My Kitchen Rules: Manu Feildel's rise to fame

French-born chef Emmanuel Feildel is synonymous with the cooking show My Kitchen Rules. Manu, as he is better known, started out as a judge on the show when it first launched 12 years ago.

It's no surprise that Manu chose to be a chef when his French father, grandfather and great grandfather were all professional chefs.

However, it almost didn't happen when a restless 13-year-old Manu decided to enrol in circus school.

My Kitchen Rules' Manu Feildel sits on a bench at the official opening of Henrietta, wearing a brown leather jacket over an unbuttoned white shirt
My Kitchen Rules judge Manu Feildel is back to discover the home cooks in Australia. Photo: Getty

After three years of "unicycle, clowning, juggling, a bit of acrobat", he decided cooking was his passion after all.

At 18, he headed for London and trained at Café Royale and Café des Amis du Vin before working at seafood restaurant Livebait.

He may never have come to Australia if he wasn't poached by one of Australia's leading chefs, Tony Bilson.

Moving to Australia in 1999, Manu worked at several of Bilson's restaurants, helping to win three AFG Chef's Hats.

TV comes knocking

With that success, he was courted by television producers and made guest appearances on Ready Steady Cook and MasterChef Australia.

His career in Australia wasn't completely straightforward though.

After being a guest on MasterChef Australia, he missed out on becoming a judge on the show after he was told his accent was too hard to understand.

According to an interview with Ahn Do, Manu was told "'We really love you. We really think that you've got a great character. But there's one little issue that we can't go past - your French accent...'"

He landed My Kitchen Rules with his friend and fellow chef Pete Evans, but the hurdles didn't stop there.

Restaurant failure

Manu spoke on Ahn's Brush With Fame about falling into a deep depression after the restaurant he opened with George Calombaris in 2014, Le Grand Cirque, closed after just four months.

The French circus-themed restaurant should have been a great success with two of Australia's best-known chefs behind it.

"Unfortunately for everyone involved Le Grande Cirque wasn't the success it was hoped to be," the press release issued via Facebook read.

"[It was] really painful", he confessed, saying he "cried for days like a kid".

My kitchen rules star Manu Feildel and wife Clarissa Weerasena stand smiling together at the Men's Health MAN 2016 Awards in Sydney, Many wears a black vest over white shirt and Clarissa a black dress with gold buckle
Manu Feildel and wife Clarissa Weerasena who he met in 2011. Photo: Getty

It was his wife, jeweller Clarissa Weerasena, that helped get him through.

"We met in a lift going to a nightclub in Sydney. She didn't know who I was," Manu revealed to TV Week.

"We didn't see each other for three months after that, then we caught up for a drink. I was nervous because three months had passed. We didn't see each other for another three months, then had some lunch. The rest is history."

The couple have been married for four years now and Manu has two kids - Jonti, 17 (from a previous relationship) and Charlee, seven, with Clarissa.

Since his time on MKR, Manu also took part on Dancing With The Stars, hosted the reality dating show Dinner Date, judged the 2019 season of Australia's Got Talent and hosted Plate Of Origin with fellow celebrity chef Gary Mehigan and food writer Matt Preston.

And while he no longer has his long-time co-judge and friend Pete Evans by his side on MKR, Nigella Lawson will be a welcome addition to the show.

The new season of My Kitchen Rules is coming soon to Channel Seven.

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