MKR’s Pete Evans and Manu Fieldel dish on their love for NZ – and Pete goes one-up by revealing he’s moving here

"It's the best country in the world," raves Pete.
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Pete Evans is ready to quit his native Australia and relocate to New Zealand after falling in love with Aotearoa while filming his second season of My Kitchen Rules NZ with fellow judge Manu Feildel.

The TV chef confesses that he and his wife Nicola Robinson Evans will move to the East Coast to set up an off-the-grid farm, where the New Age couple plan to live solely off the land.

“We have thought about moving and we will in about 10 years,” Pete, 45, explains.

“I’m married to a Kiwi, so we’re spending time in Australia with my family and then down the track, we’re looking at Gisborne. You can hunt, fish, surf and grow your own food, and you’re away from everyone.”

The health nut married Christchurch-born model Nicky, 40, in 2016, and they split their time between Sydney and their $1.2 million farm in rural New South Wales, but it’s Aotearoa that now has Pete’s heart.

He raves, “It’s the best country in the world. I went trout fishing in Taupo and then visited Waiheke. There’s a real sense of trust and friendship here.”

However, Pete will wait until his two daughters, Chilli, 13, and Indii, 11, from his marriage to first wife Astrid Edlinge, are grown up before moving. The kids are his priority, he says, revealing he flew back to Australia every weekend to see them while filming here. “I love time with the family.”

Pete with MKR contestants cousins Enna and May.

Meanwhile, Pete’s not the only MKR judge to have fallen head over heels for Godzone. Manu, 44, tells us that after marrying his long-term partner Clarissa Weerasena in January, they enjoyed an unofficial honeymoon here.

“She was here with our mother-in-law and our three-year-old Charlee, so we pretty much had a New Zealand honeymoon,” says Manu, who also has a son, Jonti, 13, from a previous relationship.

“She really loved it. Everywhere you look, it’s beautiful. It doesn’t matter if you go north, east, south, west … It’s all gorgeous. The people have been very welcoming.”

When we sit down to talk to the pair at a Turkish restaurant in Ponsonby, Auckland, it’s the end of a six-month shooting schedule. And it’s immediately clear they’ve spent a lot of time together. Pete picks from Manu’s plate and the duo finish each other’s sentences as they reminisce about their long friendship.

“I don’t think we’ve ever argued in the 18 years we’ve been friends,” tells Manu.

“We’ve had different thoughts on different things, but it has never gone into anything crazy. It’s because it just works. We have a lot of time together for a long time, then we don’t see each other for a long time – it’s the perfect relationship!”

Pete adds, “We both have a mutual love of family, each other’s families and good food. That’s the core of our friendship – and respect.”

The pair have judged nine seasons of the popular MKR Australia, working six months on and six months off. “It’s a bit of the same with a bit of difference every year,” says Manu. “We like to change it a little so we don’t get bored.”

So what can Kiwi fans expect from the fourth local season on TVNZ 2? “Less fighting,” smiles Manu. “And the contestants have cooked some amazing food – it’s better than last year and better than Australia, generally.”

Despite their decade with the reality franchise, the judges confess they still find it hard to criticise the competitors. “It doesn’t get easier,” explains Pete.

“We care about the contestants. We understand their sacrifices to be on the show, whether it’s family, work or financial. And we know there are a lot of people watching, so we don’t want to destroy them.”

Manu with MKR contestants married couple Jacqui and Nic.

Manu adds, “We’re not out to break someone’s heart. We’re just here to judge food.”

The chefs say the cooking has changed since the show began in 2010, with many teams now trying to be too fancy. It’s something that Manu in particular is not keen on. “This show is essentially about home cooks – not home cooks doing restaurant food.”

The judges reveal they offer off-air advice to the kitchen hopefuls, especially before filming starts. Pete says, “We tell them to be themselves and be honest. Don’t be wishy-washy. If you like something, say so. If you don’t, then say it. Be honest.”

And Manu advises, “Don’t take it too seriously – it’s just a TV show.”

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