MKR judge: Demands hard to swallow
My Kitchen Rules guest judge Karen Martini has no trouble remembering the worst dish she has eaten on the show. In fact, the memory of it still makes her shudder.
"Easy peasy," she says. "It was seared kangaroo with hot strawberry sauce. I think that was the one episode where I actually put my napkin up and spat it out.
"It was pretty bad... I think we're about to see kangaroo again at some stage during the competition, so I'm like, 'Please not with a fruit sauce'."
Karen returns to the reality series' judging panel this week as the contestants enter HQ for the first of the elimination cook-offs.
Although she says the contestants improve every year, Karen advises any future would-be chefs to know their food and practise a lot.
"If you really want to excel on the show, set yourself time constraints at home," she says.
"Set yourself a clock because that's cooking under pressure, which is what chefs do. It's what it's like in the real world and that's what it's like on the show... That's an inside tip there. Buy yourself a little timer and don't set it for the food, set it
Karen knows about the pressures of working in a professional kitchen. As well as her yearly stint on My Kitchen Rules, Karen is a chef, restaurateur, food writer and presenter on Better Homes And Gardens. Karen attributes her success to her parents, who allowed her to leave school at 15 to take up an apprenticeship at Melbourne restaurant Mietta.
"Hats off to my parents because I was a very driven, some would say stubborn, 15 or 16 year old," she says. "I've always loved food so it was a natural direction for me to head in...
"But I didn't know that they'd enrolled me in the private girls' school I was at to go back in year 11.
"They thought I'd get sick of it over summer and go back. Well I haven't looked back. It was only like five years ago that Mum was going, 'I think you did the right thing'."
Although it was the best thing she ever did, Karen admits she would have trouble letting her daughters Stella, seven, and Amber, five, follow the same path.
"(My parents) were watching me work 60- or 70-hour weeks at a three-hat restaurant at a very young age," Karen says. "I look at it now, I've got two daughters, I would never let them start cooking at 15. It's a very hard, physical environment.
"I had a varicose vein operation at 30 because I'd been standing so long. It's physical and it's tiring and it's repetitive and unless you're really passionate about food and you're going to get somewhere in the industry, there are easier ways to make a buck."
Living in Melbourne, where she also owns pizza restaurant Mr Wolf, Karen travels to Sydney to film at My Kitchen Rules HQ. Karen says she could not do it without her husband, Michael Sapountsis.
"I have great support. My husband is very much running the house at the moment to allow me to do My Kitchen Rules," she says.
"I'm also a mum, so that's hard as well... Amber said to me, 'Bye, Mum, have a good holiday.' I was like, 'Hey, it's not a holiday. That's not the case'.''
- TV Guide