As Masterchef celebrates 10 years on our TV screens, WHO got behind the scenes and exclusively spoke to celebrity chefs Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris about how much it means to them to see the success of the show.
WHO: We’re here doing the crew photo shoot. What does it mean to have these crew members recognised?
Gary: It’s special because I was asked a couple of weeks ago if I still enjoy going to film MasterChef, and I said I love it and one of the reasons I love it is the people. It’s such a positive workplace and we’re part of something successful. Whenever you’re part of something successful it’s always special. It doesn’t always last forever but we’ve done quite well, so a lot of our crew have been with us since the beginning. Certainly, the people we’re photographing today are pretty special because they’ve been part of the team for so long.
WHO: What do their jobs entail?
George: For someone like Gary and I who have spent our lives in restaurants and the whole mechanics of a restaurant – that’s very similar to this, obviously different. But without those pieces of the puzzle, nothing works.
Gary: Leigh our dishwasher, we’ve been championing him for a number of years. People have always asked what happens to all the dishes? There is a whole team that comes in and sweeps through and make it look like a perfect set in minutes, but all that washing up ends up out the back and somebody has got to do it.
We’ve got Sandy as well and she heads the food team. She has a television background but is just nuts about food. I think she well eventually open her own hospitality business, she’s been dreaming of it for years, but it’s an integral part of the mechanics of making the whole thing – the food show. It’s a food show and it has to have a food team, they vet recipes and coordinate loads.
WHO: You’ve done 10 seasons, what does it mean to have so many people that keep coming back and working here?
Gary: Do you remember the days when we would do Masterclass and have to come in at ungodly hours like 5am and prep and do everything ourselves because no one had a clue what we were talking about because essentially it was all people from television and we were the chefs and restauranteurs. That’s all changed quite a long time ago now, but the pleasure of having a food team that can translate your ideas like you would in your restaurant with a head chef and your team, and then it all miraculously appears.
George: The genius of MasterChef is the culture. The culture is everything, in any great business or restaurant there is a certain culture that you can’t write up on walls or have in a manual, it’s within the DNA of this place, and that’s happened over the years that we’ve been here.
Gary: There are other people involved in this mammoth production. The pleasure is having people who are bloody good at what they do.
WHO: What have you banned?
Gary: Well this year it was deconstruction.
George: Smears at one point were banned. I hear it, foams and gels, if it’s done correctly and in the right manner, its ok. Food is this evolution and I hope to god it will never ever stop evolving. That’s what makes our industry so beautiful.
Gary: As food trends change and move on, you take the best of the trend and it becomes part of the [wave his hands in the air]
WHO: What are you seeing this season?
George: Made from scratch. We’ve seen stuff like kataifi pastry made from scratch, spring roll pastry, filo pastry, Persian fairy floss – made from scratch.
Gary: Even we hadn’t seen that before. I’d never seen kataifi pastry being made outside of a factory, and I’ve never seen Persian fairy floss being made. It’s cool.
WHO: Favourite meals to taste?
Gary: Everyone thinks mine are desserts, but funnily enough it’s not. I think it’s just because I don’t eat many desserts outside the MasterChef kitchen, if I go to a restaurant I don’t have dessert, I get cheese. So presented with something delicious I will have a spoonful and treat myself, so the MasterChef kitchen is my sweet treat so I can have a twinkle in my eye.
We had two dishes the other day at an offsite challenge and one of them was just beautifully cooked, and was a new way of presenting and was just jam-packed with flavour and that was an utter pleasure to eat. The other dish was just new and different and I hadn’t seen on any menu and it was just clever.
I tend to also like things that are just made very well.
George: Anything that tastes good. I’m a sucker for anything that tastes good, and you know what, we’ve had some moments this series where dishes haven’t been up to scratch, and we haven’t been afraid to tell them. This year having Gordon on, if it’s ain’t good, we tell them and we’re honest with them. Food doesn’t lie, and we’re pretty good at looking at something and going you know what, you know.
Gary: Gordon was interesting.
George: I enjoyed it he’s a dynamo and he loves MasterChef Australia and praised the fact that it’s the best MasterChef in the world. This is a guy that there might be things that I don’t agree with him on, but in terms of a chef, he’s top of his game for a long time. It’s another little coup for MasterChef Australia.
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