I’ve always been pretty obsessed with food. And, cooking and experimenting with cuisines and ingredients has always been my favourite task. As a child my only dream was to be a chef and caterer. But things didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to (do they ever!?) and I became a psychologist and now a writer and editor. Nevertheless, there’s always been this burning desire to start my own restaurant. It is a dream that I will realise.
I started watching Masterchef Australia around Diwali last year. I didn’t own a TV, so I used to watch it online, and slowly and steadily, I realised how much I had stopped experimenting with cooking – I just didn’t have the time and laziness would take over. Just watching the show, Gary’s (Mehigan) and George’s (Calombaris) masterclasses and their critique of the contestants’ dishes, gave me the confidence to try out things more often. I was already spiraling into the world of food, and this gave me that last minute boost to tumble headlong into the abyss of my dream.
Today, along with this blog, continuing to be an avid Masterchef Australia viewer (with the secret desire to become a contestant), I am also inching my way to becoming a food writer. And my one step towards that brought me up and close (If not personal) with Gary and George at a media event organised by the Oz Fest in an effort to introduce to India within three weeks what Australian culture is all about. At this particular event, Gary and George judged dishes created by students of Kohinoor Catering institute.
Some candid shots…
Listening to the compere…
Tasting the entrees – tandoori chicken drumstick and fried fish
The mains – chicken cordon bleu and muttom korma with saffron rice
The dessert – jalebis with rabdi and honey tuile with vanilla mascarpone
What I loved about this experience was how Gary and George judged the food just like they do on the series. Their entire focus was on those dishes. When the mutton korma with saffron rice had some unwanted boiled vegetables on the side, they pointed it out and asked the maker a simple question – how would he have eaten this dish at home and with what side dishes? They also pointed out some really pertinent issues with Indian plating up. All those carrot flowers and tomato lotuses that catering students so painstakingly learn to carve out are simply not needed on a dish unless they are to be eaten – which is never the case. When questioned on how to make the Indian dish look more vibrant without using these techniques, George simply said by using techniques that give taste. By caramelising some onions or frying them till they are crunchy – so that at the end, the taste and the look please the eater. Apart from this, they simply loved the Jalebi and Rabdi that were part of the dessert repertoire – George even wrote down some of the processes to make Jalebis. An interesting tip to modernise the dish was to probably serve it in a glass with some lovely saffron sorbet to cut through the sweetness and help the dish go down better.
It is this very humbling attitude, this very warm approach and the knowledge and experience that these two men have that makes them so special, that makes everyone around want to be with them, talk to them, take photos with them. What they are on TV, they are in real life. The same chuckling, the same way of critiquing a dish, the same kind of advice. And, for the very first time in my life yours truly was star struck. I just couldn’t take my eyes off them. I have attended a zillion conferences with Q&A rounds, but never have I once asked a question. But today, just so that Gary and George would notice me, I dared to ask one – of course it was relevant – on whether they planned to open their restaurants in India; George said a big no and Gary wasn’t so sure, although he admitted to loving Indian food. Then, towards the end of the event, shy me, awkward me, not-so-sure-of-myself me actually went ahead and approached Gary to take a photograph with me, and he so sweetly obliged!
I aint looking so hot; but, then why would you look at me? Look at Gary!
In all, this was a dream come true, something I will cherish all my life. The tips, the comments that they gave these students, the idea of having Indian cuisine being appreciated world wide simply gives someone like me the inspiration to just go and grab hold of my food dream and make it come true. Some day, sooner than later, I will!