We have come to the end of another exhausting My Kitchen Rules NZ journey, time to relax with some cucumbers on your eyes, fennel puree on your face and rest your weary feet in some perfectly-seasoned consomme.
The grand finale last night proved, yet again, that the MKRNZ path is paved with surprises. And I'm not just talking about that time Kimberly and Brooke made sad jellymeat. Gatecrashers Jess and Stella swooped in with a killer five course meal, snaffling away $100,000 in prize money. Who actually knew you could get $100,000 out of this? To all aspiring reality contestants: screw The Block and focus on cubing that watermelon.
Along the way, I have mercilessly recapped every single week of My Kitchen Rules NZ (click here to read), been invited gold panning by The Otago Lads, and even became deeply peeved at Katrina's unfair scrutiny about her previous job in the porn industry (click here for the full rant). I have built a layered entremet of obsession, if you will, so I thought I would share some lessons learned from this year's fierce foodie competition.
1. Beware the mandoline
If there is one kitchen appliance I never want to go near, it's the mandoline. Week after week contestants sawed vital body parts off, all in the name of a thinly-sliced vegetable garnish. Jess joked about leaving a bit of her fingernail in the food, Reagan said goodbye to a large portion of finger and Ruth bled all over the cauliflower. Someone call OSH.
2. You can't teach a rugby player new tricks
Despite ex-Hurricane and cookbook enthusiast Laurence smashing stereotypes with his finessed cooking in the early weeks, the rugby club challenge proved that trying to get rugby players to eat clean and lean was impossible. Lauren and Simon learnt this the hard way after plating up horrid raw muesli balls, a welcome reminder of real life outside the foodie blogosphere.
3. Venison will never be the hero we need, or deserve
One of the biggest buzz phrases of MKRNZ this year was around venison, the second most vogue protein product behind anything Art Green is peddling. It soon became the battle of the Bambis, with the one unflinching criticism being that the venison never stepped up to be "the hero" of the dish. Give venison some slack guys, it can't rescue a cat from a tree or even pick up an old lady's shopping. 2015 is the year we asked too much of venison.
4) MKRNZ is set in the early 2000s
Put your tinfoil hats on, I have a mind-bending theory: that MKRNZ exists in a pop culture bubble from 2001-2004. Where else would you find the following?
5. We need more Te Reo Māori in primetime
Monique and Henry from the Hawkes Bay were an injection of proud Maori culture that we need about 100% more of in primetime. Every week I learned new words ("kawa" means sour - very useful) and used traditional Māori ingredients to wow the judges. Legends.
6. Instant restaurants have no chill
The instant restaurant rounds remain my favourite part of MKRNZ, because you know there isn't going to be cat hair in the food like on Come Dine With Me. But boy, sometimes there are some clangers. I was particularly charmed by Ruth and Cheryl's restaurant 'Table', which was just covered in black and white stock images of tables, and William and Zoe's absolute over-the-top Auckland-ness.
Which leads me to my next lesson...
7. Everyone still hates Aucklanders
The battle of the regions proved that there is still a lot of animosity towards Auckland folk, and it didn't help a wink that William and Zoe were really, really, good at cooking.
8. Beware the mystery meat
Monique and Henry got stung by the realisation that the slimy hunk of meat they had picked up was actually turkey and chicken. I thought it was one of the blob fish that looks like Alfred Hitchcock, but what do I know?
9. Never forget the little people
It can be easy, in the glamourous world of MKRNZ, to hang off every word guest judge Grace Ramirez says, or get lost on Gareth's twinkling eyes. But always remember to keep an eye out for the kitchen medics, the Nosh butchers and the friendly family members. To the driver sitting in his car waiting for the judges to finish judging for presumably hours: I see you.
10. Food is the glue
This sentiment was uttered by many different teams across the course of the show: that food was always the one thing that brought family, friends and big groups together. After spending hours cross-legged in front of the televisual table, feasting upon this reality platter, I'm going to have to agree.