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MKR NZ’s Colin (left) and Manu (right) with The Real Pod producer Samuel
MKR NZ’s Colin (left) and Manu (right) with The Real Pod producer Samuel

Pop CultureNovember 5, 2023

Five things we learnt at lunch with the My Kitchen Rules NZ judges

MKR NZ’s Colin (left) and Manu (right) with The Real Pod producer Samuel
MKR NZ’s Colin (left) and Manu (right) with The Real Pod producer Samuel

As MKRNZ returns for the first time since 2017, judges Manu Feildel and Colin Fassnidge tell The Real Pod producer Samuel Robinson about their TV journeys, their McDonald’s orders and how long is too long to wait for a sausage roll.

1. They are BUSY

Arriving at our interview at a central Auckland bakehouse, Manu and Colin are in the middle of what is set to be a mega press day. So far, they have conducted 10 interviews for different magazines, podcasts and newspapers for the upcoming season of My Kitchen Rules NZ, and are sitting down with me on their lunch break. All this for a season they filmed over a year ago – they’re in the country filming next year’s season, and show no signs of slowing down anytime soon, telling me to “get ready” for upcoming projects.

2. They like to eat… a lot

On a regular shoot day of MKRNZ, Manu and Colin don’t get to enjoy their contestants’ meals until around 7pm. Both men say they enjoy a quick bite before filming, recalling a kebab they shared recently on the way to a shoot. Colin even admits to indulging in the catering for the crew members, adding that the New Zealand crew is the “best-fed crew ever.”

As for their Macca’s orders? Manu gets a Quarter Pounder and 20 chicken nuggets (rich), whereas Colin orders both a Quarter Pounder and a Big Mac. Although he laments “they’re not very big anymore.”

3. They’ve got incredible chemistry

This season marks Colin’s first time hosting in Aotearoa. He first appeared on season four of the Australian version as a judge on blind tasting panels. But after Pete Evans’ removal from the show in 2019, Colin stepped up to join his former rival as his co-host.

Their back-and-forth is hilarious, and you can tell there is a comfortable familiarity between the two, both in person and on screen. Having seen the first episode of the new season, it really does feel like the show has found its perfect pairing with Manu and Colin. The occasional sneaky jab is not uncommon though. While discussing their differing styles of judging, Colin says that sometimes all you need is your facial expressions to convey your opinion. Manu butts in, “I wish you would learn to do that more. You know, shut up.”

My Kitchen Rules NZ judges Manu Feildel and Colin Fassnidge (Photo: TVNZ)

4. They’re surprisingly unpretentious

For two world-class chefs whose entire job is to judge, you’d think they might be more… you know… judgey. But Manu and Colin are some of the most laid back people I’ve ever chatted with. Manu says that since being a judge, he’s become even more disillusioned with the world of dining. “Frankly, it annoys me to spend that much money on something that looks good, but it only looks good,” he says. “If you have a handbag, and the zipper broke, it’s OK, you buy another one. But if you have a Louis Vuitton handbag, and the zipper broke at the start, it’s simply like that.”

Though the conversation is chill, the pair have one pet peeve: waiting too long for their meal. For lunch they each order a sausage roll. Colin chooses classic beef, while Manu opts for pork. The tension simmers as their food takes progressively longer to arrive. Twenty-five minutes after ordering, and less than five minutes before they have to be ferried away to their next appointment, Colin finally addresses the elephant-sized sausage roll in the room: “How long does it take to make a sausage roll?” he wonders. Manu adds: “They’re baking to order. Why? It’s lunchtime.”

The sausage rolls did eventually arrive and all was forgiven (Photo: Samuel Robinson)

5. They’re reality TV veterans by now

My Kitchen Rules isn’t the only time these two have spent in front of the cameras. Despite admitting to not watching much TV, Manu won the 2011 season of Dancing with the Stars Australia, and tells me that he often goes back to watch his “amazing” final dance. In 2020, he also underwent rigorous army-style training while filming SAS Australia. He says even though he loved the experiences, his days as a contestant are now behind him.

Colin, on the other hand, seems to quite like reality TV. In 2021, he made it all the way to the finals of his favourite show, I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! Australia, professing his love for snakes, spiders and all things bush. He says he could even be convinced to do a season of Big Brother. “I’d just love to wind people up,” he says. “Show people that I’m a dickhead. I would love it.”

The new season of My Kitchen Rules NZ is screening now on TVNZ 2 and TVNZ+. For weekly recaps sign up to The Real Pod Extra on Substack.

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