My Kitchen Rules is serving up middle Australia in suburban kitchens, while the other is about the elite with one of the world’s finest chefs.
In one you’ll be able to have a crack at copying the dishes at home. In the other you’d be lucky to sit down in front of their dishes, with not a hope of ever concocting them.
So which way will Australia turn: the amateurs or the professionals? Or can it have its cake and eat it too? I guess thanks to PVRs it can.
There’s no doubting Seven serves up a finely-tuned dish, brimming with far more confidence than its first attempt to reinvent My Restaurant Rules in 2010. 24 home chefs are divided into two groups of six pairs and we begin in the Melbourne kitchen of wife and husband Kerrie and Craig.
From the outside, their home is a dead ringer for Julie and Dave Rafters house. They even joke about it. But looks can be deceiving. Kerrie wears the pants in this family and is regularly giving Craig the orders in her kitchen. She’s more Kath Day-Knight than Julie Rafter.
These two set up a 1970s-inspired restaurant, harking back to the year the couple met. It’s daggy aspiring for class.
Seated around the table are their peers: Jake and Elle from Queensland (he is already being portrayed as a bitchy villain), Mick and Matt from Tassie (a likeable father and son), Jessie and Biswa from NSW (opinionated girls who decline many ingredients), Lisa and Stefano from SA (Manu no longer has the only Euro-accent), and Josh and Andi from WA (I’m not sure what qualifies one as a ‘hipster’). You could almost be forgiven for thinking this was The Amazing Race.
Being a Reality show, not a lot goes as planned in the kitchen. How do you misplace your basic ingredients on such an important night?
Pete Evans and Manu Feildel keep their best poker faces when tasting the dishes before invariably coming out with either a “love it” or “hate it” review. Some teams are vocally critical of the food, while the more tactful teams play it safe until they get a sense of the season standard. This show astutely shapes its characters into heroes, villains and the people next door, and it’s surely worked well in the past.
But episode one isn’t the strongest MKR has to offer, either in terms of its drama or cuisine, and I’m not surprised to see much of the Seven marketing highlights Mick and Matt, who host on Tuesday night. There’s a strong bond between the two of them and Mick has a way with his words: “If they don’t like that they can go to buggery,” he says of one of his best dishes.
By night three we are in Western Australia where plenty of drama unfolds for Josh and Andi. Claws are emerging a lot more, which is part of the premise of the show. By Monday we hit Sydney where all the flavours of Indian cuisine burst onto the screen from the outspoken Jessie and Biswa.
I do feel that for most MKR episodes one can probably skip the first 20 minutes. Sure it gives us a backstory on the couples (frankly, the promos have done a lot of that already), but most of it is just a free plug for Coles supermarkets. Tune in from the moment Pete and Manu sit down at the table and you’ll be up to speed in no time.
So if the choice is professionals or amateurs, I’ll take professionals as a main course and occasionally partake of amateur desserts when I can ignore those pangs of guilt.
MKR knows its terrain very well, and manipulates and markets itself to within an inch of its life, but it’s hard not to ignore that these guests are turning it on for the cameras, when they only have limited skills to begin with.
The other show has a bloke dripping in talent and all the humility in the world.
My Kitchen Rules premieres 7:30pm tonight on Seven.