Calum Henderson watches the revamped My Kitchen Rules NZ, with shiny new judges and shady new contestants.
By now we should all understand the basic rules of reality television, especially the one that dictates every series must portray at least one team or contestant as being the embodiment of pure evil. Deep in our heart of hearts, we should know that these people aren’t really evil at all. Usually, they are just from Christchurch.
It’s important to keep this in mind when confronted by My Kitchen Rules NZ’s ‘foodie friends’ Heather and Mitch, who really do seem like gnarly pieces of work. They sneered and grimaced the whole way through the first instant restaurant tonight, poking miserably at their meals and moaning heartily about every aspect of the hospitality they were receiving.
Their hosts for the evening, Rotorua ‘soulmates’ Tash and Hera, couldn’t put a foot right. Their paua entree was slammed by Mitch: “I just want paua,” he pouted. “I want lemon juice, I want salt and pepper … we’re in New Zealand and that’s how you eat paua,” he complained of his Māori hosts’ recipe.
Tash and Hera had cheerfully described their cooking philosophy as “too blessed to be stressed”, a mantra which was put to the test when their lamb rack main course came out of the oven looking on the wrong side of rare. They carefully jettisoned the rawest cuts and plated up a dish that judge Manu Feildel declared cooked “perfectly.”
The gloriously-accented Frenchman’s fellow judge, Australian Pete Evans, had come to New Zealand hoping to taste “beautiful native New Zealand produce, cooked with aroha,” and he found it on his plate of lamb and smoked kumara puree. “This is a sensational dish,” he drooled.
The visitors from Christchurch were not so easily impressed. “I feel like the marmalade might have caught?” suggested Heather. “Bit burny? Not perfect for me.”
But while their mains scored 9s from the two judges and earned the admiration of all but one of their fellow teams, Tash and Hera’s blessings ran out for their dessert of mini pavlovas with kawakawa cream. The pavs came out of the oven solid as a rock, the chocolate garnishes melted and no one could taste the kawakawa. Manu could only bring himself to give it a 3; Pete gave it just 2.
How good their total score of 67 looks in the grand scheme of things will depend on how the other five teams fare. Heather and Mitch talked a big game (“I enjoy going out,” said Mitch; “High-quality restaurants,” added Heather) and saw few threats around the table – certainly not from starstruck 19-year-old Auckland friends Charlotte and Maddie. “What kind of food are they going to cook for us, chicken nuggets?” Heather scoffed.
Chris and Bex, the sickeningly nice newlyweds from Wanaka, will surely wilt under the intense pressure of cooking for such culinary sophisticates. Auckland lads Jaryd and Ben seem good for a laugh, but don’t be surprised if there are tears by the time their southern rivals are finished with them.
The sternest challenge could come from inscrutable Wellington hairdressing couple Teal (the one who shares an uncanny likeness with Johnny Depp) and Sophie. “Are you a kiwi or what?” Heather quizzed Teal, whose family were refugees from Cambodia. “You don’t say much so we can’t judge your accent.” It was true the pair hardly said a word all night. “You’re playing your cards close to your chest,” observed Pete. “That’s why I’m wearing a waistcoat,” Teal replied mysteriously.
This season of My Kitchen Rules NZ is appealingly lean compared to previous versions. An hour-long episode a week for ten weeks means there’s no mucking around – the six instant restaurants are followed by sudden death cook-offs before the last two teams standing meet in the grand final.
No surprises which team is going last in the instant restaurant rounds. By the time we arrive in Christchurch, the probably-quite-nice-in-real-
Come back for more next week, as Calum continues his weekly wrap of My Kitchen Rules NZ and we get one step closer to seeing what Teal is hiding under that waistcoat.
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