Aaron and Heather

Their Kitchen Rules

“When My Kitchen Rules came up our parents said, ‘If you don’t apply this time we are giving up on you’,” Aaron remembers.

Aaron at workThe popular Pacific duo Aaron and Heather Freeman, the ‘Polynesian Cooks’, made it to the final of the show last year, nearly taking out the competition.

Even before what the pair describe as the whirlwind that was My Kitchen Rules, cooking exceptional food had been in their blood. More so for Aaron, who had always dreamed of cooking competitively.

“Heather was always a consideration as a partner for the show, but I didn’t want to leave both of our kids at home without Mum and Dad. I initially applied with a friend because I thought a boy duo team would be refreshing, but he had been a chef for fifteen years previously so was ineligible.

“I got a call from the My Kitchen Rules team saying that they really liked my story and wanted me on the show, so I had seventy-two hours to find a replacement, which isn’t usually done. It was a stressful three days but it came back to Heather.”

InspirationWith no luck in finding a replacement, Heather recalls slamming her car door and saying, “FINE, I’LL DO IT!”.

When filming came around, the two struggled with being away from home for long periods of time. “The cameras on us and the cooking was fine, it was easy. The hardest thing ever was being away from our kids. The reality was we started in June last year and it went through to October.”

Things got off to a rocky start for the team. “I struggled with the competition. I couldn’t understand the concept; that it wasn’t a cooking show, it was more a reality TV show, because I just wanted to cook,” Aaron remembers.

Heather agrees that behind the scenes was not what you would expect. “Your success hinged on whether you were dramatic or whether you had a big personality. So we learnt quite a lot along the way in order to preserve our longevity throughout the competition. I think the hardest thing for us was getting the judges to understand us.”

If it weren’t for people interrupting us on the street today, saying how much they enjoyed us, we would just be in the corner and it would have been all for nothing.

This misunderstanding was resolved dramatically in the semi-finals, where Aaron and Heather had the chance to channel their Pacific Islander heritage in their food. “It was the first time we actually got to prepare Pacific cuisine, which I had been busting to do,” Aaron remembers. “It was quite refreshing because we were finally able to express ourselves. To get such great feedback from the guest judges in that semi-final still makes me wake up and smile about it today.”

Heather agrees. “It was the first point in the competition where we had got that validation, we belonged where we were and had a chance at taking out the competition.”

But much of this validation came from the fans and viewers from across the country who supported the duo from day one. “People would always comment on how nice we were. We thought New Zealand was going to hate us, but it was edited so well and what you saw on the show was just us, we didn’t manufacture anything.

Aaron and Heather“If it weren’t for people interrupting us on the street today, saying how much they enjoyed us, we would just be in the corner and it would have been for nothing.”

The final of My Kitchen Rules, which aired in October 2014, was a bittersweet pill for both Aaron and Heather to swallow. “I’m still hurt, it hurts that we didn’t win. The final would have been the perfect ending for us because it was so hard to break through to the judges, to show them who we were and the food we wanted to cook.

“What was made tougher was the fact that they filmed a double ending where we either lost by two points or won by one point. So we had to find out with the rest of New Zealand. For six weeks we didn’t know, and the day after we got home we were just meant to deal with it all.

“I’m gutted we lost because I am a competitive person, but it just came down to reality TV time pressure at the end of the day,” Aaron believes.

When My Kitchen Rules came up our parents said, ‘If you don’t apply this time we are giving up on you’

Both Aaron and Heather have never lost sight of what matters most, however. “We have always had a respect for the competition,” says Aaron. “We didn’t lose in a way because we never lost the support. It is almost a blessing in disguise because all I really ever wanted was the title of winning My Kitchen Rules. I didn’t care about the grand prize because if we had won we would have been contractually bound. Since the final ended it has made me so focused because we have won everything that the winners won, the rest of the prize was just stuff.”

The finished masterpieceToday, Aaron and Heather have exciting new things in motion. Launching their new Pacific cuisine brand, Tatou, for catering and functions is one of their sources of pride. “I always saw having a brand in the future and it fitted the approach that we have to food because it means ‘us’, quite literally.”
Most importantly, their two children are still big fans of their parents’ food. “They are two of our harshest food critics. A lot of people used to comment on us when we received harsh feedback: ‘Why do you just look at the judges like it doesn’t even faze you?’. We’ve heard worse mate, we live with a two-year-old who is very honest,” they laugh.

The future is bright for the duo, who are planning to build their brand even further. “I believe in the people in Manawatu, otherwise I wouldn’t still be living here. Those who spend their hard-earned money deserve to be fed well, so I want to raise that standard and showcase what New Zealand and Pacific food can be.

“The whole thing has just consumed our lives, but that’s our choice. It’s an exciting time, putting ourselves in a position where we aren’t just doing nine to five.”

It's all about the bass

Well and Truly Made

“The name came from a Levis t-shirt that said ‘Truly made in the USA’. It was at the moment of ‘this band needs a name’”.

Two years ago and one song writing project later, seven musicians came together to form what we now know as the original band Truly Made.

DeanSince then the band have performed, recorded and written their way to success. “Being part of such a small music scene you just get to know people and make connections with them. We just asked people if they wanted to have a jam around a few songs.”

It all clicked for Jon Bowen, Dale Brider, Brandon Lauridsen, Hayden Lauridsen, Graeme Parker, Dean Parkinson and Matt Soong, the current band mates.

If the band ended tomorrow it’s been a really great band to be in

“The different people add something unique to the band. New singers and new instruments over the years have completely changed the sound of the band,” Jon believes.

As a result, the group don’t see themselves performing under one genre. “Soul, funk, ska, the band doesn’t fit into one style. We have a reggae feel but it’s not reggae and a bit of ska but it’s not ska. All sorts of bands influence what we sound like.”

The bandAs one of the main songwriters of the group, Jon focuses passionately on lyrics and music. “I start with a thought, which usually begins with an experience or something that I read just walking around town. What goes in usually comes out, so I start with a single phrase or a melody. But you can’t force creativity, songs are probably five per cent inspiration ninety-five per cent perspiration.”

Part of their success over the past two years is a result of the members’ musical backgrounds and passion. “I’ve been playing in bands since I was fourteen, so music was a natural thing to me no matter where I was,” Hayden remembers.

2014 was a particularly successful year for the band after releasing their debut extended play, ‘For the Summer’.

Hayden“The intention has always been to get our songs into a format, so when things started to evolve we thought we would get something committed in the studio. Then the money we made from gigs went into a recording fund.”

“We have had great feedback. Although people say we could have done things differently, we are all at different stages of life and shifting units is not our thing. It is about being creative with music and finding a space where we can happily continue being a band,” Jon believes.

Being part of such a small music scene you just get to know people and make connections with them

Playing local gigs is important for the septet. “2014 started really well for us, we played New Year’s Eve in The Square, which was great because the songs went down really well. It is encouraging when you get good feedback because a lot more people know about us now and we have got a fan base, rather than just Mum and Dad,” they joke.

“We try to perform every four to six weeks and that’s enough, because it means even though we play locally people still come and see us. It’s not busy, which is great because we can sustain our own interest.”

JonAside from world domination, the group want to see Truly Made keep going and evolving. “For musicians it is hard to go beyond what we are doing. We are passionate about being creative, which is the point of the band. Whatever we have created in Truly Made no one has ever done before, which is the amazing thing about music; it is always new. Music as art is amazing because you can never have it the same way twice.

“Music is a funny thing, you look at it like life. There are all sorts of twists and turns. If the band ended tomorrow it’s been a really great band to be in.”

Michael Bradley

The Chemistry of Creativity

Amy FowlerStory and photos by Amy Fowler.

I had previously only ever experienced any sort of dark-room photography a couple of times, with the world now having moved firmly into the digital realm. The first time was at school, when we spent a couple of days in a dark room processing photographs we had taken in and around the school. At the time I never thought I was going to go into training to be a professional photographer. This initial experience received no more respect for the art than a dismissive grunt before I moved on to other things.

_43A6362In April this year I got to spend a couple of days with photographer Michael Bradley as part of my prize for winning the Canon Eyecon competition.

The competition involved sending in a set of three images, which work together as a series to tell a story. The prize pack included Canon Dollars, real Dollars, a big printer, but most importantly, mentoring sessions with the Eyecon judges Michael Bradley, Aaron K and Danelle Bohane.

The sense of relief and excitement at the resulting image, after it came out of the darkroom, was immense.

A few weeks after posting off my images, I got a call one lunchtime from the Canon Eyecon judging team, informing me I had won the competition. I was absolutely blown away, in tears, and shaking with excitement.

When I spoke to Michael Bradley ahead of mentoring session with him, we discussed my portfolio and wondered what would make for a good day. Michael _43A6382made his name as a sports photographer; we joked about how a day at the cricket possibly wasn’t my cup of tea. I must admit, I can’t even watch a minute of it on television, let alone a whole day! Prior to the call I was absolutely fascinated with haunting portraits on his website that he had taken using a technique called wet plate photography. The conversation inevitably led onto what wet plate photography was and we decided to go ahead and plan for a day doing just that.

First off he decided to make a portrait of me. So we set up the lighting, and I got into place. With a digital camera, we could have snapped the image then and there, then get on with the rest of the day. But with this process, there is a lot to consider. It’s expensive. Every time you take a photograph you use a raft of different chemicals to produce the image. So getting it perfect off the bat is essential. So I sat down and he focused the camera. We had to fashion a makeshift headrest to keep my head very still. The slightest movement results in the image being completely out of focus. He poured collodion (a mix of ether and alcohol once used as _43A6416wartime field dressings) onto a sheet of glass, bathed it in silver nitrate to make the plate light sensitive, before popping the glass into the back of the camera. After refocusing, the back cover of the camera was pulled up, the lens cap came off, the lights popped, the plate came out, and it was ready for developing (using a range of chemicals including alcohol and mosskiller) and fixing. When the plate came out the dark room from having it’s developer bath, the image was there like magic. The intricate detail is incredible. The plate went into the fixer for the final part of the process and my portrait was complete

Prior to the call I was absolutely fascinated with haunting portraits on his website that he had taken using a technique called wet plate photography.

Next it was my turn to photograph Michael. I was extremely nervous. I didn’t want to bugger up the process and come away with no image recorded, or worse still, break one of the plates. We had a practice run with some old collodion on the first plate before moving on to my first real go at wet plate photography. I carefully repeated all of the steps that Michael had showed me. The sense of relief and excitement at the resulting image, after it img146came out of the darkroom, was immense. The day with Michael really inspired me to delve even more deeply into the fine art that is photography.

I’m indebted to UCOL in Palmerston North, where I trained in photography. During my time as a student I was fortunate to win the New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography Iris Awards title of Student Photographer of the Year two years in a row, in 2013 and 2014.