MasterChef Australia judge and celebrity chef Gary Mehigan is looking forward to his first visit to South Africa next month.
He reveals that he is busy researching fish found in South African waters to use when he cooks at the upcoming Johannesburg Good Food & Wine Show which takes place at the Coca Cola Dome from September 21 to 24.
MasterChef Australia has, he admits, changed his life. Five years in and nine series later, Gary, Matt and George have become household names around the world. He’ll be appearing at the show with surfer, TV presenter and blogger Hayden Quinn from MasterChef Australia Series 3 and Great British Bake-Off judge Paul Hollywood.
Gary answers some questions:
What do you look for in MasterChef?
Contestants have to have a sparkle. When we do auditions every year it’s almost like I’m employing my own staff. I’m looking for someone who has a story, a dream and they really need to want to be in food. That’s the priority.
What is it about Australia that produces such cooking talent?
We travel a lot and we live our travels vicariously through food. Australia is multi-cultural and has many different nationalities through waves of immigration and they all brought something. There were periods in time where it was very difficult for them to assimilate or acclimatise to the environment. What has happened now is that we really enjoy the human similarities through food and we all love very similar things. You can enjoy an English-style pie on a Monday, Greek on a Tuesday, Sudanese on a Wednesday and Lebanese on a Thursday. It covers the whole gamut and that is part of the global interest in food.
How do you balance TV with running your restaurants?
I have very good staff. At the start I thought it would be three months out of my life but we got caught up in this crazy whirlwind that is MasterChef. It’s a double edged sword, but certainly by doing the show has helped me have great experiences and I wouldn’t change it for everything.
There’s a global shift towards a better understanding of where our food comes from.