Best mates Will and Steve have defeated Mt Isa cousins Jac and Shaz in a nail biting finale.
Creative flare triumphed over classic home cooking last night as Will and Steve became the first all-male team to win the My Kitchen Rules title and $250,000 prize.
To say it was a tight race was an understatement – two of the six judges thought it was an even race with Colin Fassnidge and Guy Grossi awarding the same score to both teams. Host Pete Evans thought Mt Isa cousins Jac and Shaz pipped the boys at the post, but Manu Feildel , Karen Martini and Liz Egan’s scores handed the title to the NSW boys
Wannabe chef Steve, who was shocked to see his English parents walk into kitchen headquarters to watch him in action, pumped the air and shouted ‘c’mon’ a la Lleyton Hewitt when the verdict was revealed. “This is the start of something big for us,” he said. “We knew this journey was going to change our lives; we’re going to go out there and get it, we’re going to chase our food journey.”
While Will’s involvement initially was to support his mate’s passion for a career change in the food industry, he too is now excited about a future down a very different path to his former job as an investment banker. “For me it’s been a massive journey and I’m really starting to believe in myself more than I’ve ever before. MKR has totally changed the direction of both of our lives.”
Jac and Shaz were “proud as punch” of their efforts in delivering 100 plates across their five-course menu tonight. “We certainly put our hearts into it and went as hard as we could go,” said Shaz. “Not everything went according to plan but we’re as proud as punch. We will take away the belief that you are capable of anything.
“I can’t believe we’ve reached the end. I’ve been bossing her around for months and she’s handled it like a dream; I just love her to death. We love being together and we love cooking; we’ve had an absolute ball.”
The grand final menus started with a bang from both teams. Will and Steve’s cured king fish with yellow curry was a “perfect start to a five-course meal” for Guy. “It just ticks a lot of boxes for me; it’s a beautiful example of a cured fish.”
Likewise, the prawns, avocado and pink grapefruit created by Jac and Shaz had the judging panel wanting more. “The master stroke for me is that crustacean oil to take it to the next level; it’s fantastic,” said Manu.
While deboning quails for his second course, Steve cut himself for the first time in the competition and with little time left on the clock Will had to swoop in. While Liz Egan thought the presentation of their quail with corn and jus looked rushed, the flavour was spot on. “They’ve made a lovely puree; they’ve blackened those kernels and given us that little bit of popcorn on top. They’ve really thought about this dish. The quail is cooked beautifully. And their jus is really good.”
Colin questioned the amount of cheese in Jac and Shaz’s lamb with feta, beetroot and rosemary honey course, but Pete simply said: “What a great follow up; everything on this plate works.”
The third dish was a mad dash to the finish line for Jac and Shaz, with their confit salmon with roasted fennel and avocado mousse taking longer to cook than anticipated. Guy was hesitant on the second use of avocado in their menu. But Karen was glowing of their classic combination: “They’ve given us another classic combination here. Perfectly cooked salmon, beautiful roasted fennel, smooth avocado; very beautiful on the plate.”
Will and Steve’s red mullet with Jerusalem artichoke and basil had Manu singing their praises. “I think the hay smoked artichoke on the side is just fantastic. We’ve seen a lot of dishes in this competition and I think this is one that I will really remember for a long time.”
Borrowing Drasko’s favoured sous-vide technique, Steve turned the creative juices up a notch in preparing confit duck with beetroot and compressed watermelon. Of the watermelon he said: “I don’t know whether people will go with me on this one, it does sound a little bit nuts but trust me it works.” But he momentarily didn’t have the trust of his teammate when they bickered over what to do with their undercooked duck. “I’m going to get the duck out [of the oven] to pan fry it; I need to make one executive decision at least,” said an exasperated Will.
With the duck sitting on the bench while they debated its future, Will reluctantly returned it to the oven conceding: “”I need to trust Steve.”
And Steve was mostly right. Guy’s duck was still slightly undercooked, but the judges were loving the flavours. Karen said the duck was “lip-smackingly delicious”, while Manu said: “The crispiness of that duck skin is fantastic. It goes really well with all the sweetness that the fruit and beetroot brings to the plate.”
Manu and Guy questioned why Jac and Shaz shredded the meat in their beef cheeks with port celeriac puree, but Colin was happily surprised by the dish. “I was expecting roast veg and they’ve surprised me with pickled which I’m quite happy with and there’s a lot of flavour in that sauce.”
Desserts were a work of art from both teams. Jac and Shaz’s red velvet with chocolate and raspberries was “a whirlwind on the palette” for Karen, while it took Guy back to his childhood. “As soon as I took a piece of that cake I felt like a kid again just enjoying life; it evokes so many beautiful feelings.”
Liz thought the combination of peach and fennel in Will and Steve’s peaches and cream dessert was “amazing”. Added Pete: “It deserves to be in a fine class restaurant. The fennel seed biscuit underneath is marvellous. That crème fraiche sorbet is a wonderful addition. This is a great dessert.”