Celebrity News

Manu’s kitchen rules: ‘food brings family together’

The celebrity chef and his daughter Charlee are both stars in the kitchen

Celebrated chef and My Kitchen Rules New Zealand judge Manu Feildel is used to people raving about his delicious dishes, but the French-born foodie is not always head cook at home – it turns out his eight-year-old daughter Charlee is also a dab hand in the kitchen.

“Charlee loves to cook and enjoys being a food critic,” smiles Manu, 50. “I love teaching her techniques in the kitchen, getting her to try new flavours and foods. I often cook and share French recipes and techniques with my family.”

Manu quickly adds that his wife, jewellery designer Clarissa Weerasena, is also very skilled in the kitchen. “She can cook all different types of food, so I’m happy to let her cook most of the time. I do about 30% and she does about 70%.

“With Clarissa being Malaysian and Sri Lankan, our family is a melting pot of cuisines and cultures, so we have created our own unique traditions and our table includes a lot of international dishes.”

Teaching Charlee how to cook while she’s young is important to Manu as some of his fondest childhood memories are of making dinner with his mother Evelyne, who raised him and his sister Gaelle as a single mum.

“Cooking with my mum at home, chatting about the day and working together in the kitchen to get dinner on the table is my favourite memory,” he shares. “We often did this together. Mum was working in a full-time job, as well as raising two kids, but she always made sure there was a tasty dish on the table and I loved helping her to cook it.”

Charlee and Manu are a winning combo in the kitchen!

His mother was also his biggest champion when he decided he wanted to train in the culinary arts after leaving school at 15 to work at his father Patrick’s bistro.

“My dad, granddad and great-granddad were chefs, so becoming a chef was quite a natural progression,” he says. “And being thrown into a commercial kitchen was made easier with the skills I learnt cooking with Mum.”

While it’s too early to tell whether Charlee will be the fifth-generation chef in the family, she has plenty of potential – and some real-world experience – as she and Manu have paired up to create a selection of quick and easy recipes for Ingham’s Dinner Done campaign.

“We created the Mexi-Bean Loaded Chicken Chipees together one evening when Charlee was craving loaded chips and I suggested we do a take on them using Chicken Chipees to inject some protein,” Manu tells.

“She’s the brains behind a lot of the recipes. She’s always suggesting we create new recipes using different ingredients, particularly those she loves, like chicken nuggets. My role is to help make the new creations happen.”

He firmly believes that cooking is the perfect activity to bring families together, and he’s proud that both Charlee and Jonti, 18, his son from a previous relationship, are comfortable creating meals.

“It’s a wonderful activity to do together,” he enthuses. “It creates opportunities for quality time and laughing together. Importantly, when we get our children involved in the kitchen, they learn about food and nutrition in a fun way. It encourages them to try new ingredients and flavours, and our kids learn an important life skill.”

As to how Charlee would fare on MKR, Manu believes she’d prefer to be a judge like her dad, rather than one of the contestants.

“She would want to help every team to deliver the best dish they could. She is great at providing suggestions and constructive criticism to improve. At home, she loves to put me in the hot seat, often judging the dinners I cook and rarely awarding me full marks!

“When we created the Loaded Chicken Chipees recipe, Charlee’s verdict was, ‘Presentation? Good. Smell? Good. Taste? Good. Well, I would give you a 10, but it’s missing something.’ I still don’t know what that something is, so perhaps you can try out the recipe and let me know?!”

Like her dad, Charlee is happy in front of the camera, making light work of the video tutorials they’ve done for their recipes.

“She rocked it,” Manu says proudly. “She was such a natural talking about the recipe we had created together and the steps to follow. I was more nervous than her!”

He’s confident Charlee could easily follow in his footsteps, but he’ll be behind her no matter what path she chooses, just like his mother supported him.

“Charlee is like me in so many ways, but also like her mum – caring, loving, loyal and focused on being a great friend. She’s very passionate and driven, and has a great thirst for life. I just want my kids to be happy, and I’ll support them in their dreams and goals.”

  • Manu has created seven recipes to help you get Dinner Done.
  • Ingham’s NZ is proudly Kiwi and committed to being Always Good. Ingham’s NZ products are raised locally and all Ingham’s farms are 100% SPCA Certified, meeting rigorous animal welfare standards.
  • Ingham’s NZ products are available in New World, Pak’nSave and Woolworths.

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