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My Kitchen Rules NZ recap: The secret ingredient that rocked Manu’s world

The youngest contestants in My Kitchen Rules NZ history write the weirdest menu in My Kitchen Rules NZ history, and poor old Pete Evans has to read it out loud.

From Teal and Sophie’s Wellington stately mansion we return to Auckland this week for Charlotte and Maddie’s instant restaurant ‘Fresh’. The show’s youngest contestants have designed a tasteful tropical-themed al fresco dining area, with palm fronds and an old surfboard decorating the walls and several pineapples adorning the tabletop. The hosts readily admit they are “obsessed with pineapples”.

Charlotte and Maddie’s enthusiasm for cooking is intense, bordering on unnerving. The way they reel around the kitchen, clutching each other and squealing with pure glee at the slightest provocation is a little bit reminiscent of Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey’s characters in Heavenly Creatures (before all the bad stuff happens). Where those two were in thrall to opera star Mario Lanza, Charlotte and Maddie worship a different idol: celebrity chef Manu Feildel.

As the ‘fun’ team of the competition – all the other teams adore them, and Teal and Sophie seem to have adopted them as their own children – they have concocted a suitably quirky-sounding menu. Series grinch Heather, who is wearing two cocktail umbrellas in her hair, calls it “bloody immature,” but it is, in fact, a stroke of genius. By giving all their courses daft names, they will force serious foodie Pete Evans to endure the hell of having to say things like “mango dressio,” “Mr Crabs” and “a dash of fineapple” multiple times over the course of the episode.

What’s for tea?

Charlotte and Maddie’s full entrée, as written, is “From the sea: Coconut shrimpy with a mango dressio”. The deep-fried coconut-crusted shrimp with mango dressing served in a half-coconut shell looks delightful on the plate – Manu praises the chefs’ sense of fun, then immediately delivers the series’ most crushing critique to date: “I personally did not have a lot of fun eating it.”

Pete apologetically agrees, saying the prawn was overcooked and the dressing was just a bit weird: “I didn’t enjoy it sorry girls.” After his brutal critique, Manu visits Charlotte and Maddie in the kitchen to deliver a pep talk, which he ends by shouting “come on!” like Roger Federer.

For their main, the hosts – who are wearing matching tropical print tops – have prepared something called “From the sea again: Macadamia nut snaparoo stuffed with Mr Crabs and a side of coco rice”. “It’s rolled fish,” Heather remarks when the dish is plated up, before slamming the side of coconut rice as “gluggy and piss-poor.” Because the fish has been rolled up it is dry in parts, says Pete, who says the dish is “one element away from something really delicious.”

Manu begins aggressively pushing up the sleeves of his suit jacket and asks, “What is this thing that I’ve been asking for forever?” Charlotte and Maddie reply in solemn unison: “Sauce.” They should have made a sauce.

The energy and enthusiasm the pair began the episode with has now evaporated into a thin air, but they still drag themselves around the kitchen to complete their dessert. Its full name, as written: “From the heart: Green tea pannacotta with bacon crumb (trust us), chocolate dirt with a dash of fineapple”. There is also a secret ingredient, popping candy, which predictably fails to impress Heather (“unnecessary,” she sniffs) but absolutely charms good old Manu. “It doesn’t make sense but somehow it worked for me,” he grins. ”I actually enjoyed this,” admits a surprised-sounding Pete, praising the chefs for what was his favourite dish of the meal.

Banter watch

With only two more instant restaurants to go the table talk is starting to focus on the next round, and which teams may or may not make it through. Chris admits he and Bex are “shit-scared” about cooking for everyone next week, while the other team yet to cook, Heather and Mitch, have all but crowned themselves the winners already. ”We haven’t seen any food yet that is comparable to what we cook,” boasts Mitch. This season the highest-scoring instant restaurant will receive an as-yet-unspecified ‘advantage’. “If the advantage is to kick a team off, Wanaka’s out of here,” promises Heather.

Oh god, Wanaka. “Wah wah wah Wanaka,” Heather and Mitch have started calling it. “Wanaka is an hour’s drive from Queenstown,” says Chris in a tiny snippet of conversation floating merrily free of context. “Are you from Wanaka?” asks Mitch sarcastically (lowest form of wit). “Wah wah wah Wanaka” says Heather, as the pair throw their heads back in laughter.

The scores

With the popping candy seemingly the judges’ favourite part of the whole meal, Charlotte and Maddie look in trouble. They need to beat Jaryd and Ben’s score of 56 to be assured of a place in the next round. Their peers score them a combined 26/50 – again, Heather and Mitch score generously and Tash and Hera are the most stingy. That puts them one point above the boys at the same stage in the judging process.

Any confidence they may have taken from that is quickly extinguished by the pair of 3s Pete and Manu give for the entrees. Pete fails their main as well, giving it a 4; Manu gives it a 5 but reiterates “sauce sauce sauce sauce sauce.” Despite a stronger showing from their dessert – a 7 from Pete and a 6 from Manu – Charlotte and Maddie fall short with a total of 54 out of a possible 110. They sit at the bottom of the leaderboard and seem destined for elimination at the end of the instant restaurants.

Next week: Heather and Mitch go to their personal hell aka Chris and Bex’s place, Wanaka.


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