Pour out a jug of rich, tasty jus for the four fallen teams of My Kitchen Rules NZ 2017: North Shore students Charlotte and Maddie, Rotorua soulmates Tash and Hera, Auckland besties Jaryd and Ben and — in a shock elimination after last week's final sudden death cook-off — surrealist Wellington hairdressers Teal and Sophie.
Each of them invited celebrity chefs Pete Evans and Manu Feildel into their homes (or the borrowed home of a wealthy and generous friend or family member) to judge their cooking. Ultimately, each of them paid the price for their kitchen sins: not enough seasoning, a lack of sauce or, worst of all, failing to treat their veges with the same respect as their meat.
While Three's Married At First Sight NZ has dominated the reality headlines with its marital boil-overs, the third season of TVNZ 2's My Kitchen Rules NZ has been simmering away nicely on Monday nights — even out-rating its more scandalous rival down the home stretch. The cooking show's linear, structured format may seem suddenly dated compared to the open world chaos of MAFS, but the upside is it's never too late to jump on the bandwagon.
If you haven't seen a second of the Instant Restaurants of Sudden Death Cook-offs that followed, all you need to know before Monday night's grand final is that the two remaining teams — Chris and Bex, newlyweds from Wanaka; and Heather and Mitch, platonic friends from Christchurch — broadly represent good and evil.
All season Chris and Bex have been almost sickeningly nice. Relentlessly upbeat and cheerful, they are supportive and encouraging of each other and their opponents. They are over-achievers who believe the best team will win the competition's $100,000 prize, and never shy away from an opportunity to impress the judges with an intricate menu or show off their mastery of a fancy cooking technique (sous vide, roulade, parfait...).
If Chris and Bex are the teacher's pets, Heather and Mitch are the bullies. They are mean, critical, casually offensive — textbook reality TV villains — and they've had it in for their fellow South Islanders since episode one. The lovebirds' constant chirping about how much they love living in Wanaka is fingernails down a chalkboard to the show's "foodie friends".
"I'd love to beat them... I'd love to just nail them," fantasised hard-nosed Mitch during last week's episode.
The predictable narrative for the grand final would see good triumph over evil, Chris and Bex lining their Wanaka love nest with the $100K, but don't be so sure. What we've seen from the teams so far suggests that while Chris and Bex are the more talented cooks, Heather and Mitch have confidence and self-belief on their side. And if we look at it through a sporting lens, Chris and Bex seem like prime candidates to choke under pressure when the chef's whites go on.
Both teams have cooked three times in this competition. Each time, Chris and Bex have pushed the limits with ambitious, technical menus. Their margins between success and shambolic everybody-gets-food-poisoning failure have been narrow, and you have to wonder how much longer they can keep pulling it off.
Heather and Mitch have a simpler, more robust game plan, based on Mitch's ability to cook a piece of meat to mouthwatering perfection. They have had some kitchen nightmares along the way, and could easily have lost their first cook-off were they not up against the even more hapless Jaryd and Ben. But their confidence allowed them to learn from those initial under-seasoned dishes with their thin, disappointing jus. They took the judges' criticisms on board and turned things around last week with a stellar display of high-pressure cooking.
In the grand final, the teams will be cooking not just for the familiar palates of Pete and Manu, but for a full house of famous chefs, including Nadia Lim, Sean Connolly and Ray McVinnie.
Heather and Mitch couldn't care less about any of those guys, or the prize money they stand to pocket. They just want to destroy Chris and Bex. Good vs evil, darkness vs light — the MKRNZ bandwagon is leaving the station.