Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

MKR stars steamed at cyber slurs

Good mates and TV cooking show competitors set the record straight.

Sam Sutherland, left, and  Dan Freeman, with Dan's girlfriend Hazel Monkman.
Sam Sutherland, left, and Dan Freeman, with Dan's girlfriend Hazel Monkman.

Online abuse, including homophobic slurs, and questions about their sexuality has left a sour taste in the mouth of My Kitchen Rules New Zealand hopefuls Sam Sutherland and Dan Freeman.

The Auckland-based friends were roasted by some posters on the reality TV cooking show's official Facebook page after they hosted their rivals in the "Instant Restaurant" round on Monday night.

Comments varied from questioning the quality of their cooking skills, whether they were an item and several hateful homophobic slurs.

They live together, cook together and are clearly good mates, but there are limits to the relationship between Sutherland and Freeman.

For one, they aren't a couple. Sutherland is a single gay man, while Freeman has a girlfriend.

"It's kind of awkward," Sutherland, a 21-year-old call centre worker, told the Herald on Sunday when quizzed about speculation about his friendship with Freeman.

"We kind of thought it could happen and it's kind of funny, but we want to clear it up at this stage ... I'm gay, Dan's not."

Freeman's girlfriend, 23-year-old nursing student Hazel Monkman, admitted she wasn't surprised by some viewers questioning the nature of the cooking show contestants' relationship.

"It's just the type of personalities [Sutherland and Freeman] are, especially Dan. He could come across like that. That was my first judgment," she said. "It's like him saying [on the show], 'Do you want some more honey, honey'?"

Even the duo's fellow contestants had suspicions - bogan besties Stephanie Usmar and June Lyall questioned their rivals' sexuality in the first episode, bursting into laughter when Freeman described Sutherland as the "dessert queen".

Freeman, 22, said he had long battled to convince women he wasn't gay, but no longer worried about it because he had a girlfriend.

"I convinced one girl and that's all I need."

Some of the online debate had been well received - Freeman's favourite was a meme picturing the pair with gay TV couple Cameron and Mitchell from hit sitcom Modern Family. "I thought that was so funny."

Freeman, a menswear salesman, added it had been an eye-opener that so many people cared whether he and Sutherland liked men, women or each other.

Monkman also lived with people who were gay, and the couple had "lots of gay friends", Freeman said.

"We sort of stopped thinking about it," he said. "We're never concerned with the sexuality of people. It's not the defining attribute for us that it is for lots of other people."

- Herald on Sunday

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