MKR: Hot in the kitchen

By Janie Smith

The Aussies have done their thing. Now it’s our turn writes Janie Smith.

This year's My Kitchen Rules contestants.
This year's My Kitchen Rules contestants.

Australia's addictive culinary competition, My Kitchen Rules, is crossing the ditch. Chefs Ben Bayly, of The Grove and Baduzzi fame, and Gareth Stewart from Soul will judge the contestants' cooking efforts in the inaugural New Zealand series of the show.

Like the Aussie version, the competition begins with 10 teams of two taking turns to create instant restaurants in their homes, which will be scored by their fellow contestants and the judges.

We caught up with the first group of contestants getting ready to show off their culinary skills ahead of My Kitchen Rules New Zealand's premiere on TV One tonight.

1. Neena Truscott, holistic health coach, and Belinda MacDonald, food and wellness educator

Relationship: Friends and cousins-in-law.

What do you think is your team's point of difference that will set you apart from the competition?

Neena: We love to use food as medicine and incorporate as many beneficial bacteria and nutrients as possible by foraging New Zealand's plentiful landscape of weeds and edible goodies.

In your opinion, what are the biggest food crimes Kiwis commit?

Neena: Eating out of packets a lot, not just in New Zealand but worldwide. Unfortunately we live in a fast-paced world where refined goods have replaced vege gardens and homemade goodies.

What dish/ingredients are you the most nervous about making or working with?

Neena: That would have to be offal. The thought of it makes me squeamish.

If you win, what will you do with the prize money?

Neena: Belinda and I are really keen to educate New Zealanders, especially mums, of the mecca of superfoods we have literally in our backyard and, in turn, empower women to take charge of their families' health and well-being by incorporating as many healing elements into the food they serve. If we win MKR, I would put some of the money towards our business to grow it and reach a wider audience throughout New Zealand and beyond. And I've promised the hubby a well-deserved and long-awaited surf trip to Indonesia.

2. Dan Beck office worker, and Christie Beck, midwifery student

Relationship: Husband and wife.

What would you consider to be your signature style of cooking?

Dan: Meat-filled meals with loads of flavour.

Christie: Lots of herbs and old-school recipes.

What do you think are each other's strengths and weaknesses?

Dan: Christie doesn't season enough but she keeps really calm in the kitchen and helps me not stress out.

Christie: Dan can get overwhelmed easily and wants to always take over my meals but he is great at cooking meat and has a good knowledge base.

Having seen the Australian version of the show, what lessons did you take from it for the New Zealand show?

Dan: Be prepared for ANYTHING.

Christie: Work as a team and remember to have fun.

3. Sam Sutherland, call centre worker, and Dan Freeman, retail worker

Relationship: Flatmates who met through Twitter.

What do you think is your team's point of difference that will set you apart from the competition?

Sam: We are young and hip and modern and we keep up with current trends.

What do you think are each other's strengths and weaknesses?

Sam: My weakness is savoury dishes and sauces, Dan's weakness is desserts, but we are good at what each other is bad at.

What dish/ingredients are you the most nervous about making or working with?

Dan: We are not confident with fish but we are practising now to get better. We are students and we can't afford fish.

4. June Lyall, mechanics office administrator, and Stephanie Usmar, bar person

Relationship: Best friends.

In your opinion, what are the biggest food crimes Kiwis commit?

June: Cooking the ass out of everything.

Steph: Not using leftovers and wasting food.

What would your last meal be?

June: Calamari three ways with wine and some cold Tuis.

Steph: Oysters, crayfish and lots of pinot gris.

If you win, what will you do with the money?

June: Renovations on my house, including a pool, en suite, extra bedroom and put some cash on the mortgage. I'd also take my man and kids on a mean-as overseas holiday.

Steph: Buy a V8 Holden ute and take my kids on holiday overseas.

5. Neil Gussey, photographer, and Tracey Allan, makeup artist

Relationship: Friends and occasional colleagues.

What do you think is your team's point of difference that will set you apart from the competition?

Neil: We are used to dealing with all sorts of people on photo shoots, so we know how to deal with nerves and hopefully keep calm and get the job done.

What do you think are each other's strengths and weaknesses?

Tracey: Neil is a stickler for time, whereas I go by touch and feel. Neil sticks to recipes and would rather perfect that, whereas I never stick to recipes and am opting to experiment. I'd be good with a magic box of ingredients and coming up with an idea from that. I do tend to get carried away with an idea though, which can slow down time.

Having seen the Australian version of the show, what lessons did you take from it for the New Zealand show?

Tracey: To be honest, I never watched the Australian version before Neil had asked me to join him. Typical of me, I go in eyes wide shut. Probably just as well, as I was unaware of the gruelling tasks ahead.

My Kitchen Rules New Zealand will screen at 7.30pm on Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from tonight.

- Herald on Sunday

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