My Kitchen Rules

EXCLUSIVE: My Kitchen Rules judges Manu Feildel and Colin Fassnidge talk friendship and finally finding their feet

''You realise what’s important.''

By Helen Vnuk
Filming had just begun on the latest season of My Kitchen Rules when Manu Feildel and Colin Fassnidge heard the devastating news that MasterChef's Jock Zonfrillo had died.
Sitting in the back of a van, waiting to go into twins Radha and Prabha's instant restaurant in Western Sydney, the two judges became emotional over the sudden loss of their friend.
"We were having a little whiskey and talking what would happen if it was us," Colin tells TV WEEK.
"What would our family think if we weren't around? What memories have we left our kids? We were getting deep and meaningful."
"Which is quite rare," Manu adds.
After walking into the instant restaurant, Manu and Colin were presented with a dish Radha and Prabha explained was their dad's favourite. He'd died when they were only two years old.
"I was like, 'Not today…" Colin recalls.
"They were telling us a story about their dad, and us being dads and I've got two daughters… It was a tough start to the season."
The 'twindians' losing their dad brought Colin Fassnidge to tears after losing their dear friend Jock Zonfrillo who had sadly passed away. (Image: Channel Seven)
It's rare to see celebrity chef Colin in tears, but every season of MKR serves up something different. The show is now in its 13th season, and Manu, who's been there from the start, admits some seasons have been less enjoyable than others.
"There was a point where I just didn't want to be sitting at the table for too long, because I just didn't like to watch the drama unfold," he says.
"My wife wouldn't let my kids watch it," Colin adds. "I was like, 'I've just spent six months of my life on this show!'"
On the other hand, Manu feels last season went too far the other way.
"They wanted to get rid of all of the drama, which I thought didn't work either," he says, adding that this season, there's "just a little accent" of drama.
"And I think that works pretty well. I feel like, finally, we're finding our feet."
One thing both Manu and Colin like about the latest season: they've been given more of a chance to be themselves – less "serious and straight", as Manu puts it.
"We're actually like we are when we go out to dinner, just as us," Colin explains.
Manu declares he's enjoyed this season "probably the most so far", while Colin says it's "the most laughs".
"I said [to Manu], 'We might as well make it fun,'" he explains. "I'm like, 'We're not young anymore. We're 50, and we're doing a job we like, and we're lucky to be doing this job, so enjoy it.'"
For Colin, this season also brought the thrill of working with Nigella Lawson for the first time. The UK food guru joins the MKR judges at Kitchen HQ.
"At one point the three of us are on the stage," Manu remembers, "and she's talking and he's blushing, dribbling, looking at her…"
"I always had a crush on Nigella," Colin admits, "like every man had a crush on Nigella."
Irish-born Colin has been with MKR for 10 seasons. Before he and French-born Manu started working together, they didn't think much of each other.
"There was a bit of chef ego on both sides," Manu explains. "Young stupid chefs having a go at each other."
But once they got to know each other, they hit it off, and their relationship has grown stronger over the years.
"We're now spending every Christmas together," Manu says. "We enjoy the same things. We have wives and kids who enjoy themselves together as well."
Nigella Lawson is the guest judge this season of My Kitchen Rules 2023. (Image: Supplied)
Manu, who is married to jewellery designer Clarissa Weerasena, is dad to Jonti, from a previous relationship, and Charlee. Jonti, 18, has his sights set on an NRL career.
"He's very dedicated," Manu says. "Actually, he just came out of a shoulder operation. He dislocated his shoulder a few months ago. But that's his dream. He's now in a squad with the Rabbitohs."
"His son was doing press-ups at Christmas dinner with me on his back," Colin adds. "Maybe that's what happened to his shoulder!"
"I'll send you the bill!" Manu laughs.
Meanwhile, eight-year-old Charlee is "a nice little actress".
"I've done a few ads for different brands lately and Charlee's been invited to co-host them with me," Manu says. "She's enjoying that. She's a little 18-year-old in an eight-year-old body. She's sassy and argumentative."
After a bumpy start, Colin (below) and Manu are now great mates. (PHOTOS: PHILLIP CASTLETON, STYLING: ANNE KWIATKOWSKI, HAIR AND MAKE-UP: STEPH LAI)
As for Colin, he's dad to Lily, 13, and Maeve, 12, with wife Jane Hyland, who he met when they were working at the same restaurant.
"I love being a dad," he says. "I think it calmed me down. When I had kids, I was like, 'You know what? It's not all about you.' Especially in my house. Nothing is about me."
Lily and Maeve have grown up with their dad on TV, so seeing him on the ads for the latest season of MKR doesn't impress them.
"The ad comes on the other night, and I'm like, 'That's me!' My kids just walk by it, going, 'Pffft! Whatever.'
And then it was the ad where I cried and my daughter's like, 'Oh, cringe.' They keep you in check."
Another thing Manu and Colin have in common is they turned 50 this year.
"When you turn 50, you go, 'Fifty's a big number,'" Manu says. "But you know what? I feel good. I know what I want, I know where I want to go, I know who I am. "We're not chasing anything anymore."
Watch My Kitchen Rules Monday to Wednesday, 7pm from September 4th on Channel 7.

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