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FeaturesNovember 6, 2014

What I Learnt About Cooking (and Myself) From MKRNZ

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Alex Casey recaps her own My Kitchen Rules NZ recapping experience, summarising the tips and tricks she has learnt from Kitchen HQ.//

“This is the night,
I’m turning up the heat.
This is the night,
I’m standing on my feet.
MKRNZ theme song

One week ago, Neena and Belinda (The Modern Day Hippies) won the first ever season of My Kitchen Rules NZ. I watched every single episode, and recapped 29/30 of them. For no apparent reason. I’m not one for cooking, I’m not one for regimented television watching and I’m not one for violently screengrabbing until the crack of dawn. I wrote approximately 17,000 words on My Kitchen Rules NZ. I went so insane that I interviewed the contestants primarily so I had someone to talk to about the scores on the show. I later added them on Facebook, and chatted to them there too. I was obsessed. I was begrudgingly obsessed.

The competition finished faster than I was prepared for, and now I’m left with a gaping hole in my TV schedule, a hard drive full of soup screen grabs and useless knowledge about cuts of meat that I will never have the money nor skill to cook. After some deep reflection on my life choices up to this point, I have compiled somewhat of a visual essay on what MKRNZ has actually taught me about cooking. Spoiler: not a lot. Here it is, the final plate on my 30 course My Kitchen Rules NZ degustation menu. It’s truly been the longest dinner party of my life.

You must have an iconic fashion piece in the kitchen:
It became pretty clear, pretty quickly that costume was a big factor in the MKRNZ world. From Dan’s waistcoats to Tracey’s unnecessarily glamourous Jessica Rabbit style evening dress, fashion came first and food came second. Here are the top five examples hot off the MKRNZ runway:

5) Steve’s Adventurer Hat

captain cook

Long before the days where Steve cranked out his illustrious collection of fedoras, he donned this adventure hat for their instant restaurant Expedition.

4) Corporate Josh’s Chilis Tee

Couture dinner table

Just the perfect casual tee for the perfect rocker Corporate Dad.

3) Dai’s Bowler Hat

bowling with the homies

From her madly chopping mint to severely burning her fingers, Dai’s bowler hat was with her all the way. She forged her identity as a Laoatian Charlie Chaplin of sorts. Little, lovable, and subject to pratfalls (see: burnt fingers).

2) Bogan Steph’s Fork Bracelet

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I loved this mostly because it seems like the most quintessential piece of New Zealand lady fashion. It’s like a real low key version of W.O.W. And you can only get them from weekend markets or crystal shops that are open one afternoon a week. Rare.

1) Ian’s “Smoke Alarms Save Lives” tee

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Trust good guy Fireman Ian to emblazon himself in public safety messages whilst on primetime national television. Get that guy an O.B.E.

You must be willing to provide major shock factor:
Your guests/audience don’t want everything to run smoothly on the night. That’s no fun for anyone. You want to inject elements of surprise throughout the evening, or even surprise yourself by making a huge mistake. Here are the top five shock moments of MKRNZ:

5) Shots Shots Shots Shots

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In the finale, Aaron and Heather served up two different shots with their courses. The first one was Kava, the second was some sort of Limoncello wannabe. It opened up some amazing possibilities for the show’s format – imagine if the judges got drunk?? Imagine My Cocktails Rule??

4) Pigs Head

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Shock and amaze your guests by wheeling out two decomposing pigs heads as cute feature pieces on your dinner table. June and Steph did it, and there were only about 5 or 6 flies!

3) Heather Lifting Aaron


Never mind the cooking, impress your guests by lifting up the biggest guy on the planet to see into the top oven. Be a strong and powerful woman, guests will have “the time of their lives.”

2) Pork Belly Nipples

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For some x-rated fun, roll out your pork belly to reveal a saucy line of nips like Dan and Christie. We have covered them up here with Hector the Cybersafety Dolphin because obviously NSFW.

1) Raw Lamb

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The biggest shock you can give your guests is a hilarious bout of food poisoning. Keep your food raw for some Sam and Dan inspired roulette fun! Their raw lamb dish was by far the shocker meal of the series, and they were the only team to score a 0.

You must welcome all inexplicable cameos in the kitchen, celebrity or otherwise:
Examine the list of guests you are inviting to a dinner party, and then ensure that 20% of them are either radio or television personalities. Can’t find/afford any of them? Well why not search out some weird niche group to come in and judge your meal. Here are the top five cameos that MKRNZ threw together.

5) The Medic

celeb medic
celeb medic

A rare heroic appearance from the show’s medic occurred when Dai burnt her fingers. The cameo worked well to really flesh out the world of the show, and certainly raised the stakes/steaks.

4) ZM’s Fletch, Vaughan and Megan

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I’m still confused about this one – these guys showed up to the pizza challenge for pretty much no reason. We all just blinked and then Vaughan was there in the background stirring a pot of something. They ate some pizza with the public and then went back to their seventh whacky face photoshoot that day.

3) Lucy Elliot

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The Social Media buddies integrated the power of the celeb into their opening intro video – a smart and powerful choice. Shortland Street star Lucy Elliott was seen taking a selfie, laughing at the word “rosti” and then was never seen or heard from again.

2) Geoff Ross

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The Corporate Dads forced their instant restaurant guests to watch a weird boardroom intro video from Moa overlord Geoff Ross. Again, it made almost no sense and he didn’t say anything worthwhile. It was only later in that episode that the corporate penny dropped. They made a marinade using refreshing and flavoursome Moa beer. The Moa illuminati is real.

1) Biker Gang

over-easy riders

One of the greatest MKRNZ moments occurred when the teams were instructed to cook a “lunch platter” for a group of undisclosed guests. As they were cooking, a giant biker gang on Harley Davidson’s sped into kitchen HQ and started circling around and around the teams. They then judged the platters, and gave some incredibly in-depth feedback. Who knew bikers were so well-versed in seasoning?

You must be willing to make absurdly fancy dishes and pretend like it ain’t no thang:
Although MKRNZ works primarily as the most elaborate Countdown commercial of all time, teams often pushed the culinary boat way beyond the comfortable Jax Hamilton harbour. As someone who can’t poach an egg, many of these dishes and ingredients might as well have been molecular science experiments. Turns out some of them were. Here are the fanciest things I saw on the show:

5) Caviar

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A few poindexters went full Flubber on our asses and started cranking out their own caviar. Here’s how I think you make it: mix up some kind of agar, put it in a dropper thing, put the droplets into cold water and they make the baubles somehow. If that doesn’t work, just buy those jelly water balls that you put with flowers. Nobody will be able to tell the difference.

4) Jus, Broth and Consommé

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Three buzzwords of the show. All meaning some kind of flavoured leftover water that everyone pours on everything. From my in-depth research: jus = scunge from the pan + water, broth = mostly water and consommé = water. Don’t quote me on that.

3) Sous Vide


I didn’t manage to get a good grab of MKRNZ sous vide in action, but it’s basically a vac-pac method of cooking meat. Chuck that sucker in a gladbag, hoover out the air (a normal vacuum cleaner should work) and then submerge it in a luxury relaxation tank for a while. Remember how nice it is to have a bath in a full plastic body suit? That’s what your meat could enjoy.

2) Negative Space Mashed Potato


“Let’s make negative space with it,” was a phrase uttered by the Social Media Buddies a lot. They would create the confronting image of ‘what wasn’t there’ using mash potato, pea puree – anything smearable. This sort of experimental installation will ask some heavy questions of your dinner guests: What is? What is not? Who am I? Can I have some more mashed potato please?

1) Steve Goes Full Italiano

Don’t be afraid to cook food nobody can pronounce, and don’t be afraid to showcase your refined fanciness to your guests/the nation.

You must make as many ridiculous faces as you can whilst eating and cooking:
It’s not all about flavour balance and texture, you have also got to bring your weirdest expressions to the table when cooking an elaborate meal. Appearance is everything. You are only as good as your last face. Here are the best:

5) Dan gets possessed by the devil during elimination

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4) Gareth makes flirty face to Steph as she tries steak for the first time

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3) Neil goes cross-eyed at almost every opportunity

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2) Joelle enjoys a sour sorbet during the instant restaurants

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1) Ben Bayly eats some truly divine pasta and makes the best face of the series


There’s many other valuable tips I have left out such as using your tears as seasoning, burping to entertain guests, and being a lovably elusive sometimes-vegetarian. But look, now I’m at 18,000 words on MKRNZ. If any university publications are interested in reading my full thesis, I’ll be in a relaxation tank full of broth for the next few weeks. At least until Masterchef starts.

Watch MKRNZ in it’s glistening entirety on TVNZ Ondemand here

Keep going!