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Celebrity chef, Manu Feildel co-hosts Seven’s My Kitchen Rules (MKR) among other cooking programs including Ready, Steady, Cook and Boys Weekend. The 42-year-old chatted to me about the pros and cons of life as a celebrity chef, the strangest place he has been recognized and his Wedding plans with fiancé Clarissa Weerasena.
What are you up to at the moment?
I just came back from holidays in Tokyo. The food was amazing and the people were fantastic. As soon as I came back, I just started to work really hard. This year is going to be big, I’m co-writing a cookbook with my partner Clarissa. It’s what we cook at home so, a bit of Asian, a bit of French, a bit of European style food.
Does Clarissa cook a lot at home?
Oh yeah, she’s a brilliant cook. I cook as a job obviously, but you know when I go home, I’d like someone to cook for me. And it’s not often that someone wants to cook for me or cook for chefs, in general, because always a little scared. But she’s a really good cook.
How did you become a celebrity chef?
One day got an email, like a lot of other chefs, saying, “Looking for chefs for a new show called Ready Steady Cook.” That was about 10 years ago. I just replied to the email. I got the audition, got the job and then, the rest is history. I also did the audition for MasterChef, when MasterChef started and then, I got a call from Channel 7 to do this new show My Kitchen Rules. And My Kitchen Rules has been an amazing success for seven years now. I don’t know if I want to be called a celebrity chef but I’m a chef that does TV and I enjoy both part of the job. I wanted to be an entertainer, as a kid so it’s fantastic to be able to do both today.
You grew up wanting to be in the circus. Did those skills you learnt from the circus, help you in your TV career?
Probably I suppose. I don’t mind talking in public or in front of the camera. For me, TV is like sharing your passion with the rest of the world. It has been fabulous. I feel I’m a very lucky person.
Where is the funniest place you’ve ever been recognized by one of your fans?
I did the Kokoda trail in Papua New Guinea. I was at a very tiny airport, with lots of native people and they actually watch My Kitchen Rules there.
What can viewers expect with this season of My Kitchen Rules?
It’s building up every year, as more people seem to be interested about food. The people that come to the competition now seem to be more educated about food and having more knowledge and so the competition is tougher and harder. But you always have the odd ones who think they can cook as well and that’s the funny part of it, I suppose. That’s when we giggle.
What’s the best thing about being on TV, and doing what you do?
It’s a job that I enjoy. It’s the people you meet. The magic of TV, seeing how it’s developed and the magic of seeing it on the screen. And I love the cooking. You start with a few ingredients and you end up with the results at the end, with a recipe that’s just delicious.
What’s the worst part of your job?
I don’t really want to complain or winge about this, but sometimes I would like to be invisible. [If I could] just go out and do the shopping or eat at a restaurant or go for a drink at night, without being recognised. That’s the only thing. But you know, obviously, I can’t complain because that’s the way it is and I embrace it.
In your opinion, where is the best French food in Sydney?
For typical French food, Papillon in the city. Guillaume Brahimi does a fantastic high-end fine dining French food. There’s Le Pelican in Surry Hills, who does more like the Basque part of France,
What’s your best cooking tip for summer?
Just keep it simple. People try to be too complicated with food. I think it’s about buying quality products and don’t do much to it. Just don’t stress about food. It’s supposed to be a pleasurable thing, not a stressful thing.
What lessons did you learn after closing your restaurant L’etoile?
L’etoile at Paddington had been fantastic. But, what goes up must come down sometimes. In the past, restaurants could stay open for 20 years but it’s not like this anymore. You’ve got a great restaurant that works well. It’s busy all the time and then suddenly there’s another one opening a kilometer away from your restaurant. People are curious so they all move in one go and they rarely come back. That’s what happened at L’etoile. It’s a tough business and it’s hard to find a recipe for success.
Do you have plans to open another restaurant?
Two years ago in Melbourne, I worked on a restaurant, which brought the circus and the food together. Unfortunately, it wasn’t appreciated and we had to make a decision of closing quickly… It was a tough decision and it did hurt a lot. But it was a turn in my life… [Now] The TV thing is working very well for me. Doing things with Magnum and all the brands. It’s still food orientated. I love working with recipes and making a product that a lot of people are going to consume.
Tell me about your involvement with Magnum.
I’ve been approached by Magnum, which I was really amazed about. I mean, singers [Kylie Minogue], fashion designers [Dolce & Gabbana, Karl Lagerfeld] and actors have been dealing with Magnum and I’m the first chef, which I’m pretty chuffed. We decided to create a rich, velvety chocolate ice-cream with a smooth toffee swirl. It is covered in thick cracking Magnum Chocolate with toffee brittle pieces. We wanted something different, I suppose. What I liked was the similarity of a chocolate crème brûlée.
Your daughter just celebrated her first birthday. How are your children going?
She just makes me melt. She’s gorgeous. She’s an easy baby. She sleeps well. She smiles all day and she eats well. She’s very impatient when she knows that mum and I are getting the food ready, she just makes all those noises. She’s like, “Come on. Where is it? Where is it?” And Jonti is eleven and he is very much in love with his sister, which is fantastic.
Do you and your fiancé Clarissa have any wedding plans?
Of course, we have. You wouldn’t get engaged if we didn’t, I suppose. but it’s all about timing. I get so busy every year. I mean, we do talk about, “Okay, let’s do it next year. Okay let’s do it next year.” We are very much in love and it is going to happen. Nothing’s going to change. But, it’s just about taking the time to do so.
What’s next for you?
I’ve got a lot in the pipeline. I can say too much, but I’m doing something else with Channel 7, this year, which means that I need to travel a lot more.
WE WENT TO Hotel Centennial,Woollahra.
WE ATE Chocolate Toffee Magnum by Manu Feildel
WE DRANK Toffee Martini and Toffee mocktail.
MANU WORE Arthur Galan.
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