Seven days of TV viewing
IT may be the city that never sleeps, but MasterChef Australia managed to shut down at least one local landmark during the show’s visit to New York City.
It wasn’t the Statue of Liberty or Wall Street but an institution close to the foodie show’s heart – Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem.
Sylvia’s specialises in soul food from America’s south. Since 1962, when Sylvia Wood stepped up from waitress to manager, it has become a mecca for locals, tourists and the celebrities whose photographs dot the walls.
It’s always a hive of activity, so closing it to diners for a while to film a MasterChef challenge was no mean feat.
MasterChef judge Matt Moran, who ran the elimination challenge, said the eatery closed for a day but reopened that night.
Amid the mayhem of the challenge, in which contestants turn their talents to dishes including southern fried chicken and black beans, the Aussie cooks discovered it’s all about the love.
‘‘ Sylvia, who put the restaurant on the map, was a waitress who ended up owning the place and is now known as the queen of soul food,’’ Moran says.
‘‘ She’s very old now, but her son and grand-daughter were there with us. They were generous and exacting and they love what they do.
‘‘ That’s very special. It was a lesson for contestants in that anyone in this industry that truly loves what they do obviously does a little bit better than the normal person.’’
The visit to Sylvia’s was part of a week-long assault on the culinary senses of ‘‘ MasterCheffers’’.
Moran says it left the first-time visitors gobsmacked.
‘‘ I’ve been to New York about half a dozen times and I have a lot of good chef friends living there, but to take the contestants was pretty mad,’’ he says.
‘‘ There is something like 28,000 restaurants in New York City. It’s just a ridiculous amount and there’s inspiration at every turn.
‘‘ Food-wise you have not only classic, traditional-based food but you also have that very creative end of it and the true high-end.
‘‘ For contestants, the week of challenges was jam-packed. But suddenly they’re all in Times Square and it’s a bit surreal.
‘‘ I don’t know how they pulled it off. In one challenge we finished at six in the morning.’’
Moran especially enjoyed a cooking class with the guy from Carnegie Deli, famous for serving up the biggest and best sandwiches in the world. Amid the many challenges, Moran found the time to sample the New York fare – especially casual dining.
‘‘ I kind of did the opposite to what I did when I was there last year, when I did all the fine dining,’’ he says.
‘‘ This time, I wanted to sample some of the more casual and homely types of food.’’
In the land where hamburger is king, he made sure he got his fill.
‘‘ The joke was that Matt Preston was eating hamburgers in between lunch and dinner everywhere, but I don’t know about the truth in that,’’ he says.
‘‘ I know it’s cliched and it’s become such a trend, but burgers are a food that you have to have in New York.
‘‘ They just do gourmet hamburgers really well.
‘‘ I had a phenomenal burger at ABC Kitchens with Japanese chillies and spice and God it was good.
‘‘ Over there they have a butcher guy that will do a blend of burger for you and you patent it. It becomes your burger, your brand, and he won’t tell anyone what the mix is.’’