Why MKR reboot will be different as domestic goddess Nigella Lawson joins Manu on road trip


Wearing a Melbourne couture gown and linking arms with Sydney-based celebrity chef Manu Feildel, the UK’s most famous home-cooking queen Nigella Lawson is finally on the road to film the MKR reboot.

In the first trailer for what was once Australia’s top-rating cooking show when it premiered in 2010, the ‘domestic goddess’ says she’s travelled 17,000 kilometres to find our best home cooks.

She wants to share food, try everyone’s creations at “fabulous dinner parties” and have a lot of fun.

With smiling, happy contestants wearing colour-coded aprons from five states, the first look at Lawson and Feildel knocking on the doors of suburban homes around the country looks like the dinner parties are going to be, well, wholesome.

There are no scene-stealers like we’ve seen in previous years, where contestants eyeballed each other and dished nasty quips across the table, no arguments, tears or spilt milk that caused audiences to switch channels.

Above all else, a key industry insider told The New Daily, “the energy will be different”.

“Manu is a natural flirt who will find a more-than-willing partner in Nigella, and the road trip will give the show the opportunity to smash the predictable formula which viewers were bored by.

“The fact both judges are not Australian will either work against MKR – why are these two imports telling us what to cook and eat? –  or give it that European lustre some viewers think is aspirational.”

And from Manu’s perspective?

He feels, as MKR judges, they “make the perfect team with our years of experience in professional and home kitchens, respectively”.

Back to basics?

With disgraced former co-judge Pete Evans falling into obscurity after spruiking anti-vaccine messages and unproven COVID-19 treatments (for which he copped hefty fines), the Seven network says this season of MKR (formerly My Kitchen Rules) will take the show “back to the original recipe”.

Seven chief executive James Warburton told late last year he was confident the show’s redesign, which would move it away from “gossip and bitchiness”, would be successful.

“It was dominant for a decade, people loved it. So we’re bringing it back with a short, sharp run. We’ve shown what we can do with The Voice, so we’re confident it will work,” Mr Warburton said.

“It just chased a certain direction in my personal view – villains and gossip and bitchiness and all that kind of stuff.

“(It had) really extended dinner parties. We’d blown it up to 60 episodes, so it was a massive commitment.”

Adds the insider: “Pete Evans was a divisive figure who always seemed restrained and a little ordinary with his Mona Lisa smiles.”

“You always felt the industry rumour he never ate the food but spat it out after getting the flavours in his mouth could be true.”

When the show launched in 2010, an average of 1.3 million people watched the show every night throughout the season.

Audiences peaked in 2014, when on average of 1.7 million people tuned in for the 48-episode run.

In its final season in 2020, 11 years later, the show’s audience plummeted to 500,000 viewers.

Nigella Lawson and Manu Feildel prepare to enter someone’s home for dinner. Photo: Seven

Nigella will bring ‘glamour, sexiness and equality’

Seen last month filming the Queensland leg of the show, Lawson will bring femininity to the table.

Our industry source compares her to MasterChef’s stylish and thoughtful Melissa Leong.

“Just as Melissa Leong transformed MasterChef‘s ratings, having a woman on board – and one who unashamedly uses every ‘feminine’ trick in the slightly hackneyed book, right down to the spoon licking and dragging out the pronunciation of words – brings the show much-needed glamour, sexiness and equality.

“I was going to say diversity but it’s hardly that with two old white judges, so producers will look to the contestants to bring that through a mix of ages, genders, sexes and cultures.”

NSW’s still-to-be-named pair. Photo: Seven

‘Real people cooking real food’

However, with Seven yet to disclose any details on who has been chosen to cook, we’ll have to unpack the 1 minute and 34 seconds trailer, filmed entirely at a beachside park with yachts and a sunset in the background.

It looks like the home cooks selected are from New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia.

Two Queensland women are wearing pink aprons and cooking skewered meat and vegetable cubes on an outdoor Weber barbecue on the sand.

Next up? Introducing the couple from South Australia in red aprons at an outdoor picnic table showing off their chicken and rice dish.

The Western Australian yellow team are obviously dessert lovers, displaying a chocolate fondant and surrounded by young, pretty children.

Down in Victoria are the blue aprons – a man holds up a whole fish, and within seconds it’s cooked on display with garnish.

Last is the teal team from NSW, a young couple standing beside champagne and a platter of freshly cut fruit.

As they return to their home kitchens, it might be worth going through the MKR archives to see the spectacular challenges from days gone by.

Dan and Steph Mulheron won in 2013 with a grand finale audience reaching three million viewers.

Back then, the show took six months to film and each day’s commitment were between 14 and 16 hours.

Their final dishes included scallop ceviche, squab with chestnuts and redcurrant sauce, and rock lobster with a semolina wafer stack.

In 2015 Camilla and Ash served up steak tartare with quail eggs and crostoli, followed by a complicated main of bouillabaisse with rouille and baguettes at their home base in bayside Melbourne.

Whatever the culinary skills of this year’s cohort, Lawson will be enthusiastic, complimentary and diplomatic as she hopefully uncovers “treasured family recipes”.

“When you think about the food you love, it’s nearly always home cooking. I’m a home cook and it’s the food that I want to eat.”

Also joining MKR this season is award-winning food journalist and TV personality Matt Preston, while celebrity chefs Colin Fassnidge and Curtis Stone return as guest judges.

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