Even before chef Manu Feildel established an on-screen career — appearing on Ready Steady Cook in 2005, winning Dancing With The Stars in 2011 and judging dishes on My Kitchen Rules — he had a culinary dream he wanted to turn into TV reality.
"I was thinking of following the path of Phileas Fogg," Feildel tells WHO of the adventurer at the heart of Jules Verne's 1873 novel Around the World in 80 Days who attempts to circumnavigate the globe on a $32,780 (AU) bet. "But now we have planes, so we can do it on a shorter time."
So on a modern $20,000 (AU) budget and with a limit of 30 days, Feildel experiences the food and cultures of London, Dubai, India, Hong Kong, Japan, and the United States in Around the World with Manu, starting Sunday, Oct. 9 at 7.30 PM on 7Two.
"The thing I looked for in every country was street food, real beautiful food," Feildel says. "I did cook with people in the slums in India. I worked in fine dining restaurants and sandwich shops, I went net fishing in England, I did tough jobs, and so on. Every episode, you're in a different country, different weather, and different food."
Through it all, Feildel recalls the pleasures of simple preparations the most, like ramen soup served at a tiny shop in Tokyo for which the chef has only one recipe and one dish on offer. "There's one guy making his own noodles," he says, "and you sit at the bar and just slurp those noodles and it's an explosion of flavour."
Adds Feildel, "People think that sometimes, to make food beautiful, it has to be complicated. It doesn't really have to."
As for the travel part itself, the stylish Feildel got to pare down his attire and walk around in anonymity. "Nobody knew who I was," Feildel says, "so I could just be myself and do whatever I wanted. I loved it. No suits — just cargo pants, a T-shirt and a backpack. Sometimes I wore the same shirt two days in a row."
The giddy Feildel enjoyed all aspects of the project, even travelling on a tight budget. "It was bloody tough," he concedes, "backpacks, economy flights, sleeping whenever I could on trains and so on. I'm not 20 years old anymore."
Even so, Feildel says, "It was the best thing I've ever done. I decided, if I could do this for the rest of time, I would."
To hear more from Manu, pick up this week's issue of WHO.