If My Kitchen Rules NZ taught us anything this week, it's that casual racism is alive and well in New Zealand.

As the six teams met for the first time around Tash and Hera's dining table, the following exchange took place.

"So are you a Kiwi, or what? You don't say much so we can't judge the accent," said Heather from Christchurch, to a round of hearty guffaws from the dinner table.

Read more: MKR serves up NZ's next reality villain

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She was talking about contestant Teal, who is originally from Cambodia but has lived in Wellington for most of his life.

Contestants showed their ignorance when they questioned Teal on where he was from.
Contestants showed their ignorance when they questioned Teal on where he was from.

Heather has clearly been set up to be this year's villain, which is not her fault. The fact she thought that was an acceptable question absolutely is.

The scene then cuts to one of the diary interviews, where self-obsessed Shore boys Ben and Jaryd, are also talking about Teal.

A sinister orchestral soundtrack builds as Ben says suspiciously: "He's reminding me of someone..."

He then snaps his finger and points, declaring: "Asian Johnny Depp."

Back at the table, Heather points at Teal and repeats the moniker before Wanaka-native Bex asks, "Where are your parents from?"

Teal looks uncomfortable as he replies, "Cambodia".

Maybe he was offended - or simply exasperated. No doubt he's had a lifetime of this kind of shitty ignorance.

The moment Heather describes Teal as 'Asian Johnny Depp' during My Kitchen Rules.
The moment Heather describes Teal as 'Asian Johnny Depp' during My Kitchen Rules.

As someone who grew up in Hong Kong, I've spent my life fielding a similar kind of stupidity. As a white girl with a weird accent, Kiwis have often struggled to grasp that I could be from a South-East Asian country.

As one prominent All Black once eloquently declared, "But you don't look like this!" while pulling slanty eyes at me.

Good one, mate.

But while the contestants' ignorant line of questioning was bleak, what's worse was that producers thought it acceptable to play up the scene for comedic effect.

Ho ho - this guys looks like Johnny Depp. But he's ASIAN! Hilarious.

Ironically, this all played out around the dinner table of Tash and Hera - two proud Maori women who were celebrating their culture and heritage at their instant restaurant, Makue.

Pete and Manu had obviously been taken through the basics of hongi protocol before greeting the pair at their Rotorua home.

Yet for some reason the same kind of cultural sensitivity and respect was not afforded to Teal.

Perhaps this is also a good time to point out that "Asian" is not actually a nationality, either.

No doubt MKR producers were patting themselves on the back for achieving some kind of diversity in their contestant line up (compared to Married at First Sight's all-white line up - but that's another story).

But playing casual racism for laughs is nothing to be commended. It's lazy and offensive - and TVNZ should know better.