MKR NZ's Pete and Manu on their real-life friendship and dishing out advice
Pete Evans and Manu Feildel are synonymous with the Australian version of My Kitchen Rules.
The two chefs have been judges on the cooking show for eight seasons and are household names across the Tasman.
But now Evans and Feildel are bringing their wisdom, charm and expertise to the third season of My Kitchen Rules (MKR) New Zealand, taking over from the show's previous judges Ben Bayly and Gareth Stewart.
Evans, who is married to Kiwi model Nicola Robinson (formerly known as Nicky Watson), says the standard of cooking on the New Zealand show is on a par with the food served on the Aussie version.
"It's good, bad and everything in between," he says.
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For this season of MKR NZ, Evans, 43, and Feildel, 44, travelled around the country visiting a range of places including Rotorua, Christchurch and Queenstown. Six teams of two are competing with the winning pair taking away $100,000.
"If anyone has a passion for food," says Evans, "this is a wonderful show to draw inspiration from – to give it a go, jump into your kitchen, get out of your comfort zone and cook some bloody good food for yourself and your family.
"It's a cooking show at heart with the drama and entertainment and the competition wrapped up into it."
Evans and Feildel are trained chefs with their own business interests outside of MKR. The pair each have two children and have known each other for 17 years.
"When we're together on a project like MKR we spend a lot of time together, even in our free time," says Evans. "But then when we're not working together, because we live in different areas, we might not see each other for four or five months. But when we get together we're like brothers. It's a very easy relationship to pick back up. We have great respect for each other."
Both Feildel and Evans enjoy being part of the show.
"We're very lucky to have the job we've got," says the French-born, Sydney-based Feildel.
"You just learn to juggle. I know that my family, as much as they miss me and I miss them, we've also got an understanding of why we're doing this. We're creating a future for our kids. And if I can retire in five years' time, brilliant."
Feildel's TV work, which includes Around The World With Manu Feildel and Dancing With The Stars, led to his first acting gig as a French chef in The BBQ, a yet-to-be-released Ocker film starring Magda Szubanski and Shane Jacobsen (Kenny).
Both MKR judges have worked hard to achieve their level of success.
"We've had different roles in our career as well," says Evans. "We've been apprentice chefs ... and we've also had our own restaurants where we've been the boss.
"Manu and I have been on TV for about 15 years each in different hosting roles and cooking roles. When we started doing this, just like when we started cooking, we were in our infancy. We were beginners. Like anything, it's about how much you invest in your job. Manu and I have both been successful in our first careers which is cooking.
"And we've both invested a lot of time and energy to make that happen. We both went through the traditional cooking route which is working 80 to 100-hour weeks for many, many years. We've both probably cooked a million meals each ... before TV even came along."
But being in front of the camera did not come naturally.
"It took me six or seven years of being on television until I was comfortable that I could do the job properly," says Evans.
While learning to perform on camera took some getting used to, so did working with contestants under pressure – particularly if they were in serious relationships.
During MKR, Evans and Feildel sometimes dish out advice to couples off-camera.
Evans reveals: "We say, 'This is a competition but remember who you are as a couple before you entered the competition and always hold to that. Don't let the competition destroy who you are as a person'."
My Kitchen Rules New Zealand, TVNZ 2, starts Monday September 25.
- TV Guide