The tête-à-tête session at UB City, sponsored by Britannia Good Day Chunkies, began with the customary “I love you, India”, but soon enough, they settled themselves in front of the arclights, talking nineteen to a dozen, as we watched raptured. Gary Mehigan seemed to be in his elements: laughing and joking and leaving no stone unturned to take friendly potshots at his Masterchef Australia co-judges Matt Preston and George Calombaris. He told us about the 30-odd pairs of sports shoes that George owns and shared the secret of Matt’s 40-year-old red speedo that he loves as if it were his second skin! Matt, on the other hand, got back by making Gary wear his jacket, which, not surprisingly fell till his knees, along with his blue silk cravat which was just one of his massive collection of 400!! Did you know that Matt initially started naming his cravats after women he…well…liked! But now, he complains, his cravats have far outnumbered the women he ever knew!
Gary again has a different story with women. At 14, he called over a few girls for a party and for the same event helped his grandpa make a dish of Chicken with Tarragon. But it turned out so ridiculously good that for the next two days it was the chicken and not the girls who occupied his mindspace. This was also the time he realised that food may be his true calling.
We also got a chance to hear a MasterChef recipe when Matt divulged his favourite peanut butter recipe with just 3 ingredients! (yes, three!) and Gary showed his love for the chocolate chip cookies Chunkies by throwing the packs into the audience!
Listening to these three stalwarts rattle away with the gorgeous host of the evening, Maria Goretti, I couldn’t help but feel dwarfed (and as Gary confirmed later in the evening that George and he too feel dwarfed in presence of Matt, completely figuratively though!) Asked on what Gary would do if he woke up as Matt one day, he said, he’ll “SEE things, this time from a whole new perspective!” George was the quietest of the lot but that didn’t stop him from going “Boom Boom, Shake the Room”!! He also said that he doesn’t HATE chillies, they just make him sweat.
Maria reminded that between the 3 of them they had 16 cookbooks, but even then these Masterchefs believe that their wives are bigger fans of their co-judges. Gary laments that his wife calls him up and says, “Matt’s tart is in the oven but it’s not setting” and Matt scorns that his wife always prefers to follow George’s flatbread recipe over his. “It’s insane, because mine has just two ingredients while George’s has..what… 700?!”
But even in the midst of all this banter and laughter, they didn’t fail to make one very clear point: There is no substitute to hard work. “When a talented contestant leaves the Masterchef kitchen and we feel bad about it, we remind ourselves, ‘Why have we been working so hard for the last 30 years? We had no lure of a cookbook, or a quarter of a million dollars, or even a masterchef title, but we did work hard,” says Gary, this time on a serious note. Love for your art and dedication to it is all that matters.
Well, we can’t help but agree with them. True that not all of us who watch their show have ended up in professional kitchens, true that not all of us have the tenacity of making a 3-course meal in 60 minutes akin the Masterchef contestants, true that not all of us have mastered the art of tempering chocolate or making the perfect risotto, but each one of us, somewhere or the other, have been inspired by these 3 men. Many of our dishes are inspired by theirs, many flavour balances prompted by their suggestions and many of us, I’m sure, at times pretend they’re cooking for them. And I think there in lies the stupendous success of Matt, Gary and George and their battalion of soldiers.