Like the contestants who hurl themselves into the culinary bearpit that is My Kitchen Rules, Seven News newsreader Susannah Carr reckons she knows her way around the pantry - until the heart- stopping moment her lovingly prepared lunch is put before intimidating judges Manu Feildel and Pete Evans.
The pair sit poker faced at one end of the big marble-topped island bench in Susannah's country-style kitchen, a colourful cornucopia of food spread out before them. The newsreader has spent hours putting together a feast of marinated spatchcock, an orange, date and fig salad, a beetroot and leek salad and a loaf of her friend Jo Donaldson's nutty paleo bread. Then there's a truly impressive-looking pannacotta and a raspberry, dairy-free, raw cheesecake-style dessert made with cashews, coconut oil and honey.
The 61-year-old has arranged the dishes before the judges, who are visiting as friends and colleagues - and critics. Carr's low, velvety voice, which conveys the news with such authority, is reduced to a meek squeak. "I hope you like it."
Evans, who is famously passionate about healthy, fresh food, is instantly impressed. "What a feast," he says. "You've outdone yourself!"
He hooks into some of the bread, which caters to his paleo diet, while Manu begins to serve the spatchcock and salad.
"How many have you cooked for," he says, marvelling at the smorgasbord and zeroing in on the orange salad. "That looks yummy. Beautiful figs, nice and ripe and juicy. All right, let's dig in I say."
Susannah stands by anxiously as the pair eat, her stress exacerbated by the high drama of the two judges exchanging lots of confused glances and glares of mock horror.
Evans chews silently and pensively, eyes closed to savour the experience, while the Frenchman demolishes the spatchcock.
"I've made my decision," he declares, before Evans interrupts him: "We just need to test a little bit more." He spears a piece of tender poached leek on his fork. "Hang on, one more." A bit of baby chook with yoghurt. Evans has spoken before about having to eat food he wouldn't normally choose to put in his well-maintained body but nobody's forcing his hand here. "I love it when you eat with your fingers," his mate goads.
"Do you want me to tell her," Evans says, now deadly serious.
"Well Sue, I don't know how to tell you this." Suddenly she wonders whether the headlines will be bad. "Should I stick to newsreading," she wonders aloud. Well, not according to Feildel, who launches into a glowing critique.
"Let's talk about flavours. Firstly I love the amount of flavours that you packed into such a small plate. You've got two beautiful salads, you've got sweetness, you've got saltiness, you've got freshness, well-seasoned, and then you've got those beautiful juicy spatchcock with a beautiful marinade, yummy, sticky, I'm just travelling to the Middle East now on that special carpet. You know, at first it's looking dry. I think 'Where is the sauce?' But then the beautiful yoghurt . . . it's just magical."
Now it's time for Evans to deliver his judgment.
"Well, what I love about this meal is you've thought about all the components, you've thought about texture, you've thought about aroma; we got that when we walked in the door. You've even thought about dietary requirements and you've made this beautiful paleo bread. This is home cooking at it's best and that's what we're after on My Kitchen Rules. Sue, I have to say this is by far the best meal we've had this year."
Carr exhales and giggles delightedly.
"So for this," Feildel says. "We are giving you a 10."
"That's it," the newsreader says with a chuckle. "I'm quitting my job!"
The judges proceed to try both desserts, raving about the frozen dream cake, which health nut Carr found on the website mynewroots.org. Feildel is astonished by the diagonal set of the layered pannacotta. "Well, excusez-moi!"
Carr, a passionate home cook who loves nothing more than whipping up a feast for her husband Chris and their friends, is in her element.
Over many years she has acquired the kind of technical skills that would find her a place in a restaurant kitchen, and a very international repertoire. Her shelves are filled with cookbooks - Yotam Ottolenghi, Pete Evans, Thomas Keller and, up until recently, 20 years of American Gourmet - all inspiration for her daily meal prep.
"I started cooking when I was a teenager," she tells Fresh. "I used to cook for Mum and Dad if they had friends over. They were probably pretty dreadful dishes. I made crab quiche that was pretty out there, and probably a coq au vin."
She credits the mother of an American boyfriend as someone who broadened her culinary horizons. "She was a fabulous cook, although I used to think things they ate were really weird. I'd go there and she would make a salad with pears in it and cottage cheese, and for someone who came from lettuce and tomato and cucumber that was pretty out there.
"She used Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the Julia Child books, and they were the first cookbooks I ever bought."
The more she cooked, the hungrier she became. Now she will share her expertise with Fresh readers
Read Susannah's story in West Weekend.
From next week Fresh will be publishing Susannah Carr's Ingredient of the Week. Carr will inform us of her favourites, with notes on how to use them to spice up your cooking style.
by far the best meal we've had this year.' Pete Evans