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MKR’s Tracey and Neil’s secret to success

Expect this party-loving pair’s special ingredients to involve fire and ice.
My Kitchen Rules New Zealand contestants Tracey Allan and Neil Gussey

This is not the first time My Kitchen Rules New Zealand contestants Tracey Allan and Neil Gussey have featured in the pages of New Zealand Woman’s Weekly – not by a long shot.

Tracey, a model, and Neil, one of the country’s leading photographers, are used to posing and shooting up a storm – it’s how the vivacious friends first met 25 years ago.

“It’s weird, I’ve taken heaps of photos for the Weekly and now I’m in it,” laughs Neil (43). “But this is completely different.”

The Auckland pair, who call each other Fire and Ice – although who’s supposed to be Fire and who is Ice changes frequently – don’t like to take themselves too seriously.

They don’t aspire to become chefs and admit winning the cooking competition isn’t everything to them. Instead, the friends say they want to have fun during their MKR journey and are promising plenty of drama and flair.

“I have always wanted to do a reality TV show,” shrugs Neil. “I wanted to tick it off my bucket list – and MKR is my favourite. I’ve watched every episode.”

“Twice!” laughs Tracey (47). She says when Neil asked her to join him on the show, she thought, “Why the hell not?”

Neil’s work has featured in many magazines including the Weekly.

The two friends met on the set of a fashion shoot in the late ’80s and found they shared the same sense of fun and adventure. “We became drinking buddies,” recalls Tracey.

“She’s definitely the life and soul of the party,” confirms Neil. “Everyone waits in anticipation for Tracey to arrive. We did a bit of partying in the ’80s and ’90s, for sure, but we’ve still got a bit of life left in us yet!”

It’s their determination to find the humour in every situation, as well as coming from demanding professions, which will stand them in good stead.

“We don’t take things personally,” says Neil. “In fact, I quite like criticism. You learn from it – and it’s only food! We’re experts at what we need to do on a fashion shoot, but when it comes to food, we’re not chefs.

“And if you can take 50 shots a day and work with fashion designers, you can deal with contestants on a cooking show.”

Because they know each other so well, nothing is off limits – and the duo happily take the mickey out of themselves.

“Nothing can offend us,” says Tracey, who was a regular feature on game show Sale of the Century and now works as a make-up artist.

“I can be myself around Neil. He gets my humour and my personality – I can do a cartwheel down the hallway of a hotel and not be judged!”

Their instant restaurant, Fire and Ice, definitely won’t be boring, they insist, but they are relying on a secret ingredient.

“Charm,” says Neil. “We’re well used to charming people and winning them over because you have to do that on photo shoots. And we can be quite cunning with our charm.”

The Auckland photographer and the fashion model intend to serve up lashings of charm.

Tracey says that before filming began at their instant restaurant, she told judge Gareth Stewart that she hoped to win everyone over with their charm. But he replied, “This isn’t a beauty contest. It’s a cooking show!”

While the duo’s extroverted personalities may have rubbed a few contestants up the wrong way, the duo say they get along with everyone, but admit they like some more than others.

“It can change from night to night,” Neil says. “But June and Steph are my favourites.”

“They’re the most mad,” adds Tracey. “We used to say, beware of Neena and Belinda…”

“But now we like them,” finishes Neil.

While Neil says his family “weren’t surprised at all” that he entered MKR, Tracey admits she sat her teenage daughters Brooke and Courtney down to say, “Mum might come across as a little bit crazy” on the show.

“We’ve amped up our personalities a little – we’re not fake, but we’re a little more dramatic than usual!”

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