TV chef Mike Van de Elzen is opening a new restaurant this month, has launched an e-cookbook and just wrapped filming on the third season of his hit TV One show The Food Truck.
But it’s a new arrival at home that he is most proud of. Talking exclusively with the Weekly for the first time since the birth of his second child Ivy, who like their first daughter Hazel was conceived via IVF, Mike and his wife Belinda can’t help but beam about their new blue-eyed girl – now nearly five months old.
The pair have been open about the struggle to conceive their precious babies. It took three gruelling rounds of IVF before Hazel (now 2) was born. When trying for their second child, they also faced setbacks when the first of their frozen embryos didn’t implant, and the second didn’t survive the thawing process.
But the baby drama didn’t stop with Ivy’s birth. After she was born 10 days early, Mike (40) had just 72 hours to enjoy their new daughter before returning to 12-hour days filming The Food Truck around New Zealand.
With Belinda (39) on her own for the first few weeks, life became even more difficult when both she and Hazel became ill.
“You look back and think, ’How did I survive that?’ But you do,” says Belinda, who is also a chef. “I caught a nasty bladder infection and that went to my kidneys. Mike was away and Hazel caught conjunctivitis. I was pretty shattered.” Being so far away from Belinda was frustrating for Mike, who was in Christchurch at the time. And when a tornado hit West Auckland in December, Mike’s flight to Auckland was cancelled. He was left stranded, desperate to get home to his sick family.
“It was frustrating but we just had to deal with it,” says Mike. Bedridden and unable to give Hazel the attention she needed, Belinda is thankful that a good friend stepped in to lend a hand.
“I’ve learned not to turn down other people’s help. When people say, ‘Can I cook you a meal?’ I now say, ‘Thank you, please do.’
“I often sit down to feed Ivy and my day just seems to stop and start – I find it so frustrating if I can’t get back to what I was doing. But if putting up with a dirty shower for a little while means having two children I thought I’d never have, at the end of the day I’d rather spend a bit of time reading a story to Hazel than cleaning!”
Mike and Belinda joke that Ivy is a “little terror”, crying between the hours of 7pm to 10pm and waking them up three times a night. (Some days Mike walked on to the set of The Food Truck after less than an hour’s sleep).
But they are clearly in love with their new bright-eyed bub, who came from the same group of frozen embryos as Hazel.
And there’s no such thing as an easy week in the Van de Elzen household. Mike has just released a 10-recipe e-cookbook called Great Small Plates and is putting the final touches on his new downtown Auckland restaurant.
“There’s basically two weeks to get ready, hire staff and have it operating – it’s a busy time.” The pair joke that after balancing all their projects on very little sleep they are “acting like zombies”.
But the couple don’t take their family for granted. They have one more frozen embryo stored in a fertility clinic and are weighing up whether to try for a third child at some point in the future.
“Having two girls, for me, is going to be lovely. But there is a part of me that thinks, ‘If the third embryo was a little boy that would be fantastic.’ But for the meantime I’m happy with what I’ve got,” says Belinda.
“There’s no guarantee we can have another child, because the embryo might not implant or it might not thaw correctly, but there are lots of obstacles anyway,” she adds.
Mike is also undecided on whether to expand their family. “It’s hard with two kids, it really is. It amazes me how some families cope with six or more kids, because two is so busy.
“I would have loved to have boys though. After me there are no more [male] Van de Elzens in my family to carry on the name,” says Mike. “We do have that last egg left though."