Why does nobody eat on reality TV? An analysis of RHOAKL's eating habits

By Kim Knight

Kim Knight chows down with the Real Housewives of Auckland.
Angela Stone, Gilda Kirkpatrick, Michelle Blanchard, Ann Batley-Burton, Julia Sloane and Louise Wallace, the cast of The Real Housewives of Auckland.
Angela Stone, Gilda Kirkpatrick, Michelle Blanchard, Ann Batley-Burton, Julia Sloane and Louise Wallace, the cast of The Real Housewives of Auckland.

Remember the old days when cake came from bananas and gravy from a packet?

Reality television has ruined food. Now it's all croquembouche and jus, deboned artichoke and artisan grass clippings. A steady diet of MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules has wrecked us for regular cooking. Threaten today's kid with broccoli and they'll request the purple sprouting kind.

Illustration / Lucy Casley
Illustration / Lucy Casley

Unless they watch the Real Housewives of Auckland, the reality television show where nobody eats. Presumably because nobody wants gluten on their Gucci.

"There are not a lot of carbs on the plates," confirms Hayley Cunningham, executive producer. "They seem to really like fish and salads. And salads."

How do the rich and aspirational feast? Canvas stuck a fork into early-season episodes to bring you this expose. Key findings: Anne's cats get fed more often than the housewives. Champagne is a food group. Humble pie is a dish best served post-Port Douglas.

In fact, food makes a fairly frequent appearance. Less than five minutes into the first episode and Louise's gardener hands her a bunch of herbs for that night's lamb dinner. Later, at dinner, her family eat pasta. Louise made her money the old-fashioned way and she's not squandering it on roast meat.

The ladies go to lunch. Fun fact: Anne can't eat pepper. That scene, in the limo, where she hopes it won't be Asian? "Most of the audience took that as her being slightly offensive," says Cunningham. "But really it's because she can't eat spicy food, or food with pepper in it. Asian food is problematic for her."

Luckily, the ladies went to Josh Emett's restaurant, Ostro, where Michelle discussed Angela's weight and nobody ate cake.

"If they're at a restaurant, we pre-order the food," says Cunningham. "We send them the menu the day before, so they can decide what they're going to have, and we'll talk to the kitchen about holding all the food until we're ready.

"We sit them down, and if the women start engaging with each other meaningfully, and if we're getting good content, there's nothing worse than a waiter busting in with a whole heap of food and distracting them. If they're firing shots across the table, or someone's telling a really funny story, you don't want it ruined with somebody lumbering in with plates."

For the record, Julia's giant birthday cake was, eventually, plated. "We tend to have these beautiful cakes, because they look great," says Cunningham. "The wives are welcome to eat them, they just generally don't feel like it."

Investigative question: Is that because the wives are as cut as the cake?

"We never want a housewife so drunk she's slurring," says Cunningham. "It's not a good look for her, and it's not a good look for us. The ladies enjoy a glass of wine and we would never stop them from doing that. It loosens them, and they have a better time, but we can't have a drunk housewife on screen."

Meanwhile, over at Anne's, Julia has been invited for a cup of tea, but is greeted by a glass of champagne. Meanwhile, over at Michelle's, Louise laments the lack of "20 or 30 more bottles of booze". Meanwhile, in Port Douglas, when the waiter drops a tray of cocktails, the ladies' look as though someone just said something really offensive on national television.

Anyway, back to that dinner party at Michelle's, where, for the first time, we see the wives meaningfully engage with food.

"Gosh, so much food," says Anne.

"We've got to help ourselves to everything," cries Julia, who usually just injects her own blood for dinner.

"Really yummy," says Louise.

Canvas can reveal there are at least six cameras on every dinner party. "If two of the women are having a conversation, we still film the other four stuffing their faces," says Cunningham. "But you never want to break the illusion of these women being glamorous. Quite often you don't look great with a bit of spinach stuck in your teeth, or chewing on a big wad of steak. So generally, in the edit, we're pretty discretionary ... it is an illusion.

"These women are glamorous and aspirational and we don't want to see them chowing down on a hamburger with mayonnaise all over their face."

Cut to Julia's vineyard where nobody eats canapes. Cut to Anne's pussy party, where nobody eats canapes. Cut to Gilda's mansion where nobody eats pudding canapes blowtorched by her personal chef. Cut to an acting class with coach, Cameron Rhodes. He's trying to get the ladies to loosen up, to relax their faces, to imagine their jaws are like melted butter. The ladies look puzzled. There is nothing glamorous about fat on your chin. Also, some of their faces haven't moved since 1989.

- Canvas

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