The demon foodies of Christchurch get brought down to size by a French celebrity chef as My Kitchen Rules NZ prepares to enter the sudden-death cook-off round.
From Chris and Bex’s fortress of broken culinary dreams in Wanaka we head up country, to Christchurch, for the final instant restaurant of MKRNZ 2017. Lying in wait in the kitchen of some grand country estate are Heather and Mitch, two of the greatest reality villains New Zealand television has ever seen.
The Cantabrian ‘foodie friends’ have played their part in the show to perfection, ruthlessly mocking the cooking efforts of their peers, using jargon they might not fully understand and talking themselves up as cooking legends at every turn. Now, the time has finally come for them to walk the walk and put their posh nosh in front of celebrity chef judges Pete and Manu.
Last week they described their cooking style as “modern Kiwi with a twist”; this week it is “modern French” being served at their instant restaurant Smoke & Mirrors. The pair are going for “sophistication” and “style,” Mitch says while stringing some fairy lights through the leaves of an indoor tree. When the guests arrive, they do so through a thick haze of smoke from a smoke machine. Their menus are printed on mirrors.
What’s for tea?
Heather and Mitch have prepared an ambitious menu, starting with the absolutely revolting-sounding entree of Pickled pork tongue with cider-braised pig cheeks and crispy pig tails. The latter is in fact crispy pig tail croquettes with mashed potato and spring onion, something stickler Mitch would probably whinge about if any other team failed to specify on their menu. “Looks amazing, restaurant quality, can’t fault it,” he declares.
Mitch may not be able to fault his porcine creation, but Pete Evans can. He applauds the effort that has gone into the dish, but laments the missing element – “and it is a pretty big one”. It is salt, the very ingredient that Heather had urged Mitch to go easy on in the kitchen earlier. Manu praises the “restaurant-quality” presentation, but is disappointed by the lack of seasoning, describing the dish damningly as “bland food”.
Rattled after making the first cooking mistake of her life, Heather goes full Salt Bae on the main: Wild venison, manuka smoked beetroot, broccolini and jus. The salty jus goes down a treat with sauce-guzzling Manu, while Pete is besotted with the beetroot, naming it the “star of the plate” above even the perfectly-cooked venison. This, he says, is “New Zealand on a plate”. If you pause the tape you can probably see the exact moment Charlotte and Maddie’s hearts break in two.
Heather and Mitch’s confidence has never been higher, but their complacency costs them big time with their dessert: Bomb Alaska with vanilla bean compote and berry medley. After the exquisite plating of their first two dishes the Bomb Alaska is a complete dog’s breakfast, the worst dessert disaster since Tash and Hera’s pavs in week one. Mitch’s confidence evaporates in an instant: “we’re looking at 0s and 1s, we could be going home,” he suddenly panics.
The judges, predictably, hate it. The sponge is dry, there’s about half a litre of ice cream on everyone’s plate for some reason, the meringue looks horrible… “It’s a bit of an a-bomb-ination” joke Charlotte and Maddie, their last hurrah before being asked to leave the show and never come back. “We gave it a shot,” whimpers Mitch, unlocking a dark side to the usually jovial Manu. “Gave it a shot… $100,000… and you gave it a shot,” he snarls. “It’s between you and [Charlotte and Maddie]… and you gave it a shot. There’s a lot riding on this plate… and you gave it a shot.”
“I’m feeling damaged,” Heather admits after Manu’s serve. “I’m a mouse. I’m dirt on the floor. I’m a crumb. I feel tiny.”
During the driving-around-town-picking-
With the acid-tongued hosts trapped in the kitchen the table talk is more boring than ever. An intense, pointless three-way beef simmers all episode between Tash and Hera, Chris and Bex and Teal and Sophie, who it turns out all have different subjective criteria for judging each other’s cooking. Nothing really comes of it.
Heather and Mitch need to beat Charlotte and Maddie’s 54 to remain in the competition, and top Teal and Sophie’s 77 to claim the mystery advantage going into the second round. For dramatic purposes their peer scores remain a secret, the sum total only announced after Pete and Manu have delivered their verdicts.
Things start promisingly for the foodie friends as Pete gives their impressive but underseasoned entree an 8, while Manu gives it a 7. Their main was the dish of the night – it earns a 9 from Manu, while Pete comes through on his earlier use of the p-word, giving it a 10. But the abominable Bomb Alaska lets Heather and Mitch down at the final hurdle, scoring just 4 from Pete and 5 from Manu.
That gives them 43, needing 35 of a possible 50 from their fellow contestants to claim the advantage. Through the first five instant restaurants the average scores have ranged from Tash and Hera’s stingy 4.5 to a reverential 6.25 from Jaryd and Ben. Heather and Mitch get a combined total of 32 – above average, but not enough to unseat Teal and Sophie, the regular season champions of MKRNZ 2017. Their secret advantage is a fast-track to the final round of the next stage in the competition: sudden-death cook-offs.
Who’s going to win?
As the final leaderboard suggests, it’s too close to call between Teal and Sophie and Heather and Mitch. Tash and Hera shape as the dark horses of the competition, while Chris and Bex have gutsy underdog potential. Jaryd and Ben need a miracle.
Next week: The first sudden-death cook-off pits Chris and Bex against Tash and Hera at a “major VIP event” (some Shortland Streetactors are coming for tea).
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