HOW real is reality TV? It’s not. In any way, shape or form. Indeed, you’d be a complete nutter if you believe anything you see on reality TV.
Just ask Gina and Anna, this year’s Canberra contestants on the top-rating TV reality show, “My Kitchen Rules”, who learned the hard way how creative editing of footage can distort life, and forever, and just to bump ratings.
By their own admission, Gina and Anna agree things went “horribly wrong” with their instant restaurant, and they did. Horribly wrong.
Flathead fillets overcooked and under seasoned. Salad overdressed. Gnocchi promised and not delivered. Substitute pasta soggy and tasteless. Dessert a disaster with the tart shell so hard one contestant said a chainsaw was needed to cut through it.
And so it was that this loud, boisterous and highly competitive mother and daughter team was unceremoniously kicked off the show.
Gina and Anna are loud and boisterous. When I first interviewed them they said that Vegemite reminded them of “poo” and that broccoli and brussels sprouts were like “eating dirt”. So it was inevitable that “My Kitchen Rules” was going to latch on to their “out there” chatter.
But what really happened in that kitchen? I interviewed Anna after the network had temporarily gagged her and Gina from doing media interviews.
Let’s talk menu. Contestants submit several menus to the program and organisers select from them one entrée, one main and one dessert. Contestants don’t know which dishes they’ll be cooking until the night before.
Let’s talk prep time. Anna says they were told to plan for three hours of prep time, which they did, and then this was unexpectedly knocked back by a whopping 60 minutes. And when the heat is on, as it is when you’re cooking in front a film crew, for two famous chefs and 12 guests, every second counts.
“I watched the first 10 minutes of the show we cooked on and when they said we had three hours prep when we only had two, well, it wasn’t true,” says Anna.
“It’s a huge difference for a complicated menu. It was a desperate scramble to the finish. I had to stop watching the show.”
Let’s talk interruptions. Anna says the film crew yanked her out of the kitchen for something and, while distracted, the potatoes for the gnocchi overcooked which meant a rush with Plan B – the pasta substitute.
Let’s talk witch hunt. “Mum and I aren’t saying we dished up the best food, but it wasn’t the worst either,” says Anna. “It was a witch hunt. Pete hated us.”
Let’s talk fatigue. “We filmed for 24 hours straight. It exhausts you and makes you a lunatic and you can’t think logically,” says Anna. “In the end, the show is about how far contestants can be pushed before they crack.”
Let’s talk bias with raw footage editing. “It was frustrating to stomach since the show didn’t represent what really went on,” says Anna.
“They made me look like the raging bitch from hell. That’s not me. I thought I was going to get my real personality out there. And at the end of the day, my mum is my mum. It has affected her to see me made out to be a psycho.”
“I regret applying for ‘My Kitchen Rules’. I would have preferred ‘Master Chef’ but did this for mum. We’re so close and this show gave us a chance to work together.’
Anna and Gina are relieved the experience is over.
“The show taught us that you don’t have to put yourself up to public humiliation to achieve your dreams,” says Anna.
“I’m not upset we were eliminated, but am about how it happened. We learned harsh realities about TV.
“It’s well constructed to look like fun, but it’s not. I thought I was ready for it but I wasn’t.”
But can these competitive Canberrans cook?
The ‘My Kitchen Rules’ elimination episode suggests not. But the reality is this: Gina and Anna competed against thousands of competitors to win a place on the show. That meant cooking up a storm and proving they can wield a knife in the kitchen.
“We had to produce amazing food during the application process which is why we got through,” says Anna.
“That’s why it’s heart breaking that everything was so viciously ripped out from underneath us. If I had have known what I know now, I wouldn’t have applied.”
Now, it might be true that all contestants were handed their menus the night before, had less prep time, were interrupted and were also exhausted. Perhaps that’s the name of the game and the reality is that some cope better than others.
The question now is whether the experience has broken Anna and Gina.
“Our passion and drive is as strong as ever and we’re working on a project that will make Canberra proud,” says Anna.
While they’re not giving too much away, this mum and daughter duo say they’re bringing something new to the capital in the next few months.
“It’s not a restaurant, but a café with some entertainment – something Canberra hasn’t seen yet,” says Anna.
“It’ll be in a central location and won’t be one particular type of cuisine. We have big plans for the food industry here. Restaurants. Plural. I want an empire.”