Seven days of TV view­ing

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page -

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.’’

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