Cooking up a fundraiser

By Madeleine Byron

THE Goulburn Valley got a taste of My Kitchen Rules stardom yesterday after contestants Mick and Jodie-Anne Barlow and Ardmona orchardist Rocky Varapodio teamed up in support for the Good Friday Appeal.

The MKR couple, who were eliminated from the competition last month, took it upon themselves to contact Mr Varapodio after cooking up a storm with the Coles-stocked Pink Lady apples while on the show.

Mr Varapodio said all the farmers got a kick out of tasting the produce that was nurtured and cooked to perfection.

‘‘I think it’s amazing that Mick and Jodie-Anne have followed us up after meeting them on the program and I think it showed us that there are some people who really care about the produce,’’ he said.

Serving up a baklava dessert with honey syrup and stewed apple, Mr Varapodio said the duo kept the apples true dignity.

‘‘It was a great experience, we went up there and there were about 60 odd farmers and these guys all cooked . . . and the food was very good I might add,’’ he said.

Having previously featured in several series of the show, Mr Varapodio said he had never previously formed friendships with competing teams.

‘‘Jodie-Anne called and said that they had this idea about cooking for the Royal Children’s (hospital) appeal with apple slices and I thought that was a great idea because it’s such a wonderful cause,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ll be donating the apples and these guys will cook with them and hopefully everyone will enjoy it and hopefully raise lots of money.’’

Reminiscing on their time with MKR, the Torrumbarry couple said the farmers challenge was a moment they would always treasure.

‘‘It was about a month ago when I decided I wanted to chase Rocky up and it took me about three weeks to get his contact details, but that was our highlight show that night,’’ Jodie-Anne said.

Mick said although the couple didn’t win farmers choice that night, the chance meeting with Mr Varapodio had meant more.

‘‘We wanted to get the farmers choice because it meant a lot to us, it being Australian produce and everything but in all honesty by these guys coming out the back we won that night,’’ he said.

Preparing to launch a new series called Champagne Food on a Beer Budget the couple hope to keep in touch with Mr Varapodio and continue to support the farmers.

‘‘We need to make sure the rest of Australia understand how these farmers are putting food on our tables,’’ Jodie-Anne said.

Donating their time for the cause the MKR couple will be manning the country board for tomorrow’s 88th annual Good Friday Appeal while sharing their love of cooking.

Jodie-Anne and Mick spent five months filming last year before MKR aired this year – and which finishes at the weekend.

‘‘It was amazing. I just loved the whole thing. To get to travel around Australia. We’ve certainly come back better cooks than when we left,’’ Jodie-Anne said.

The couple described their cooking style as champagne food on a beer budget.

‘‘This is how we became homeowners in our 40s,’’ Jodie-Anne said.

‘‘Rather than having a set plan for dinner, whatever was marked down at the supermarket, we ate. Create menus out of what produce you’ve got.

‘‘And we paired that with what we’ve got in our own vegie and herb garden.’’

On the show they were somewhat limited to what they cooked depending on the challenge, but their theme revolved around country cooking.

‘‘We’re happy with what we did. We wanted to do the country people proud,’’ Mick said.

And while making it on MKR was a dream come true, it wasn’t without its challenges and hardships, including disasters in the kitchen.

‘‘It was extremely rigorous. Very hard yakka,’’ Mick said.

‘‘It was 16-17-hour days at times. The average was a 14-hour day,’’ Jodie-Anne added.

And the occasional days off were spent practising the 70 recipes Jodie-Anne came up with during the show.

‘‘You had to try it and make sure you could cook it in the timeframes,’ she said.

‘‘You were pretty much dedicated to it every minute.’’

Which they were able to do after selling their Echuca business Rapid Tool Repairs in July 2017.

Jodie-Anne — the cook of the two — is no stranger to celebrity, having appeared on Ready Steady Cook 10 years ago but MKR was a first for Mick.

‘‘I’ve learnt a lot and you learn from your mistakes,’’ Mick said.

‘‘They put you in an environment that makes it really hard.’’