EXCLUSIVE: where are MKR winners Veronica and Shadi Abraham now?

A lot has happened since MKR season on
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Home cooks Veronica and Shadi Abraham had no idea they were about to become instant celebrities, let alone pioneers of what would become a television phenomenon, when they successfully auditioned for a new reality show called My Kitchen Rules.

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It was 2010, and the unassuming Brisbane couple had two big dreams: firstly, to have kids in “abundance”, and secondly, to own a restaurant or a cafe together.

Both came true in equal measures. After winning MKR, Veronica and Shadi opened  the successful Ave Cucina & Coffee Bar in Coorparoo, Queensland. Meanwhile, parenthood saw them cooking up a storm with the safe arrival of four beautiful children.

“It’s hard to believe it was 12 years ago,” a high-spirited Veronica tells New Idea when we drop by for a catch-up. 

Veronica and Shadi won the first season of MKR
Veronica and Shadi won the first season of MKR (Credit: Channel Seven)

“I feel like we were the guinea pigs, and thankfully it worked. It’s pretty cool knowing we were there at the start of this phenomenon.”

Veronica and Shadi admit they weren’t quite prepared for becoming instant television stars and fan favourites. 

It was very surreal,” Veronica laughs. “It was very odd for Shadi and I who don’t really love the limelight. Yes, of course it was cool being on TV, but it was never our driving force to be famous, that was never important.

“It was a different time … pre-Instagram and Facebook was only just starting out. We’re quite grateful that we missed all the hype those platforms generate. We could just concentrate on having a go and our love of home cooking and making it special.”

The pair still love to cook
The pair still love to cook (Credit: Supplied)

In a classic case of being careful what you wish for, Veronica and Shadi found  their dreams of running  a successful restaurant and starting a family coinciding.

Ave Cucina took off and before they knew it, they had three children – Antonia, Elena and Giselle – in rapid succession. They found themselves faced with the difficult decision of having to let their restaurant go. 

“The restaurant was definitely a lifelong dream,” Veronica says. “And so was having children and it took us a little while to have kiddies. So, after we had our third, it just became clearer to both of us that something had to give and it wasn’t going to be our family. 

“We found it hard after we had our third to balance the business and family life. Reluctantly, we decided to sell. It was a bittersweet decision.”

They have four children together
They have four children together (Credit: Supplied)

Veronica and Shadi are now the proud parents of four children: daughters Antonia, 10, Elena, 9, Giselle, 7, and 5-year-old son Julius. And while they are loving parenthood, they haven’t totally let go of their restaurant dreams.

“We certainly haven’t lost our passion for food,” says Veronica, who now devotes her time to delighting mums and kids working at the tuckshop at her children’s school. “I think we’ll do it again one day. It’s in the pipeline, I think.”

Meanwhile, Shadi, 42, has returned to his trade of building and is busy single-handedly renovating the family home.

“He’s swapped his knives for hammers and saws,” Veronica laughs. “He’s doing it by himself, so I don’t know how long it will take. We may need a My Kitchen Rules buzzer to get him to hurry up. 

“He’s awesome, he’s very particular, I’m looking forward to what he comes up with.” 

A lot has changed in 12 years
A lot has changed in 12 years (Credit: Channel Seven)

So do the inaugural MKR winners have any advice for the new batch of contestants?

“Just keep it real,” a laid-back Veronica, 41, says. “I hate the cliché, but cook from the heart. I do mean it, because you can taste it in your food.”

And would Veronica and Shadi ever consider heading back into the MKR kitchen?

“That would be fun,” laughs Veronica. “Imagine getting all the original winners back together. It would be a hoot.”

For now, Veronica and Shadi and their children are enjoying living with Shadi’s mum, Therese, as their house is renovated.

“She’s a wonderful cook,” enthuses Veronica. “That’s where Shadi gets his cooking skills from. Therese cooks all her wonderful Lebanese dishes and my mum taught  me the Italian side of things. The kids, who are taking an interest in cooking, are in heaven. They’re loving it.”

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