Hiking up a rocky trail in the rugged Yosemite National Park for six hours on Anzac Day, TV chef Bella Jakubiak was broiling under her furry hat.
The bubbly My Kitchen Rules champion had blisters. She was also sporting thongs and patterned socks.
It wasn’t her most romantic get-up, so the last thing Bella expected was a proposal from her boyfriend of eight months, former Married At First Sight season one contestant James Webster.
‘I hadn’t quite thought it through,’ grins the good-humoured farmer, who had been plotting how to pop the question with Bella’s sister and screen partner, Sammy.
On her advice, he’d faked playing it cool to throw Bella off the scent. He’d enlisted a photographer to help pick a scenic location, and he’d smuggled a bottle of Champagne and two glasses into the bottom of his daypack.
He’d also designed a stunning engagement ring, which was safely nestled in its box inside a zip-lock bag hidden in a sock in his bag. So far, so good.
James planned to propose beside a waterfall near the summit, but nerves and pressure got the better of him, and he couldn’t wait!
Dropping to one knee beside the beautiful Emerald Pools – ‘They actually matched really well with Bella’s eyes’ – he asked her to marry him. And then he fumbled.
‘I just couldn’t unwrap the ring,’ grins the laid-back 39-year- old. ‘It took about 15 minutes to get it out of the bag, and Bella kept asking what I was doing!
‘She floated down the mountain on a cloud with a glass of champagne in her hand, showing everyone her ring, while I sweated bullets climbing over the rocks.’
The couple didn’t recognise each other from the small screen when they first met at a Bondi house party at James’ cliff-top flat in September last year.
‘I didn’t discover we had similar reality TV backgrounds for about two months,’ laughs Bella, 34, who, with sister Sammy, parlayed their 2011 MKR victory into regular slots on The Morning Show and Foxtel’s LifeStyle Food.
‘A couple of friends said they knew his face from somewhere, so I confronted him about it and that’s when I found out.’
James – who was jilted by screen ‘wife’ Michelle on the 2015 series premiere of MAFS– cheerfully admits: ‘There’s a bit of a stigma about it, especially when you’ve been on a dating show. I was lucky to be matched with someone easygoing, but she was still in love with her ex-boyfriend, and you can’t compete with that.
‘It was a bit of a learning curve, but it’s all fine. I wouldn’t have met Bella otherwise.’
For the full story, see this week’s New Idea – Out now.
This article first published on New Idea.