New Zealand’s own Simon and Meg take on the competition once again in the next round of 'My Kitchen Rules'. The engaged couple talked to us about what it’s like to be at a dinner table full of Aussies, ravenous for a taste of Kiwi.
Simon Yandell and Meg Dangen’s first attempt at an instant restaurant didn’t go exactly to plan but the pair say this time round, plans are something they have in abundance. When we see them face off for a second time in tonight's episode, Meg says she and Simon will be fully prepared.
"You can expect that we will be planned, organised and we’ve got a plan A, a plan B and a plan C."
Their first instant restaurant got off to a promising start but things went rapidly south when their oven failed, meaning their pavlovas, that most contentious of meringues, couldn’t be cooked to the standard they wanted.
"We felt like crying but we didn’t, we just held it together", says Simon, who reveals that the temperamental oven had actually just been serviced.
"The guy didn’t check the bottom elements, but it could have blown on the night, we don’t know, but we had, we only had about 48 hours back in New Zealand before our first instant restaurant.
"We were so stressed, because we were away trying to get all this organised."
Meg says the ancient trans-Tasman argument over which of our countries can lay claim to the pavlova made the downfall of their dessert all the more heartbreaking.
"Up until that point there’d been a big debate over who owns the pav and who makes the better pav and of course, you know we got stuck in to giving the Aussies heaps over it and then for us to fail on one of our sort of iconic desserts was not a highlight that’s for sure."
Simon and Meg signed on to 'My Kitchen Rules Australia' believing it was the New Zealand version of the show, and Meg says it came as "a massive shock" when the truth was revealed. But there were bigger shocks to come when the pair were told they couldn’t fraternise with their fellow contestants for fear of giving the game away with their Kiwi accents.
"We’d seen them, there was a meeting at the hotel, a pre-production meeting and all the contestants saw each other at that stage.
"After that contestants aren’t meant to talk very much, but we couldn’t talk at all so we were in the lift with other contestants and they were trying to talk to us and we just kept our heads down," says Simon.
With MKR being based in Australia, Simon and Meg have racked up a lot of air points between them, accruing 40 flights over the course of filming. They’re hoping to take the kids on a well-deserved holiday when time permits.
This season of 'My Kitchen Rules' has seen some exceptionally sharp knives plunged into metaphorical backs as the teams compete, and vote strategically to ensure their kitchen rules.
One of the most controversial teams has been florist Leigh and 'Princess' Jennifer, but Simon and Meg back up Manu and Pete’s assertions that Jennifer is not the prickly villain she’s been portrayed as on TV, and they’ve even established a friendship with Jen and her husband.
"I just think she’s outspoken and she knows her stuff. I think seeing it on TV, I don’t know, it looks a lot worse than what it is, but it’s not that bad," says Meg.
"Maybe the stuff about NZ hit a nerve but you just have to sort of take it in good fun and give it back when you can really."
Another team that our Kiwi competitors have forged a strong bond with is Tasmanian couple Megan and Andy. Tasmania became New Zealand’s unofficial counterpart in the competition, with each Australian state represented twice in the two rounds of competition, excepting tiny Tassie.
"We got along with pretty much everyone but we developed a really, really cool friendship with Megan and Andy," says Meg, who also describes brother/sister team Steve and Helen as "really special".
Simon says he and Meg added a calming influence to the proceedings with some of their rivals dropping by their place for a spot of Kiwi wisdom, kind words and counselling.
"The younger teams would drop by our apartment when they needed a bit of counselling or when things were getting to them, they used to come down and sit with us for a bit."
Simon roars with laughter at the idea that he and Meg are the mum and dad of the competition, albeit very young parents, preferring to describe themselves as "the voice of reason."
The engaged couple have yet to set a date for their wedding as Meg says they want to "get through the MKR experience, and then we’ll think about getting married", but there’s one thing that certainly won’t be on the menu – a self-catered wedding.
"No, we want to enjoy it, we'll let someone else do that!"Simon and Meg head back to the kitchen tonight, Monday 20 August, on 'My Kitchen Rules' on TV2 at 7.30pm