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Archive for the ‘Celebrity Chefs’ Category

Isn’t it amazing? Apparently approximately 3.7 million Australian viewers (that’s not even counting the regional country areas) tuned in Sunday night for the Masterchef Australia two-hour finale show – that’s nearly 20% of the country’s population and highest rated non-sports show ever!  It is so interesting to see that a food-related show was more popular than Australian Idol.  Communication of food has definitely come a long way, especially with the rise of celebrity chefs and reality shows.  Food is now viewed as entertainment and being “sold” to people of all walks of life. These are the types of topics that I have studied and written about while doing my Masters of Gastronomy course and it will be interesting to see whether this type of reality show will actually increase interest in cooking or whether it will just make everyone into a food critic.

At first, I wasn’t watching every episode of the show because I had no idea that it was on nearly every night (and it didn’t help that I just had a baby). Then when the show got down to its top 20 contestants, I started to pay more attention. As with any reality show, I started to vest some interest in certain individuals and found others bland or arrogant. But on Monday morning when I went to read the online articles about the Masterchef finale, I was amazed to see so much negativity out there.  The final two contestants were Poh and Julie who are vastly different types of cooks but equally passionate.  It astounds me that so many people who commented on various websites think that the competition was “rigged” towards favouring Julie.  Even the contestants felt that the judging was fair based on their performance that night.  No need to be so nasty people!  It is just a TV show!

Chris was my initial favourite because his dishes were unique and inventive but I can see why he didn’t win on the night that Donna Hay was the guest judge because she did say that “layers of brown” were the worst for food photography and all of Chris’ dishes were some shade of brown and not very photo-friendly.  That was the one night where looks were just as important as taste and I don’t think Chris had a chance with how his dish looked compared to two women.  On a side note, I was surprised to finally see Donna Hay’s face!  She is the queen of publishing here but never shows her face so I had always wondered if she was young or old or whatever.  She’s not what I expected and those high heels she was wearing that night were very stiletto!

When it came down to the two finalists, I didn’t care who won – I thought that they both deserved it and that they both brought their own unique style to the competition.  Poh Ling Yeow is definitely an artist and I love her meticulous ways in plating and desserts (but I wonder why she’s so messy when cooking).  Julie Goodwin is generous in her style and her food exudes comfort.  That Matt Moran signature chocolate plate was very tough (lots of skill needed) and I don’t think a lot of people at home really appreciated that unless they’ve done all of the desserts components before.  The thing that really got me on the night of the challenge was when Poh put her chocolate cigar in the fridge even though the recipe said no to!!  In culinary school when I learned my chocolate skills, it took me three months to learn how to temper chocolate properly and had to do it to the point where I used my bottom lip to test for temperature, not a thermometer…it is by no means easy.  I think perhaps no one explained the point of tempering to them and thus she thought that chilling the chocolate would make it set better (or firmer) but the whole point of tempering is so that the chocolate sets at room temperature (with a beautiful shine and good snap when broken).

Then there are the controversies of on set romances and the young ones belonging to a “Kiddie Mafia”.  The headline that makes me laugh the most is that Poh “shockingly” posed nude for Austrlaian artist David Bromley!  For god’s sake, she’s an artist – it’s no big deal!  It is not as if she posed for some porn magazine!  And really, who cares?

I saw Poh on Saturday at Adelaide’s Central Market.  She was talking to some friends outside of T-Bar and I wanted to tell her good luck but then I realised that if she is already in Adelaide, then the finale was obviously taped a while ago and that she already knew who had won and I didn’t want it to be awkward.  Besides, I’m sure she wants to be left alone.  Or perhaps I didn’t feel like being rejected, like the time when I was on the same Qantas flight as Kylie Kwong and when I asked her if I can have a photo with her while waiting for our baggage, she said no…but she wished me a happy Chinese New Year…

Oh and for those of you who don’t live in Australia, Julie was the winner.

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I was meaning to write about my two month journey in the order that I traveled but if I do that, I’d never get anything written in this blog.  My lack of posting is due to a new job that has me in front of a computer screen all day and you know, I don’t want to get online as soon as I get home…

Jamie's restaurant

In September 2008, I spent some time in Oxford (a place close to my heart) to present a paper at the Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery (more on that later) and to visit some old friends.  I haven’t been to Oxford in two years and I noticed that a few new restaurants had popped up – one of which was Jamie Oliver’s Italian Restaurant simply called “Jamie’s Italian” on 24-26 George Street.  I can’t even remember what was there before (if you remember, email me please).  It is the first restaurant in a planned 20 restaurants completely backed by Jamie and his business partners (currently the other locations are Bath and Kingston).  The idea behind his Italian restaurants is to provide good, casual Italian food – similar to Antonio Carluccio’s successful chain through Britain called Carluccio’s.

The restaurant doesn’t take reservations but according to their website, if you are a group of 8 or more, they may accommodate you.  Luckily we arrived at around 2pm, which was after the lunch rush but we still had to wait a little while for a table.  The restaurant was buzzing with people and while we waited, I watched an employee making fresh pasta in front of the large window that faces the main street.  I was quite impressed that they made the pasta fresh, as needed.  We were seated in the back of the restaurant and because we were starving, it didn’t take us long to decide what to order but me and a friend were both agonizing whether to get the prawn linguini or truffle tagiatelle so we decided to split them.  The other thing that impressed me was their children’s menu.  Jamie is well-known for educating children to eat healthy, real food – no chicken nuggets and chips or hot dogs at this joint – the kid’s meals were basically smaller portions of adult pastas such as spaghetti bolognese served with free, all-you-can-drink cordial.  Kids even got crayons, stickers and a cool twirly fork to eat their spaghetti (which probably requires your child to be at least 4 or 5 yrs old to maneuver properly).  Our friend’s daughter is 3 and she was too young to understand the concept that if you run the fork between your thumb and forefinger, it will automatically twirl your pasta for you but it is a very cool concept if you are a kid!

Employee making pasta at front of restaurant

Employee making pasta at front of restaurant

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Pasta coming out of machine

We ordered a bruschetta and two bowls of gorgeous green olives which my friend’s daughter relished nearly all by herself.  We as a table ordered the pumpkin ravioli, sausage pappardelle, truffle tagiatelle, prawn linguini and a kid’s spaghetti bolognaise.  I loved the sausage pappardelle (very meaty, rich and satisfying) and the truffle tagiatelle was just simple buttery and truffle-y pasta – yum!  The bruschetta was a bit odd – toast was so hard that it sort of ripped the roof of our mouths.  I have a feeling that we ordered another starter but I cannot remember it – which means that it was not that great.  I would definitely stick to the fresh pastas and next time I go, I want to try some of the meats (which sounded very good).

Jamie's Menu

Menu

Bruschetta

Bruschetta

Kids Twirly Fork

Kid's Twirly Fork

Pumpkin

Pumpkin Ravioli

Prawn Pasta 2

Prawn Linguini

Spaghetti

Sausage Pappardelle

Kid's meal at Jamie's

Kid's Spaghetti Bolognaise meal at Jamie's

For a party of 4 adults and one child, the price of the meal wasn’t too bad – it was actually affordable by English standards but with our Australian dollar so weak at the moment, after I saw the currency conversion on our credit card statement, I nearly had a heart attack!

The only complaint I have is that the service was forgetful and although most of the tables around us were pretty empty, our young  20-something yr old server seemed to have friends eating at the table next to us and just kept chatting to them while we kept trying to get her attention.  The bad service should be no excuse especially since we started eating after the major lunch rush.  Perhaps it would have been more attentive if we sat in the lighter, airier at the front of the restaurant.

Overall, it was one of the best meals I had in my travels when considering value and quality.  We did eat at a couple of Michelin starred restaurants (more on that later too) but of course, the price was much higher and the food was often more complicated than I was in the mood for at times.  Jamie’s Italian is a good, casual place to eat that is also very child friendly without compromising on quality.

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