THE BIG ASK MAEVE O’MARA Food Safari
First or fondest food memory?’ From about the age of three, I remember my dad making Christmas cakes and the house filling with the heavenly smells of baking and warm spice. This year I’m using his recipe to make the same cakes with my three children. Which is the episode you enjoyed doing most and why? That’s like being asked to choose your favourite child. Each episode is vibrant and colourful and filled with people who are incredibly proud of what they do— happy to have a starving TV crew into their homes to show us how it’s done. That said, the African episode was amazing and I was surprised at how delicious and varied the food was. How long does it take to do each episode? Quite a few weeks’ research to get the right people, dishes and places to film, an intense week to film and a few weeks of post-production. How much of the year does it fill and what do you do when you’re not filming? This series has taken us six months and when I’m not filming I design and run food adventures for my company, Gourmet Safaris, which includes all the things I adore doing — travelling, eating and exploring. What kind of feedback do you get on the street and on your website? It’s intriguing. Our show seems to be the water-cooler runaway success story. People say they love it because it’s about real people and authentic food and they tell their friends to watch it. Some people tell us they unplug their phone when it’s on. So many people seem to have seen it and adore it— even my children’s friends in the schoolyard, and they’re a tough audience to crack. What’s the aim of the show— what do you want people to get out of it? Food Safari aims to demystify cuisines— like a food-savvy friend taking you and showing you key ingredients and a few special dishes with extra tips on how to eat or at least look as if you know what you’re doing. We hope people will appreciate the foods of people of many cultures around them, try something different in a restaurant or to cook at home. It’s not just for cooks— you end up meeting wonderful characters on our show. What do you cook most often at home? I’m not just saying this, but I’m always cooking from Food Safari. The recipes are so easy. My children often cook things, too. My 11-yearold daughter, Kitty, is an expert at spanakopita from the Greek episode. How would you define Australian cuisine? A sum of many delicious parts and evolving beautifully. Very few places in the world offer the variety of cuisines Australia does. We are blessed. In one generation, our national dish has morphed from roast leg of lamb to spaghetti bolognaise. It will be great to see where we go now. Is there anything you won’t eat? I noticed you struggled with some of the barbecue meats in the South American episode. That was a challenge . . . such a cutesounding name too— chinchulines. Yes, some offal is not among my top 10 tastes in the world. And though I love to try snack foods across many cuisines, I can’t say I ever eat from the big fast-food chains. Amal Malouf (Melbourne’s Arabesque restaurant), who is in our Syrian episode, explains it well. Why waste calories on the less than great— splurge them on things you really want to eat. I like her thinking.