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Cooking for Canberra: MKR’s Gina and Anna

Bethany Nevile

We’re only four episodes into the 2015 season of Seven’s reality cooking show My Kitchen Rules and already Canberra’s mother/daughter duo, Gina and Anna Petridis, are emerging as the ones to watch.

Whether it’s Anna getting ‘hangry’ (angry hungry) or Gina dressing up as a Russian supermodel, the pair are loud, honest, fiercely competitive and very entertaining.

Following on from Andrew and Emelia last year, Gina and Anna are only the second ACT team in My Kitchen Rules history and they are incredibly proud to represent our ‘little big city’, as Anna puts it.

Gina & Anna Publicity shot

Gina and Anna

 

Gina describes how ‘Canberrans have such a community spirit and they really do get behind their own people, regardless of how well you do (or don’t do as is sometimes the case).

“[Canberrans] still get behind you, and it’s really nice. It’s a great community to be a part of,” says Gina.

And of course, Canberra has great food.

“We are so lucky with the quality of food we have here, the places we can buy our food,” says Gina, “We’re lucky, so lucky.”

Anna loves buying her produce at the farmer’s markets and both hold a lot of praise for southside butchers Jordo’s Chop Shop in Wanniassa and Griffith Butchery in particular.

And when it comes to restaurants? We’re spoilt, of course. Most of us salivate at the mention of Braddon’s EightySix except for Gina who was hesitant to try their steak tartare, but it has definitely won her over. I mention that I’ve never had the lamb shoulder, a dish Anna calls one of the best meals of her life, so do I have to go back?

“Oh, yes you do!” says Anna knowingly.

Italian and Sons also gets a big nod from Anna and Gina loved the atmosphere at The Dock on Kingston’s foreshore.

“We overtook their kitchen, and they were so nice!” says Gina. The service, view and seafood in particular deserve a big thumbs up. Not to mention that according to Gina they make the best Gin and Tonics, ever.

Before long the conversation focuses in on their (and my) favourite topic—food.

What’s the one ingredient they can’t cook without?

Gina answers immediately. “I put wine in everything. Wine! Got to have wine. I add wine into the pot, into the glass…,” she laughs.

Her daughter, as it turns out, is ‘a garlic freak’.

“I could roast a whole knob of garlic and just sit there and eat it,” says Anna.

While you’re probably having a chuckle, like I did, Anna is very, very serious about this.

“I wish I was joking, but I’m not,” she confesses.

Be careful of her aioli, guys. It’s delicious, but it burns.

The more adventurous cook, Anna says she’s definitely the experimenter, describing her Asian pork belly with coleslaw and chilli jam.  I’m starting to get hungry (although thankfully not ‘hangry’). Although Anna loves cooking Greek food just as her mother taught her, it’s since recently returning from travelling through Asia that she’s found a new favourite. The flavours, she says, ‘just sing to her’ and she loves playing around since, after all, ‘it’s a cuisine that’s really hard to stuff up’.

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For Gina, buying Margaret Fulton’s encyclopaedia as a newlywed opened her eyes.

“That’s when I started learning things that weren’t Greek and I’ve taken it from there, but over the last 10 years I’ve really got out there and tried different things,” Gina says.

“I’ve really developed as a cook personally and I’m becoming more adventurous.”

Although for the most part she leaves the Asian fusion to Anna, Gina does make a mean twice cooked Szechuan chicken. 

“She does!” agrees Anna enthusiastically.

Although the first time Gina made it Anna’s tonsils had  just been removed and so she couldn’t eat it. “I sat there and cried. [It was the] most depressing moment of my life,” Anna mutters.

When asked what meal they’d prepare for the Prime Minister, a very Canberra cooking scenario, there’s silence. They’re thinking. Anna would probably make her rotolo of gnocchi.

“He’d really love to try my lamb shanks,” decides Gina with Anna giving that the seal of approval too.

“Mum’s lamb shanks are out of control,” she says. But with a bombe Alaska for dessert, of course.

As for celebrity chef inspiration?

Jamie Oliver and Anna explains why.

“He cooks like us! We just love throwing things together and entertaining, and making it fun and easy and not stressful.”

There’s even comparison to Jamie’s blatant disregard for specific measurements—a glug here, a pinch there. Anna just laughs.

“I love that. That’s how I cook. I don’t even have measuring spoons at home! I use teaspoons and soup spoons,” she confesses.

Turns out this attitude doesn’t sit quite right with Gina.

“That’s where I tell her, sometimes, some recipes, you just can’t throw everything in! I need to go by the book, by the recipe, and I measure,” Gina says.

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“Anna’s like ‘Nah, Mum!’ and then sometimes it doesn’t work and I say, Anna you have to measure and read the whole recipe.”

It’s comforting to learn not even they can cook Jamie’s ’30 minute’ meals in less than an hour! Matt Moran is also a favourite, with his Sydney waterfront restaurant Aria a special experience.

“The food looks so good you don’t want to eat it; you don’t want to wreck it!”

Although they love marvelling at that kind of fancy food, it’s not quite their style. As Anna says, “Highly technical fine dining stuff is not our thing; we love really comforting food.”

Gina agrees. “I love cooking on a Sunday, I cook up a storm [and] I relax. Cooking usually relaxes me,” she says.

“I’m at my best when I’m in the kitchen. I just love it… seeing the looks on people’s faces after they’ve eaten our meals, it’s really satisfying.’

Although filming wrapped some time ago (but no spoilers here, promise), Gina and Anna say they are still wrapping their heads around watching themselves on TV and describe how weirdly stressful it is to see a version of yourself up on the screen. They confess that sometimes they become a tad frustrated with how they come off through editing, although it’s not unexpected with reality shows.

No issues with the ‘competitive Canberrans’ tag, though. That one is real.

“I really enjoy competition,” says Anna detailing her victory lassoing a wooden bull at Rob and Lynzey’s instant restaurant.

“We all had a go, and I was the only one who lassoed the bull and it was… so glorious. I can’t believe they didn’t air it!”

Although fiercely competitive, Gina and Anna will always give credit where credit is due. They gave Robert and Lynzey a high score ‘because we believe they deserve it, we want to compete with the best’. The food was so good Anna had been waiting for the episode to air so she can get the recipe.

“We’re really, really confident strong characters,” says Anna.

“We are so insanely passionate about food, it’s all we talk about; and that’s why we’re in this competition because we are so passionate and we want to share that with people.”

They admit they have strong personalities, but that’s just who they are and any misconceived cockiness is just their passion shining through. What you won’t see on TV is a mother/daughter fight because it simply never happens. Gina and Anna are very close, and Gina loves to tease and embarrass her daughter, as we saw with the Russian supermodel routine at Rob and Lynzey’s.

“That’s our job!” exclaims Gina.

“If you read the parent’s manual, on the top of the list, it says parents need to embarrass their children, on occasion. I love it!”

Their close mother and daughter relationship comes through loud and clear, as Gina details how Anna has been her rock.

“If you have her love, her loyalty, her friendship, then you are blessed.”

So does this calm and collected relationship hang around even in the kitchen?

“Ah no,” sighs Anna.

Obviously there won’t be any fights but what can we expect from their episode tonight? Delicious drama, it seems.

“A lot of tears and madness,” says Anna. Whose tears? You’ll just have to watch to find out at 7.30pm on Prime7.

With big things on the horizon for the mother and daughter pair, Anna’s classic confidence doesn’t falter. “Regardless of how we go in the show, our confidence now—our passion for food—does not waiver one little bit,” she says.

“It doesn’t change what we want to do with our lives. Basically we plan on being the most successful My Kitchen Rules team ever, regardless of the result!”

While still involved with school uniform company Savvy Schoolwear, the duo are looking ahead to making their food dreams a reality. Details can’t be shared yet but look out for Gina and Anna in the Canberra restaurant scene very soon. And if you see them in the street, you should definitely stop and say hi. Gina loves it when recognised by the staff at the Tuggeranong Good Guys store.

“They had the [MKR] website up. They’re going ‘her hair is darker on the show, is that really her?'” Gina says.

They both laugh and adamantly deny any sort of celebrity status.”We’re just everyday people! I still can’t believe we actually did it. We’re nutcases,” she says.

Nutcases or not, Gina and Anna’s love for their hometown and for cooking is absolutely infectious and I can’t wait to see what’s coming up for the mother and daughter duo next. And to be invited over for dinner, of course!

You can catch Gina and Anna on My Kitchen Rules tonight at 7.30pm on Prime7. 

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Bethany Nevile

Bethany Nevile is a Canberra local and recently graduated from the ANU with an honours degree in English Literature. She loves op shopping, baking, binge reading, live music, theatre, trashy TV and thinks there is always room for dessert. More about the Author

  • Liz Posmyk

    Looking forward to watching Gina and Anna tonight… love their philosophies and they sound like great fun, down to earth Canberra peeps!

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