I was a guest of Tourism Victoria at the event
Masterchef Australia is probably the only reality show on TV that I try to catch.
Of course the show is about food but there is a lot more to it. It is shot so well, the food looks so glorious, there is a general sense of warmth and bonhomie around the show that is quite endearing. A big part of what the show is about is of course the judges...Gary, George, Matt...they've all become household names for those who watch the show. There is something about them that is quite appealing. They seem to come across as being so benevolent. The sort of teachers in school who wanted you to learn, do better in life and yet tried to help you in a manner which was kind and anything but acrimonious. They seem so gracious even while critiquing. More real than theatrical. Definitely not mean. Shorn of the drama that seems to be a scourge of most TV reality shows from across the world.
A few days back I had a chance to meet one of my favourite judges from the show, Gary Mehigan when he was in town. The last couple of years has seen quite a few visits from the Masterchef Australia folks to India, specially to Mumbai. They are obviously aware of how popular the franchise is here.
Gary was at an event organised by Victoria Tourism at the Grand Hyatt in Kalina. Melbourne is the capital of Victoria. A beautiful city which I visited a couple of years back when I had gone to present at the Esomar Asia pacific Congress. Melbourne is a city I fell in love with very quickly and I am especially fond of it as our paper won the best paper award in the Congress there. I had spent a lovely four nights or so eating in and discovering Melbourne. It is one of the most most beautiful cities that I have been to. Loved the food there. One has to seek out the good food but that’s really part of the fun. I find Melbourne more intense while Sydney, in comparison, is more ‘out there’.
You could read my earlier Melbourne posts here.
Gary held a cooking demo for the media in the morning at the Hyatt which I missed due to some confusion about the time on the invites from the agency. Luckily I turned up in time for lunch.
I did get to meet Gary during the lunch. He turned out to be exactly as affable and warm in real life as he seems on TV . Despite the long flight and his many engagements he did manage to bring out his 'A game' effortlessly as Aneesha Baig, whom I caught up with there, pointed out. Gary was setting out to shoot with her after the lunch and was quite excited about exploring to food of Mumbai.
The food turned out to be really amazing. It was designed by Gary who gave the recipes and one of his chefs from Australia worked with the local crew of the Hyatt to put it together. The entree of bruschetta with goat curd and soft boiled eggs & asparagus, the mains of roast chicken with crackling (Gary's twitter handle is @crispycrackling) & pumpkin purée and dessert of a delectable mousse, brownie and sorbet were everything that Masterchef Australia talks about. Great food, beautifully plated, a perfect balance of contrasting flavours and textures. Filling and yet not filling you up. It was as if the food from the TV screens had come on to our plates.
The conversation at the table was lovely as I shared the table with Aneesha, with whom it's always great to catch up and Australiaphyles and a very sweet couple, Divya Palat and Aditya Hitkari, with Gary joining us at the table for a short bit.
A PR person at the event, on hearing that I am a food blogger, said 'wow, that's great, you must be getting so many free meals'.
Well the time and cost of travel spent to promote events for their clients, the expectation of a post after the event, 'I will send you pictures', hardly makes it 'free'. Though I must say that it’s not just the PR person who sais this. There are others too who associate food blogging with ‘free meals’. Like I say, I wish I had discovered this when I was in college. Of course the internet barely existed then!
My yardstick for attending events is whether there is something really interesting there, like meeting Gary this time. The other criteria that I look at is how far does one have to travel. Very few events happen in Bandra. I heard that in Bangalore they organise transport for people invited to events. This makes so much sense in Mumbai. Specially for drink do’s where you can’t drive. PR folks here should consider providing transport to have a better hit rate with bloggers at events.
Still, meeting someone whom you admire, the great company and conversation, the wonderful food, made this all in all a lovely afternoon.
Incidentally on hearing that I am a food blogger, Gary said, ‘You must tell me about the good local places to eat in here’.
Talking of food and blogging here is an interview of mine on the same in the Gourmet Table site