Back to ba­sics

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page - DEB­BIE SCHIPP MASTERCHEF AUSTRALIA TDT, tonight 7.30, then Mon­day- Fri­day 7pm


IT’S the down­fall of many a home cook.

It’s your old faith­ful recipe, ev­ery­thing’s bub­bling away nicely, and the guests are due to ar­rive in half an hour.

You splash in a bit more se­cret in­gre­di­ent and turn up the heat, imag­in­ing if it tastes good now, amp­ing it up will el­e­vate it to some­thing truly won­der­ful.

Some­times it works. Some­times it’s ru­ined by be­ing over­cooked.

For some, that’s what hap­pened with Masterchef Australia last year as it veered a lit­tle too far from its fa­mil­iar recipe – too much drama, overblown chal­lenges, nearim­pos­si­ble recipes.

With sea­son four start­ing tonight, Masterchef judge Matt Pre­ston is adamant the show is back to ba­sics.

The mys­tery box chal­lenges are back on Sun­day nights, the kitchen bat­tles are the cen­tre of the drama, the dishes are less ex­trav­a­gant.

‘‘ The hard part was work­ing out which are the right bits to change,’’ says Pre­ston, who judges along­side chefs Gary Me­hi­gan and Ge­orge Calom­baris.

‘‘ Last year we did a fair bit of off- site stuff on the Sun­day show, but by do­ing that we lost the ‘ play- along- at- home’ el­e­ment that is so loved with the mys­tery box chal­lenges and in­ven­tion tests.

‘‘ So we’re go­ing back to that whole ‘ what am I go­ing to do with a jar of Vegemite and a lan­gous­tine’ thing.’’

Of crit­i­cisms that Masterchef was too high on drama and short on real food last sea­son, Pre­ston is philo­soph­i­cal.

‘‘ TV peo­ple love to throw a curve ball. You know: ‘ There’s not enough drama, let’s let loose a buf­falo half­way through the chal­lenge’,’’ he says.

‘‘ Re­ally, cook­ing in a strange kitchen with TV cam­eras is enough.

‘‘ It’s like cook­ing for your boss and your po­ten­tial mother- in- law and some celebri­ties all at the same time – the drama that you get out of that is in the cook­ing and that’s the key.’’

Of last year’s final straw for many view­ers – a split event that drew the fi­nale out over sev­eral hours – Pre­ston is cir­cum­spect.

‘‘ We took last year’s crit­i­cisms on board. You’d have to ask Chan­nel Ten, but there was such a loud out­cry about that I’d think that they won’t do that again.’’

Masterchef, like most re­al­ity shows of its ilk, is big on the word ‘‘ jour­ney’’, and for Pre­ston, it’s been quite a ride since the food writer first signed on in 2009.

Cer­tainly, he didn’t set out to be a tele­vi­sion star.

‘‘ I want to go back to writ­ing,’’ he blurts out, then laughs.

‘‘ I like writ­ing, I do. I rather liked do­ing my job.

‘‘ I didn’t come into this from a job do­ing dishes. I came from a job trav­el­ling around the world and Australia drink­ing and eat­ing. My life was pretty good.’’

He didn’t imag­ine what the role could lead to.

‘‘ It’s been amaz­ing. It does al­low you to do stuff that scares you and is out of your com­fort zone. I’ve even ended up do­ing some film­ing on an ABC drama called Low­down, which was ter­ri­fy­ing and fan­tas­tic.’’

Pre­ston says the best dish he has got out of Masterchef is his friend­ship with Me­hi­gan and Calom­baris.

‘‘ Tele­vi­sion can be long and tedious to make, so it’s no fun do­ing it with­out a cou­ple of guys that you love and re­spect,’’ he says.

‘‘ Ge­orge and Gary and I are food nerds. Imag­ine be­ing one of those guys that col­lects train num­bers and you’re sud­denly cast in a se­ries about trainspot­ting – it’s like ‘ re­ally, you want to do a show on that? Yes please.’ That’s what Masterchef is like for us.

‘‘ My wife rolls her eyes at me and says, ‘ It’s not all about food, you know?’ ’’

‘‘ I tell her: ‘ But it can be’. In my sad lit­tle trainspot­ter world it can be.’’

BACK TO BA­SICS: Gary Me­hi­gan, Matt Pre­ston and Ge­orge Calom­baris.

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