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'Oddballs' in the kitchen

JAY BOREHAM
Last updated 05:00 21/08/2014
Neil Gussey and Tracey Allan
KITCHEN KIWIS: Neil Gussey and Tracey Allan are the Orewa contestants in the new Kiwi version of My Kitchen Rules.

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Tracey Allan had never seen an episode of My Kitchen Rules before close friend Neil Gussey asked her to audition with him for the new Kiwi version of the show.

Now she and Neil have starring roles in the series which airs for the first time on Sunday and cooked up a storm in their Orewa "Fire and Ice" themed restaurant.

The duo chose the theme because it best reflects their personalities, they say.

"Because we are sort of theatrical," Tracey says.

Tracey, 47, is a makeup artist and former model.

Kiwi audiences may remember her as the model from 1990s game show Sale of the Century, or her makeup slot on 5.30 With Jude.

Now she works as a freelance makeup artist for fashion shoots, television, weddings and events.

She says Sir Edmund Hillary's is the most famous face she has worked with while preparing him for his final interview before he died in 2008.

Neil, 44, is used to being on the other side of the camera. He's a fashion photographer.

The Australian version of MKR has been his favourite programme for the past four years.

"So when I saw the applications I was determined to get on it," he says.

The duo breezed through the application process.

They filmed a quick one and a half minute audition, sent it in, and got a call the next day.

The next week they were cooking in front of MKR cameras in Orewa for their second audition.

"We just did a quick Thai chicken and we were in," Tracey says.

Since then they've filmed all around Orewa, on the beach, shopping for ingredients and at their restaurant.

Labelled Beauty and the Beast by the reality TV show, the duo at first had a small concern about how they will be portrayed in the programme.

"I was thinking I was going to come across as a little bit dizzy or a little bit not knowing the way the world turns," Tracey says.

Neil says he thinks they will come across as quirky and eccentric.

"We are kind of the oddballs," he says.

"You tend not to worry about what you say when you are a bit more mature," Tracey says. "But we have a lot of laughs and they say we bring a lot of humour to the show."

Pressure on the show is "intense" with the odd meltdown and a bit of bickering during their slot cooking for other contestants.

But being close friends makes it easier to have a bit of banter, they say.

No arch enemy has surfaced on the show for the easy going pair and, unlike most of the teams, they haven't cut themselves yet, Neil says.

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But they have had a few electronic things go wrong, Tracey says.

The pair has been coined by the show as an Orewa duo, but Neil lives in a central city Queen St apartment and Tracey in a converted Belmont church.

Neither place was suitable for setting up their restaurant so they are using Neil's parents' home in Orewa.

The two are keen foodies and stuck with what they do best for their menus.

The duo also organise weddings together and hope people will want to use them once they see how much fun they are to work with.

- Rodney Times

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