is when I hug my children.
Miguel Maestre is doing things he's never done before. At times, they've been a fun lesson in learning new tricks – but in others, it has been a heartbreaking reality check of a tough year.
As Australians evaluate their next move in the midst of a global pandemic, The Living Room presenter and chef is keeping busy in all facets of life. He doesn't dare linger on any negative thoughts - like being separated from his parents in Spain - for fear it could consume him.
Miguel, who was born in Murcia in Spain, has been constantly worried for his mum Florentina and dad Antonio Luis. The virus has hit Spain hard - the country has had more than 600,000 COVID-19 cases.
"I speak to my mum and dad every day and I get scared for them a lot," Miguel, 40, tells TV WEEK. "They're so far away, and if something happens, I can't board a plan to Spain to see them or come back to Australia for my family.
"It's difficult, but we try to find the funny side to things. My dad's belly is getting so big because he's at home eating all my mum's cooking!" Miguel laughs.
The unpredictable nature of coronavirus has prompted fear among many, with Miguel adding that people are "crumbling like shortbread".
The need to check-in with loved ones has never been more important – which has led Miguel to try something new.
"I'm becoming an expert in technology; I'm Zooming, using Facetime, calling everyone," he says, letting out a reverberating laugh.
"I've never been so tech-savvy in my life!"
Between FaceTime calls to his parents and two brothers, and keeping communication lines open with his wife Sascha, 41, daughter Claudia, eight, and son Morgan, five, Miguel is also navigating his own feelings.
Despite having the nickname "The Crazy Bull", a nod to his ebullient personality, Miguel has concluded that even he can be vulnerable – and that's OK.
"Men like me, who are bubbly and strong, are always expected to be like that. But I've got to tell you, it's not always the case. The challenges of being a father, businessman, husband and chef have their days," he says.
"If I have a bad experience, I try to move on from it. Hanging on to it is like a bad investment; no good will come of it.
"As a Spanish person, I've struggled to be 'normal' so much. We love showing affection to others, and we can't do that now, so I've had to readjust my relationships… with an elbow," he laughs.
Then with a pause, Miguel asks aloud the difficult question that many parents have pondered as they attempt to keep their children safe.
"How can I explain it to my kids when I can barely explain it to myself?" he says.
"My kids are young and their reality is very different than ours. My job as their dad is to look after them, so I try to teach them to make the right decisions and be nice people, just like my parents taught me."
These life lessons may be more poignant now as Miguel and Sascha explain to their children the concept of "social distancing". The couple, who have been married since 2010, have always led by example – which is precisely what Miguel learnt from his own upbringing.
"Mum and Dad are my rocks; they are the strongest people I know and made me who I am," he says, adding that balance is a revolving door of communication.
"I've had a few personal experiences in my life where I found myself in trouble and closed myself up and built walls around me. Now, the easiest way for me to let go
is when I hug my children.
is when I hug my children.
"When I go home and hug Morgan and Claudia or see Sascha, it's like I've been washed over. I have my moments, like anyone else, but the key is trying to find peace."
Miguel describes his love story with Sascha as "massive".
They met at a bar in Edinburgh, Scotland, where Miguel was working as a doorman, while dreaming of being a chef in the world's greatest kitchens. Sascha was a waitress, charmed by the Spaniard's accent. But here's the thing - he spoke not a word of English.
Today, they're married and are celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary.
"Can you believe she's still around?" Miguel asks with a laugh. "To live with me is very intense and she has survived it. Sascha is the most amazing person I know."
As he chased his dream of becoming a chef in the early years, Miguel acknowledges that the long hours would take a toll on their relationship.
But Sascha never wavered.
"My success is not mine. If my wife wasn't there, I'd be useless," he says.
"I love how people say, 'Behind every man is a great woman.' What rubbish! They're in front of the man, pulling the strings!
"She makes sure we're looked after and living the best life we can. Ten years is just the marriage, it's been us together for eternity."
After 20 years working in restaurants around the world, Miguel left in 2011 to become a personal chef and help care for their first-born, Claudia. Then, he took a chance on TV.
It not only led him to The Living Room, which has won several TV WEEK Logie Awards and is now in its eighth season, but introduced him to three people who would change his life: his co-hosts Amanda Keller, Barry Du Bois and Chris Brown.
"We've been through a lot together," he says.
"Morgan and Claudia weren't even born when I started on The Living Room, neither were Barry's kids. Amanda's eldest son Liam is now a man playing rugby – and Chris still looks that good. [Laughs] He doesn't seem to age! And to see how far Barry has come from when he delivered his cancer news [in 2017] to his recent 60th birthday is amazing.
"The power of friendship and family is real. We're not good at following scripts; we just be ourselves and the audience can see that connection."
With a new format that sees the foursome try each other's areas of expertise, Miguel says the team has worked hard to rejuvenate lifestyle television – he even has the bruises to prove it!
"I've been working more than ever!" he jokes. "I've been a labourer for Barry, a vet assistant to Chris, but Amanda has been my apprentice chef at times too. It's a new way to look at the lifestyle genre, which has been very conventional. Now, we're thinking outside the box."
As the back end of 2020 looms, Miguel takes a moment to reflect on what has happened and is still yet to come. He's longing for hope and happiness for his family, friends, audience and the world.
"I can't teach my kids anything other than cooking – that's all I know. I just chop onions for a living," he says, laughing.
"But a smile is the strongest weapon we have to battle these tough times. The way I see it, I was lucky to come to Australia and create a beautiful life with my family. I just want to make people happy."