The moment My Kitchen Rules New Zealand kicked off last Monday night should have been a memory to savour for married contestants Chris and Bex Wright. On the first episode of the TVNZ 2 reality cooking show, the cute couple from Wanaka sparkled as they talked about their love for food and each other.
But instead, the season premiere was bittersweet because, since the cameras stopped rolling, Chris, 35, and Bex, 32, have called time on their marriage.
“It was a strange moment,” tells Bex. “No marriage break-up is easy, but ours just happens to be public as well. It’s something we’re going to have to deal with.”
Chris adds, “We were both going in different directions and wanting different things out of life. In the end, we just felt it would be better not to be together.”
Navigating their split in the spotlight was not something either of them counted on when they first put their hands up for the third season of the popular series. But they’ve tried to handle it with the same humour and compassion that saw them through their seven-year relationship.
The couple met in 2010, when Chris was working as a ski instructor on Mt Ruapehu and Bex was working in the ski field’s HR department. “It was love at first sight,” says Chris.
“She was handing out uniforms and all the other instructors were being prima donnas over a uniform that was a bit scody. I said, ‘I’ll take it.’ I just loved how bubbly, friendly and pretty she was.”
The pair became fast friends, but it was weeks before Chris worked up the courage to ask her out. Home alone and lonely after a night out with Bex, his flatmates told him, “Go to your room or go back to the bar and bloody tell her how you feel.
“I went back to the bar, grabbed her and kissed her. The DJ turned the music on, the whole bar cheered and then I ran away because I was so shy. I said, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow!’”
A couple of nights later, they went on their first date and Chris shared with Bex – who had been a packet-sauce kind of girl until then – his passion for food. He grins, “She had duck à l’orange for the first time in her life that night.”
Bex describes Chris as “very kind, genuine and lovely”, but it was his signature hangover cure – a roasted tomato soup – that made her fall in love.
She laughs, “I had no idea food could have so much flavour. It was just magical.” Before long, Chris had converted Bex into a dedicated foodie too.
Then, in 2013, Chris took Bex hiking on the Tongariro Crossing with a ring and a couple of miniature bottles of bubbly in his backpack. The wind, however, was howling off the mountains and a proposal proved too difficult.
Back at their hotel, they were too tired to go out for dinner, so instead they shared a bubble bath. At one point, Chris got out of the tub and, covered in a “modesty suit” of bubbles, got down on one knee on the bathroom floor.
Bex smiles, “I was completely unaware that he’d been trying to propose. It was lovely.”
After a year living in Canada, the pair wed in Wanaka in 2015. Last November, they applied for MKR and, three weeks later, they found out they were in. They arrived in Auckland with a suitcase full of cookbooks.
Chris tells, “When we weren’t on camera, we were reading them, coming up with ideas and experimenting.”
Sadly, in between the end of filming and the show going to air, the pair decided to divorce.
Chris says the seven kilos he put on during filming melted off him with the stress of the break-up.
Bex explains, “It was just one of those things. We spent seven years together and became more like friends than lovers, but we’re still close.”
Bex, who now works in admin, and Chris, a real estate agent, now live separately in Wanaka, but see each other regularly.
On the night MKR introduced them to NZ as a happily married couple, they rented out a bar to watch their TV debut together with friends and family.
“We’re really working on being positive around each other,” says Chris.
“Bex is the love of my life and it’s tough. I can’t imagine being with another woman or the grass being any greener, but I know, in time, it will be OK.”
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