: It’s not just a stove where you put some meat on, it’s slow, smoky cook­ing with wood and dif­fer­ent woods give dif­fer­ent flavours and so on. That’s bar­be­cu­ing for me.

PETE: Things like short rib are cooked for four to six to 10 to 12 hours – you can’t beat it. Noth­ing com­pares.

If you were go­ing to a pot-luck din­ner, what plate would you bring?

MANU: A big pan of sauce to go with any­thing else that’s on the ta­ble (snorts with laugh­ter).

PETE: I’d prob­a­bly bring a nice big salad with some meat or fish on it. Some­thing light and bright.

MANU: You would bring a plat­ter of sashimi. That’s what you would bring.

What was the high­light for you on last year’s show?

MANU: The trav­els – I re­ally en­joyed trav­el­ling around the coun­try, and we have equally spent enough time in both north and south. Wanaka for me is the one that re­ally sticks in my brain. I thought it was beau­ti­ful.

PETE: Same. Trav­el­ling around New Zealand never gets bor­ing. There is al­ways some­thing new to see and the coast­line is just amaz­ing, and the moun­tains are sim­ply beau­ti­ful.

Favourite surf spot, Pete?

PETE: Oh, I think Dunedin be­cause there’s no one down there, and it’s cold. Well, I liked it be­cause it was only me.

MANU: You don’t have to fight with other surfers.

PETE: Yeah, it was beau­ti­ful.

What veg­eta­bles do you grow your­selves?

PETE: Ahh, veg­eta­bles. I’m lucky, I’ve grown like 20 dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties in the gar­den, I counted the other day. We’ve got pump­kins, cu­cum­bers, to­ma­toes, zuc­chi­nis, beans, heaps of herbs, let­tuces, dif­fer­ent greens, lemon­grass, gin­ger and turmeric.

MANU: I’ve got herbs and a cou­ple of trees of lemons and limes and that’s pretty much it. I’m not a green thumb.

‘Trav­el­ling around New Zealand never gets bor­ing’

Pete, it sounds like you live in a beach­side par­adise. Can you de­scribe your prop­erty to us? And you too, Manu?

PETE: Sure, we’re lucky enough to live on 10 hectares near the beach and close enough so I can go surf­ing.

We’ve got room for some horses and chick­ens. We also grow our own beans and are plant­ing trees. Space can never be un­der­es­ti­mated for re­lax­ing and re­ju­ve­na­tion. My wife [Kiwi Ni­cola Robert­son] has two beau­ti­ful Friesian horses that she rides, my daugh­ters ride and I jump on one ev­ery once in a while.

MANU: Oh, I don’t have a farm. I’ve just got a nice four-bed­room house with a beau­ti­ful gar­den and just enough for us to en­joy our lives. That’s pretty much it re­ally. There’s a big long kitchen, din­ing room, a lounge and gar­den, so I can in­vite friends over and cook, bar­be­cue and so on.

How has the hospi­tal­ity in­dus­try changed since you were younger?

PETE: It’s a lit­tle bit gen­tler now.

MANU: We’re not slaves any­more. I think maybe we worry too much about the new gen­er­a­tion. I think we should be a lit­tle bit harder on them but we can’t. It was tough for us.

PETE: The cui­sine has also grown im­mensely as well, from bring­ing in in­flu­ences from dif­fer­ent cul­tures and cuisines. It would be an ex­cit­ing time to learn a craft, but you also wouldn’t spe­cialise in one thing ei­ther.

MANU: It’s true. I mean when I started, I learned a whole en­cy­clo­pe­dia of French cook­ing and I was eight. Un­til I started trav­el­ling re­ally. Now you can stay in one coun­try and learn any cui­sine.

Would you want your chil­dren to be­come chefs too?

MANU: Nope.

PETE: What­ever they wanted to do, but I’d prob­a­bly tell them the truth about the in­dus­try. That it’s tough.

MANU: You wouldn’t rec­om­mend it.

Are your kids in­ter­ested in food and the show?

PETE: They’re busy. You know chil­dren these days are so busy with their home­work they’ve got to do at school and my two daugh­ters Chilli and Indii love to dance – they dance eight or 10 hours a week. We have a surf, we eat, we love to go out, and if we do go out, we get some oys­ters or good seafood. Or eat at a good Chi­nese restau­rant. They ap­pre­ci­ate good food, for sure.

MANU: My son [Jonti, 13] loves veg­eta­bles. Other peo­ple ask, “How

did you do it?” I don’t know. I’ve just al­ways given him the same food we have. There’s never been a kid’s menu at the ta­ble, and I think that’s the way. I sup­pose food nu­tri­tion should be the same as learn­ing English or maths. We shouldn’t change any­thing for a kid, and I think we worry too much about what they should have and shouldn’t, and they should be the same thing, I be­lieve.

How do you get your kids to eat well?

PETE: Cook de­li­cious food.

MANU: Ban the tomato sauce on the ta­ble.

Is there a coun­try you’d love to visit for the food?

MANU: I would love to travel around

South Amer­ica for about six months with a back­pack and a guide, and just eat where there’s no tourists – that would be magic.

PETE: I would like to go to Rus­sia, and maybe far north like the Nether­lands as well, around Scan­di­navia. I’ve never been up there.

Any fi­nal thoughts?

PETE: Thanks for mak­ing us feel wel­come in your coun­try. It’s al­ways fun com­ing.

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