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MasterChef Australia – The Judges Talk About How They Got Into The Food Industry

masterchef judges 1In the latest addition of TV Week, the judges of MasterChef Australia talk about how they got into the food industry.

This is what they had to say:

Gary Mehigan:

What was your first job in the food industry?

I was a junior waiter in a local hotel on weekends. For about six months, I did everything from clearing plates to cleaning out the beer lines, before I was finally given the opportunity to move up to the roast potatoes and the vegetables on Sunday lunch – that was my big break!

After completing a college chef course, you worked at the Michelin-starred restaurant The Connaught in London. What was your first day like?

I remember it was this frenetic, busy, awe inspiring moment where I was completely lost. I came home from the first day of work with gnarly fingers and burnt forearms, thinking, “Oh, my God, amazing!” It has proved the biggest influence in my career.

Have you ever had a kitchen disaster?

At The Connaught, we had this classic dish whic was a loin of veal studded with truffles, then wrapped in puff pastry and baked. During the process, the meat was tied, then wrapped in puff pastry. I forgot to take the string off and wrapped it in the pastry – not just one, but five of them! A dear old lady had pushed all the string to the side of the plate and said that the veal seemed unusually chewy. I remember the chef bellowing out, “Monsieur Mehigan!” and my heart sank. We all make mistakes.

What do you like to cook at home for you wife Mandy and daughter Jenna?

Spaghetti and meatballs definitely has to be the most popular dish in our house. My daughter loves odd flavours like olives and salami, and she’ll eat oysters and mussels – but she still won’t eat her vegetables! I love the barbecue and I love a good old-fashioned roast chicken – things that are simple, nutritious and have soul.

George Calombaris:

What was your first job in the food industry?

While I was at high school, I worked part time as a kitchenhand in a little pasta restaurant on the weekends. Then I finished Year 12 and got my break – a hard four year apprenticeship. It was one of the best times of my life. I was Gary’s apprentice back then and I worked my rear end off.

What was Gary like as a boss?

Gary’s an outstanding cook, but he’s also a fantastic manager of people. He gave me a lot of people skills and taught me how to manage staff.

What was it that made you decide to become a chef?

I’ve always had that love for food and a desire to serve people and make them happy. I come from a big ethnic family and food is what we live for. I didn’t get to have a lego set as a little child, but I always had great food on the table; hence why I always wanted to be a chef.

You’re renowned for reinventing Greek food, but what do you like to cook at home?

I like to do things that I’m not that knowledgeable about and I love making my girlfriend things she wouldn’t expect from me. So I like to make my own little laksas and curries – for me, it’s a bit of down time. But we also love sitting in front of the TV with a big jar of baby gherkins! Add a big wedge of cheese and a glass of wine and I’m in heaven!

Have you ever had a kitchen disaster?

I think I pretty much know what’s nice and what isn’t – so, no, never!

Matt Preston:

You have one of the most envied jobs in the world. How did you land it?

I got into reviewing because a friend of mine, who was given a new magazine, had eaten at my house a few times and thought, “Oh, well, we’ll give him a try to do some writing about food.” It was pure luck. I had a column in a magazine in the UK for five years, and I’d also written for such esteemed titles as Supermarket News and Food Packaging.

Do you have an all-time favourite restaurant to dine at?

It depends on who I’m taking, on whether it’s lunch or dinner and on what I’ve had for breakfast, because we have so many amazing places to eat! I’ve spent so much time cruising around Australia and I’ve seen some absolute crackers. Noma in Copenhagen was the most amazing international experience in the last 12 months.

What about your worst dining experience?

One Bastille Day, I went to a very famous restaurant for a very famous chef, whose name I won’t mention, and we experienced one of those Fawlty Towers –type lunches where absolutely everything went wrong. But it’s remarkable how few terrible meals one has in reputable places.

And when you’re not eating out, what do you like to cook at home?

I love cooking pizza. I’ve got three young kids and they can do the dough and help me do all the toppings. I also make a lot of salads, I love making jam and I’ve developed a love of baking because it’s a crazy chemistry – putting that sludgy mess in the oven, then having it come out as this beautiful golden cake.


1 TDK { 07.10.09 at 5:27 pm }

That picture looks so funny.
Matt – what’s with the sad face?
Gary – your hair looks like Bart Simpson’s.
George – LOL, I’m sorry, against them two, you’re just really tiny.

2 sourkraut { 07.10.09 at 7:31 pm }

Basil fawlty chef at a french cafe. I knew i recognised monsewer jarq from somewhere.
gary what a larf you left the string in the dish. bit like someone leaving alfoil under the bone marrow eh, or like leaving a fish bone in?
Loves cooking pizza, that explains the number of times its appeared in one form or another.
Well well well do we have a mutual admiration society going here ?…yeah
Jar of baby gherkins and a wedge of cheese. HOW IMAGINATIVE superb culinary masterpiece ho ho

This explains a lot of things!

3 Injera { 07.10.09 at 7:53 pm }

Love this part of George’s interview:

Have you ever had a kitchen disaster?

I think I pretty much know what’s nice and what isn’t – so, no, never!

I’m assuming he’s being sarcastic. Or maybe he hasn’t heard of the indignities that befall those who display hubris.

4 Sooty { 07.10.09 at 9:11 pm }

It looks like George said to the others, Hey guys, the photographer wants us to imitate mournful bulldogs, and he’s left smirking like an elf. Or maybe he is an elf. Long live masterchef photo opportunities.

5 Wurstsemmel { 07.11.09 at 12:49 pm }

This looks like a culinary three amigos. Just waiting for them to put their hands on their hips, thrust out their crotches and go ‘hwwarrr’