Rebecca Barry Hill: Cooking up satisfaction

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Manu Feildel and Pete Evans served up judgment on MKR.
Manu Feildel and Pete Evans served up judgment on MKR.

Well I'm stuffed. But watching TV2's My Kitchen Rules finale was nothing compared to the life we won't get back having sat through an entire series. And much as Manu, Pete and the guest judges lamented the lack of horseradish on Bree and Jessica's salmon and beetroot entree, it's a terrifying thought knowing all of the Aussie series has been served up. How will we spend the week, knowing Mondays to Wednesday nights are free again? Oh that's right. Watching the New Zealand version (Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 7.30pm, TV2.)

If you're anything like me, you'll be scratching your head as to how you sat through even two thirds of it. Three nights a week, every week is an unhealthy portion size. And there's nothing like watching someone else sous-vide a piece of meat, inserting a temperature gauge and lovingly smothering it in truffle sauce as you swallow a limp, panfried piece of schnitzel. Still, despite not being able to join in with all the eating, it was a weirdly satisfying experience. So what made it so addictive?

Perhaps it's because MKR is like MasterChef, only bitchier. It offers up inspiring, creative thinking, is undemanding of the viewer, yet relies on know-it-alls, food snobs and oddballs to make it worth watching. Before the show descended into studio cooking monotony, there were the insightful home-based "instant restaurants", where the best and worst personalities came out to play. David and Corinne delighted in pooh-poohing everyone's food before flunking out themselves, having quaffed half the wine pre-meal. Relentlessly positive Carly and Tresne practically strangled the universe into helping them along. And twins Helena and Vikki spent much of the time sniping at smug grand finalists Chloe and Kelly, the "well-travelled friends" who'd eaten all around the world and therefore knew more about food than the culinary Michelin man.

But after the teams made it to Kitchen HQ, and hopped into those egalitarian aprons and crocs, the ego and edges wore off a little. Is someone in your life being a dick? How about forcing them to cook enough food to feed a nation of starving people? Seems to work wonders for the soul on MKR.

The finale was as heart-racing as Chloe and Kelly's pig's trotters - served with crispy pig's ears, you could argue their menu sounded like a dog's breakfast. But what do I know? After putting up an otherwise sophisticated and well received selection of courses, the girls lost to "ordinary mums" Bree and Jessica, whose elegant, classic flavours with a modern twist were hard to fault (again, what do I know? I only got to salivate as the judges ate it). As Bree put it, over and over in front of her poor husband, they were doing this to make a "better life for our families", as though existence pre-MKR meant surviving on white bread and Sizzlers.

As the champions revelled in their well-deserved glory, we were left to watch the runners-up get their just desserts. They were the villains of the series, but despite their cocksure attitude, I'd warmed to them by the show's end. They were plucky yet cool under pressure, unlike stressy Jessie, who added a little extra seasoning when she started crying over her dish.

Let's hope there are more tears and tantrums when the New Zealand version of the show starts tomorrow. Otherwise it'll be just another cooking show.

- TimeOut

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