Wednesday 5 September 2012

Australia on a plate

Well, that was fun: an evening spent playing at Masterchef, with an Australian flavour. We assembled in teams of four, each assigned a state - mine was South Australia - and a menu based on select produce from there, to cook in an hour for Josh Emett to judge. Some people cruised through, but I felt pressured, especially as my prawn croquettes required several time-consuming stages to prepare; and it didn't help that Josh told a graphic story about how he'd set a kitchen on fire while trying to deep-fry something similar. But he was impressed with my egg-separating skills.

In the background of the photo is Richard Till, another celebrity cook, who was on the Queensland team and told the person in charge of the banana-coconut filo parcel to ignore the recipe and "stick it in a pot and boil the fuck out of it". It was that kind of gathering. The wine helped. Our seared tuna was "well done, in both senses" and my croquettes were insufficiently seasoned (I'd been so impressed by the scary lady at the start telling us not to "compromise our food with dipped fingers" that I quite forgot to taste-test the mixture). And Josh delegated the oyster-tasting - presumably, allergic to shellfish. Bit of a handicap for a chef. But it was all ok, no-one was humiliated or voted off, and afterwards we all sat down to a series of bite-sized versions of what all the teams had made, done properly by the kitchen out the back.

It was good to chat to Josh over dinner and ask about his long years under Gordon Ramsay (perhaps why he's gone grey already) and his new Queenstown restaurant, Rata, which I was writing about a couple of weeks ago. I explained how cruel I'd found it, having to research all those restaurants, look at close-up photos of the dishes and read the menu descriptions, without a single morsel passing my lips, and he sympathised - but he didn't offer me a dinner-voucher for when I'm down there next. Tch.

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