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Pop CultureNovember 14, 2017

My Kitchen Rules NZ: Heather and Mitch can’t lose


Jaryd and Ben take on the notorious foodie friends in a grim battle for cooking show survival.

After a TVNZ 2 crossover visit to Ferndale, MKRNZ returns to Auckland for the second sudden death cook-off at posh-looking wedding venue Kelliher Estate. All the remaining contestants have arrived at the same time, leaving top-of-the-table Teal and Sophie and last week’s cook-off winners Chris and Bex to endure an excruciating two hours of small talk with celebrity chef judges Pete and Manu while the two other teams prepare the entrees.

On one side of the fancy kitchen are childhood buddies Jaryd and Ben; on the other, foodie friends and reality TV demons Heather and Mitch. This cook-off has mismatch written all over it, not just because the instant restaurant round showed Heather and Mitch are vastly better at cooking. As the only remotely controversial people on the show, it is unthinkable that they wouldn’t be there at the bitter end.

They are cooking not just for the six foodies sitting there awkwardly smoothing the tablecloth, but for ten elite New Zealand athletes bussed in to lighten the conversational load. It’s a roughly 50/50 split between the ones there to add to their media showreel and the ones who either out of hunger or politeness couldn’t say no to a free feed when someone from the TV called them up, and are now clearly regretting it.

What’s for tea?

Jaryd and Ben have gone back to the tactical drawing board after an unconvincing instant restaurant. They have opted, wisely, for a back-to-basics approach – if they are to have any chance of beating the Christchurch foodie friends it’s going to be by preparing simple dishes to perfection. Their entree is tuna steak ceviche.

Heather and Mitch, on the other hand, have analysed their instant restaurant game tape and decided to double down on their mistakes. “The Italian meringue bit me on the ass something chronic,” Heather admits, but she is going straight back to the meringue drawing board this time around. This is a sign of a confident team, as is their entree: crayfish trifle.

By this stage, Ben is conspicuously drenched in sweat while Jaryd still doesn’t have a hair out of place. They are good lads, a positive model of male friendship who don’t deserve to be savaged in a cook-off by Heather and Mitch of all people, but that’s life. After a competent start, the wheels begin to wobble on their main, Roast duck breast with gorgonzola mousse and seasonal vegetables – the gorgonzola mousse is a disaster on multiple levels, and there is some unrelated trouble with the jus.

On the other side of the kitchen, a problematic jus is also threatening to ruin Heather and Mitch’s main of slow-braised beef cheeks with creamed kumara mash, wilted greens and pancetta. Again, the dish sees Mitch sticking to his guns on the unusual cuts of meat. “Never had pancetta before,” admits Olympic track cyclist Eddie Dawkins, “so that’s cool.”

For dessert, Jaryd and Ben make fable berry trifle with coconut sponge. They over-whip the cream into butter territory and the custard is too runny – the wheels have fallen off completely. Heather and Mitch serve dropped lemon meringue pie with curd shards and thyme crumb. “I don’t know what ‘dropped’ actually means,” comments Sophie – late-breaking conspiracy theory but maybe her and Teal are actually Third Rock From The Sun style aliens masquerading as humans.

Banter watch

The concept of ‘banter’ has taken an abstract turn at this stage of the competition. The rabble of sporting champions have each brought their own twist to the table – rower Mahe Drysdale, for example, speaks exclusively in sporting analogy (“With a little bit of seasoning it would have taken gold, but probably a silver medal,” he appraises Heather and Mitch’s main). Rugby sevens star Ruby Tui, meanwhile, flourishes some of the most intricate wordplay the My Kitchen Rules franchise has ever seen in a devastating takedown of Jaryd and Ben’s sorry dessert: “If the custard was the plot then it could have been a bit thicker in this ‘fable’”.

The scores

The elite sportspeople write down their scores and leg it out of there before the judges can read them out to the flustered chefs. They give Heather and Mitch an 8 and Jaryd and Ben – whose food didn’t seem thaaat bad – a 5. Already, it looks like game over.

Despite their fondness for Jaryd and Ben and barely-concealed contempt for Heather and Mitch, the two remaining teams still can’t bring themselves to score the former higher than the latter – scoring them 13 to 12 out of a possible 20.

Unlike the instant restaurants, the judges wait until the end to reveal how disappointed they were with everything that was served. Heather and Mitch’s entree was “a little bit underwhelming,” sniffs Pete, though the crayfish was spot on. 6 out of 10, and a 7 from Manu. Similarly, the Frenchman found the “melting in your mouth” beef cheeks delicious but the kumara mash was underseasoned – 7s all round. The lemon curd in the dessert was “just gorgeous,” swoons Pete, but there wasn’t enough of it; the dish was unbalanced. 7 from Pete, 6 from Manu, and a total score of 61 out of a possible 90.

Mfw underwhelming entree

The nicest thing Manu can say about Jaryd and Ben’s entree is that it was “far from horrible.” Pete says it “looked and tasted a bit lacklustre.” Each give it a 5, and the same for the main. “I’ve never had blue cheese and duck,” Manu admits. “I don’t think it went together.” There is time for one final indignity as Pete describes their dessert as “more like a warm milkshake.” Although he concedes it was “quite nice actually,” he and Manu can only give it a 3.

That leaves Jaryd and Ben with 43 out of 90 and confirms the inevitable – their MKRNZ campaign has come to an end, and Heather and Mitch will join the final three.

Who’s going to win?

There is a school of thought in sports that having a bye in the first round of playoffs actually does more harm than help – that you risk losing your rhythm and momentum ahead of a vital game. This could be the case for Teal and Sophie, who earned a free passage to next week’s three-way cook-off by virtue of their first-place finish in the instant restaurants. While both their rivals gained invaluable experience cooking in a commercial kitchen in the sudden death cook-offs, the Wellington hairdressing duo may struggle to keep up their high standards when the pressure is on.

Based on the cook-offs, Wanakans Chris and Bex must now be the favourites. The judges love their technicality and if they continue to pull off their ambitious menus they will be very tough to beat. Heather and Mitch had a shocker of a cook-off – their standards regressed considerably from their instant restaurant and they would have probably lost to any other team. They will, however, be better for it. Their worst cooking is surely now out of their system – the other teams’ may be still to come.

Next week: It looks like they’ve convinced someone to let the three remaining teams cater their wedding.

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