SPOILER ALERT: Don’t read this is you’re still catching up.
Well it’s all over, and what a ride it was. Me and Mrs T only discovered this show about 10 episodes in, but it was fine, because there were 49 in the series. What kind of filming schedule makes 49 shows in a series, with each episode as slick and polished as this? OK, maybe The Chase and Pointless, but there’s no cooking in those, and Bradley, Alexander and Richard aren’t a patch on Pete, Manu and Colin in the eye-candy department.
The premise of this show was that 16 pairs of contestants compete over loads of challenges until there’s only one winning pair. The teams were parent and child, in-laws, friends, couples, brothers and sisters, so this made for compelling viewing and the bickering was almost as good/bad as the cooking.
The whole show was held together by Pete Evans and Manu Feildel, two ridiculously charismatic and attractive individuals with restaurant backgrounds. The bromance between the two was equally enjoyable. They communicated with their eyes, and finished each others
sandwiches sentences. This show has been running in Australia for 9 series now, and was available in the UK on Living or Sky 2.
Teams would have to lay on three course meals in their own homes for the other teams in the competition, in an instant restaurant fashion. This would include setting up the decor. Other challenges included creating menus and meals at various outdoor events; a massive bowling club, kids football matches, picnics etc. The worst pairs would end up in a cook-off at “Elimination House” before one would get sent home. Unlike cooking shows over here in the UK, where if you cock up once in the kitchen, you’re out the door; over there, you get a few chances to save yourself.
As the whole thing was so long, I’m going to pick it up at the point where there were about a dozen teams left.
Sensationally narrated by the awesomely named Septimus Caton, who would introduce every episode over music that sounded like it belonged in the end scene of a Hollywood Action film where only one man can save the planet from destruction. He is also the master of the dramatic pause, leaving gaps so long in the middle of sentences, they make Jeremy Clarkson sound like he’s talking……………………………………………………….normally.
We join it on the evening of the big rumble at the table, with Arabic friends Sonya and Hadil informing everyone at the table that they’re all arseholes, and their food is all shit. They single out sisters Jess and Emma to hit with most of their rage. Jaws drop around the table as things get personal, and Hadil calls Emma a blow-fish, referring to her overly plumped lips. When asked to calm down by the youngest couple, Stella and Jazzey, Hadil turns on them and it all gets a little bit over the top. I mean, there’s banter, and there’s banter. Then it happens. In a turn of events that they’ve been plugging for four episodes, Sonya and Hadil are asked to leave the table, and they never returned. Having looked into this further, I found out that they’d all had a barney in the hotel the night before, and it was decided then that they’d be booted off, but Sonya and Hadil had agreed to the filming of the dramatic eviction, so they probably got a little pay-off for it.
One of the methods MKR uses for telling a story is cutaways to each couple during their cooking, in the back of the studio, where they’ve obviously shot it after the event, in which the couple talk about what is happening, as it happens. Sounds complicated, but it worked. For example, you’d see two of them struggling to make a souffle in the kitchen, then cut to the studio, where they’re talking to camera abut what’s going wrong, before cutting back to the kitchen where one of them is probably crying. Another method they used to avoid using a voice-over (maybe Septimus charges per word) is competitors constantly telling each other exactly what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. “I’m just peeling the carrots, Emma!” “OK, Jess, I’m reducing this stock so it intensifies the flavour!” “Great idea, Doll, we need to get a move on though, we’ve only got 15 minutes left and the jelly isn’t setting.” “Oh no! I’m going to drink some wine.”
With the mood considerably lightened, they all started getting on like a house on fire, and we were treated to some mostly great cooking. We warmed to some and got annoyed by others, as with all great telly.
The aforementioned Stella and Jazzey, a pair of waitresses were just adorable, and so chilled. Funny little quips between the pair lightened the moments when everyone else would be panicking.
Josh and Nic, two brothers of Italian descent, though you’d never guess, as they only mentioned it every two minutes. They had perfectly normal Australian accents until it came to absolutely any Italian word, which they would put an accent on, just to make sure we knew that they were Italian. Tagliatelle became Tag-lee-a-TEL-eh, Amaretti biscuits became Ah-ma-RET-ee and Gnocchi became Knee-OCK-ee, many times. They started to annoy me, even though they were bloody good. That was another thing, everyone used the word “bloody” a lot.
Truffle farming siblings, Henry and Anna, were just lovely people, also easy on the eye, with the other female contestants fawning over Henry regularly. At one point I thought they were going to have to put some towels down. Jazzey had a particular soft spot for him, but I’m pretty sure she’d have destroyed him, and I think Henry was worried about that too, so her love was unrequited. She ended up on the Aussie version of Take Me Out shortly after this. I kid you not.
Henry and Anna Stella and Jazzey
Friends Kim and Suong brought the Asian flavour big-time, with dishes made up of millions of ingredients that would often make judges Pete and Manu gaze adoringly into each other’s eyes.
Russian pair Olga and Valeria hilariously played up to the cold-hearted Bond villain stereotype, as they attempted to sell Russian food to the masses. It was all going well for them until they decided to dish up ox tongue. I kept expecting to see Valeria stroking a white cat on her lap while laser-beams went off in the background during their cutaways.
Alex and Emily were a loved-up couple who couldn’t stop kissing. She would get hyper at all the wrong moments. while he tried to chill her out, usually by saying “Babe, it’s OK,” or “Babe, calm down Babe.” Now, in my experience, there’s nothing a wound up woman likes hearing more than a man telling her to calm down, so it’s a wonder she didn’t end up chopping his arms off. Emily would be running herself ragged around the kitchen, while Alex, looking like a chunky Jason Mraz, calmly poked at some meat he was grilling, because that was his job, as a proper blokey bloke, mate.
As dish after dish got served to the judges, Pete and Manu, and occasionally Colin all looked longingly at each other. Masters of giving nothing away, and communicating with their eyebrows, they’d be a nightmare to play poker with. Then when the contestants were out of sight, they’d discuss what they’d eaten, using as many as six adjectives, mostly preceded by “bloody.” Manu and Pete would then embrace and kiss passionately, while Craig rolled his eyes. OK I made this last bit up, but it always looked like it was on the cards.
The final came around after 48 previous hours of viewing, and it pitted Kim and Suong against Alex and Emily. They had to dish up FIVE courses of top quality nosh, and as if that wasn’t enough, they had to do it in front of all the former contestants AND their own families. Kim burnt some quail, Emily burst into tears, Kim and Suong’s kitchen looked like somebody had bombed it, and Alex never removed his hat. A bunch of judges were drafted in for the final. Some of the most respected restauranteurs in Australia, we’re told. Never heard of any of them, but I’m not Australian. The results were in, and Emily and
Chunky Mraz Alex had done it! MKR Champions, and a cheque for 250,000 Aussie Dollars was theirs to open their own restaurant. Lucky bloody sods.
Of all the cooking shows I’ve watched, I have to say; this is one of the best and how it should be done. Apparently they did do a UK version a few years back, but it can’t have done that well because I don’t even remember it! If they did bring it back over here, they’d need to use the handsome UK equivalents of Pete and Manu. Marcus Waring and Jean-Christophe Novelli, anyone? Make it happen someone, or we’ll end up with Rick Stein and Simon bloody Rimmer.
MKR. Bonzer, mate! Roll on series 10.