The Australian MasterChef UK co-host recounts tales of deep-fried omelettes and egg-stained notorieties ahead of this week’s Dubai Food Carnival appearance.
What can we see you doing at the Dubai Food Carnival this week?
You will be able to sit and watch me cook, I will show some of my signature dishes; recipes that I’ve created over my life time and that are personal to me. I grew up in Australia, so my food is influenced very much by the people who made Australia – a huge immigrant population, from Greeks and Italians, to Lebanese, to Vietnamese and Thai. My food is a melting pot, a fusion of those cuisines, but at the same time using good quality produce.
What signature dishes will you be preparing at the Carnival?
One dish is a Thai-inspired, deep-fried lobster omelette. It’s like an egg roll, but it’s sweet, crunchy and delicious all at the same time.
Is it an accessible dish for us to recreate at home?
With all food, I think everything starts with a basic idea and what I’ve done is continue to refine that idea. That is my job as a restaurateur. My job is to cook food that you don’t cook at home, but what I will do [at the Carnival], is give people an insight into how I do it.
So we can adapt these recipes at home?
Oh, yeah! Food is about evolution, not about staying with what it is. You take an idea, you cook it, and then you play with it. If you think about a great concert pianist, they will read the music, but they will put their own little nuances on it. And that’s what makes it brilliant. And food’s exactly the same.
What inspired your interest in cooking?
I’ve enjoyed food and cooking at home with my grandmother since I was a young kid. I just grew up with it. Some people like to go out and play rugby, I like to cook food.
You took over hosting MasterChef from Gary Rhodes in 2005, has the show evolved since then?
Masterchef, as we know it now, is nothing like Masterchef once was. The show now is about a group of people who have an ambition to change their lives. Masterchef of old was about people showing off how good they were at making chicken kiev.
Have many Masterchef contestants successfully made their name in the food world?
Yes, it goes without saying that the food world is now peppered with people who have come from Masterchef. It’s been a bit of a revolution and will continue to be so. The show has also stopped the world of a chef being thought of as an ill educated person, who could do nothing else. That has now changed. Food has changed. You have to be intelligent, different, exciting and creative.
Have TV programmes like Masterchef also been responsible for the cult of celebrity chefs, who are often revered like rock stars these days?
No, not at all. The TV programmes are what give people the ego to get themselves a PR, to put themselves on the front cover of a magazine. You won’t see me on the front cover of magazines, and you won’t see me in gossip columns, because I don’t have someone who puts that information out to the press. The only way you are in a gossip column, the only way you are a rock star, is if you make yourself a rock star.
See chef John at the Dubai Food Carnival’s chef’s dome on Friday February 21 from 2pm-2.30pm and 5.30pm-6.30pm, and Saturday 22 at 12.30pm-1pm and 4pm-5pm.
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