THERE’s a pile of mismatched diced onion in front of me, the oil in my frying pan is turning black and my stuffed fillet of pork is definitely lopsided.
I admit I am — and perhaps a tad out of my depth.
How do you keep up with a celebrity chef, who’s charming, good looking and has an appealing French accent to boot.
It’s not every day you get to do a cooking masterclass with the oh-so-debonair Manu Feildel.
In less time than you can say My Kitchen Rules, he’s come to my rescue.
He ditches my efforts, shows me how to re-dice another onion, fixes my lopsided fillet and whisks away the burnt oil and replaces it.
It’s all done in a flash and we move on to the next step.
“You make it look easy,” I tell Feildel, who is sharing his skills at a small masterclass at Wodonga TAFE.
“It’s taken me 25 years to learn, so you aren’t doing too badly,” he jokes.
Today we are cooking two dishes — Filet Mignon de Porc aux Pommes et Sauge and Cotes de Porc Dijonnaise.
You have to admit some of the romance is lost in translation, pork stuffed with apple and sage and pork cutlets with creamy mustard sauce, just doesn’t have the same ring.
Feildel is the ambassador for Murray Valley Pork and is on a whistlestop tour visiting Rivalea’s Corowa farm where it’s produced and has dropped into Wodonga TAFE to take a class and encourage apprentices to take up cooking.
He says he gets lots of offers to endorse products but only does so if he’s passionate about its quality and consistency.
Feildel is particular about his pork and it’s a bugbear of his that home cooks often overcook it.
“You don’t have to kill it twice,” he jokes.
Before long the class is humming along and I am slicing and dicing with the best of them.
“See, it’s not that hard,” says Feildel, who considered a career in the circus before becoming an apprentice chef at the age of 15.
The pork fillet is stuffed with apple and sage, seasoned, then browned in a frypan.
“Leave it to caramelise, but don’t burn it,” he says, as the oil starts to smoke and splatter.
But this time I rescue it in time, hoping no fire alarms will be set off.
“People have been serving apple with pork for as long as they have been eating them — here I replace the more traditional apple sauce with a lovely apple stuffing,” he says.
“I love cooking with pork filet mignon as it is not only the most succulent cut of pork but also the quickest to cook.”
The fillets are then whisked into the oven and Feildel tells us the importance of resting meat.
“If you don’t they will be tough … you need to rest it for half the cooking time and then reheat.”
Next we are working on the pork cutlets with creamy mustard sauce.
“The mustard flavour here is mellow because its Dijon — make sure you use French mustard here, never English, American or that stuff called French style — they are not the same and some commercial mustards are just plain bad,” he says.
The sauce takes some time to achieve the correct consistency and I am dipping my spoon in every few seconds so it doesn’t overcook.
“A little more cooking time,” Feildel says as he checks over his proteges for the morning.
“Sauce is important, remember that.”
All MKR fans are familiar with Feildel’s regular question to competitors — where’s the sauce?
This time there’s plenty.
The pork cutlets are finished off in the oven and we slice fresh Jerusalem artichokes that are deep- fried for a short time.
“Now we wait,” says Feildel.
As we wait, I learn that he’s in training to trek the Kokoda Track for his charity CanTeen, he lost 8kg on Dancing With the Stars and gains a few kilos during the MKR series.
“I love my life and I am a passionate about cooking,” he says.
We take our seats in the dining room at Wodonga TAFE and our meal is served — Fieldel toasts us all with a loud “bon appetit”.
“You are all good cooks and I would eat at your house any time,” he says.
I then ask that question that everyone wants to know — who wins My Kitchen Rules?
“As in the past it’s the ones who are the quietest and who work hard and get things done that win,” he confides almost in a whisper.
“Sue … I could tell you who wins but as they say in the movies I would have to kill you.”
And just for the record you are welcome for dinner any time Manu Feildel — just give me plenty of notice.