We talked to “The Social Media Buddies” aka Sam and Dan from My Kitchen Rules New Zealand about getting trolled by school teachers, the big lamb screw-up and having major Mum beef with Sean Connolly.//
Sam and Dan were the youngest MKRNZ team by far, two early twenty-somethings from Auckland who were coined “The Social Media Buddies” (because they could use a smartphone and knew what Twitter was). A strong team skill-wise, personality-wise and selfie-wise from the very beginning, they were eliminated in a shocker episode wherein they served raw lamb crusted with terrible crushed taco shells to the outraged panel of celebrity chefs. They scored a zero. It was the most dramatic episode of MKRNZ so far, and the only one that I haven’t recapped. I still flagellate myself with taco shells about it to this very day.
Residing in the desolate midst of the “MKRNZ Fans” and “People under 40” venn diagram, I found myself desperately trying to prove to them that I was also hip and cool. I arranged the meeting entirely through Twitter, which seemed young and casual. We decided to meet for lunch so that they could have a “hashtag sleep-in” for once. Dan was there when I arrived, tracking Sam’s Uber taxi on “Find My Friends”. We watched the little dot of Sam get closer and closer to us. They really were hitting a home run on the social media thing, it was an impressive commitment. Sam finally arrived, flaunting his new Visa PayTag chip stuck onto the back of his champagne iPhone 6. He was wearing coloured wayfarers that said “I <3 Haters” on the arms. I was ecstatic – they were everything I wanted them to be.
How did you get involved in the MKRNZ world?
Sam: We saw the TV ad. We had actually got onto Masterchef last year and we ended up having to pull out because we had a huge holiday to Hawaii planned with our friends.
Dan: “No sorry, we can’t be on TV – we’re going to Hawaii!”
Sam: It was just when MKR Australia started that they advertised for MKRNZ. We made a video straight away and sent it in. That was it really.
It seems like you were quite the shoo-in as a marketable pair – with the social media and the youth. I feel like you represented exactly what the core MKRNZ demographic imagine that young people are like, if you know what I mean.
Dan: We were really polarising for everyone. That character of being young and hip, like “ooh look at them with their phones.” It was so funny bringing out the iPads for our instant restaurant menu and all of the other contestants just being like, “I don’t even know what this is”. They couldn’t even turn them on, it was a very fitting reaction.
Did you guys come up with that “character” yourselves?
Dan: We pandered to it a little bit I guess, but that’s how we really are. We are always on our phones.
Sam: We picked that as a general thing and they were happy to roll with it.
And the producers really, really rolled with it.
Sam: Yeah. They developed the NZ “characters” a lot more than on the Australian series I think.
It was cool to get some really strong characters. And some very vague shoe-horned characters.
Sam: Yeah, like “The Fireman and His Flame” What does that even mean? Just because you got married a year ago doesn’t really make a character, people get married all the time.
Dan: He’s the Fireman and she’s just sort of…there.
I think your group had the strong personalities, and the very recognisable archetypes like the Bogans and the Hippies. It was exciting to see a variety of “out there” NZ characters, whether they were real or not.
Dan: I can’t even tell you who Group Two’s characters are. Like, what the hell is a “Christchurch Cutie”?
Sam: We were definitely the A-team. We had the amazing characters and Group Two had the better cooks, to be honest.
[our burgers arrived, Dan got to work Instagramming]
Did you guys realise that you were going to be edited as the villains of the show?
Sam: We worried about whether or not that was going to happen, and it did. People were like “argh you were texting at the table, that’s so rude!”
Dan: They made a bigger deal out of that than it actually was. Like Mum rang me and was like, “you should never text at the dinner table!” I was like, “alright Mum, but you try being at the dinner table for 9 hours – I’m going to be fucking texting!” I didn’t care that people got upset with us, I kind of liked it.
You liked being the villains?
Dan: We got more screen time as the villain characters, you got see way more of us and I think people will remember us more. It was sort of good we went out on such a terrible dish, we totally bombed. But when we saw it, we dominated the screen time of that episode.
It was really hyped up as the big “who will get a zero?!” episode.
Dan: Yeah, that was the biggest thing to happen on the show and it happened to us. It was fitting. It was a villain’s death.
That’s good that you are so positive about it, but you haven’t watched it all yet have you?
Dan: I’ll watch it soon.
Sam: I watched it. It was awkward. I didn’t watch it in real time so I didn’t see all the bad stuff on Twitter. I also didn’t realise it was an hour and half either.
Yeah, it was a monster ep. It was like a movie. Did you guys know that you had screwed up pretty quickly?
Dan: Yeah, after the lamb I was like “we’re screwed.” The oven hadn’t heated up in time so I just knew we were going home. And that’s when I started eating all the delicious food around us. Everyone got angry at us for doing that on Facebook and Twitter. That chocolate was very expensive, I was always going to eat it.
Sam: It was the heat of the moment. I wasn’t really thinking “oh, that’s raw.” I was just thinking we need to get plated up before the time ran out.
Dan: Then I tried to cut through it and I realised we were fucked.
Sean Connolly in particular gave you some pretty sick burns that night.
Dan: Yeah, my Mum said she is going to go and spit on the windows of The Grill.
You mentioned earlier that your parents were defending you guys on the keyboards to the bitter end.
Dan: It’s hard for them, I understand. My Mum rang me up after the episode where we got eliminated, and she was in tears. I was just like, “deal with this yourself Mum – I haven’t even watched it. I’m having a good day, don’t ruin my day.” I was there for it. I remember it all. It was really brutal. We didn’t cook for weeks after.
You guys got a pretty hard time online, do you feel like you were targeted more than others?
Dan: We are easier to target because we have more of an online presence, and we’re on it all the time. If I was a troll there’s no way I’d attack someone like June or Steph saying “you suck” because they wouldn’t see it and they’d never reply. Whereas if someone tells us that we suck – we immediately tell them that they also suck.
Sam: It’s interesting if you look at our Facebook page – that’s where all the nice comments are, but if you go to the official MKRNZ page everyone is so mean.
Dan: I read it all. I don’t really care…
Sam: …because we just think in the end – we’re still better than you.
Dan: Yeah, it’s like, “I’m sorry, you’re not on TV.” Someone commented saying, “I’m pretty sure 80% of New Zealand hates you”, and I replied back like, “you should work for Colmar Brunton! They need your polling skills, how did you poll all of New Zealand that fast?! And with such thorough analysis?!”
Dan: There was this one lady who said, “I’m a chef and I would never allow you into my restaurant.” We looked at her Facebook page and she’s some schoolteacher in Rotorua. You’re not a chef, you’re a schoolteacher. And also, why are you sitting at home on your computer after teaching children all day and think, “I’m going to send some real nasty messages to these two boys”? The worst people are always the really lovely looking ones, like teachers and old nanas who come up with the most horrible stuff.
Sam: Yeah, people always associate internet trolls with young people, like Toby on Shortland Street. But really, most of the online abuse comes from middle-aged women. Which is the funniest thing.
Dan: They are the true internet trolls.
Sam: And they don’t even really know what they’re doing. They are the keyboard warriors, not people like us.
Dan: They get angry and think “I’m going to sit down on the computer and tell these boys just what I think of them.” Well thank you. Thank you for your taking that time out of your day.
Sam: If you think you’re so much better than us. why didn’t you enter? Why aren’t you on the show?
Aside from the online fallout from the show, are you guys living it large now?
Sam: We weren’t really sure what we would get out of it. Turns out we mostly just get weird looks from people now. That’s the main thing, people whispering to their friends around you.
Dan: We’re still sort of figuring out what we want to do so, if anyone’s out there and wants to hire us…
I’m sure we’ll see you again sometime.
Dan: In a couple of years when they do MKRNZ: Heroes vs Villains, we will make our shock return for sure.