Seven days of TV viewing
CELEBRITY chef Jamie Oliver ambles in to the MasterChef
Australia kitchen, looking slightly scruffier than usual and jetlagged to the eyeballs.
It’s day five of his whirlwind tour of Australia earlier this year, and the pace is relentless.
In the past few days he’s visited his Ministry of Food project in Queensland, cooked with former premier Anna Bligh, and then headed for Sydney.
The previous night, he made his first visit to his Sydney restaurant, Jamie’s Italian, staying late into the night.
You wonder how he’s standing, let alone if he should be trusted with flames and sharp implements. But he’s as affable as ever. When
MasterChef contestants realise he is in the building, the kitchen erupts with a rock- star welcome.
Oliver’s lopsided grin switches to full beam as contestants are told three of them have the chance to cook against him. He looks slightly embarrassed when one of them almost faints.
Minutes later, as the challenge begins, it’s hard to believe Oliver is functioning on sod- all sleep.
He’s setting a cracking pace, talking all the while, guiding his challengers through the basics, before the clock starts ticking on the challenge proper.
The MasterChef challengers have a 15- minute head- start on preparing Oliver’s antipasti plank before Oliver starts work.
And once he does, it’s easy to spot the master among the apprentices – despite them having the help of MasterChef mentor and chef Matt Moran.
That said, with five minutes to go, when Oliver hasn’t got a single finished item on his antipasti plank, you wonder if he’s dozed off.
Whether it’s enough of a chink in the armour for the challengers to topple the master is revealed on Tuesday, with Oliver saying only that he wasn’t firing on all cylinders.
‘‘ The jetlag wasn’t too bad at that point but I was coming out of a bad cold,’’ Oliver confesses.
‘‘ I knew what I was doing. It probably didn’t look like it with five minutes to go, but I knew everything was coming together.’’
Oliver says he jumped at the chance to join the Australian version of the show but is still reeling from the welcome he got from contestants.
‘‘ I was completely humbled by it,’’ he says.
While celebrity is something he’s had to get used to, he never takes it for granted. ‘‘ I stay grounded,’’ he says. ‘‘ I still have the same friends I had 30 years ago, and nearly every weekend the whole family just escapes to our farmhouse in Essex and we close the door on the working week.’’
Viewers will see on Tuesday if disaster strikes Oliver in the
MasterChef kitchen. But even if it does, it probably won’t be as painful as what Oliver names as his greatest cooking tragedy.
‘‘ There’s a well- documented mishap involving Valentine’s Day and some scalding in an intimate place,’’ he says.
Suffice to say the man who made his name as The Naked Chef no longer cooks in the buff since cooking a romantic meal for wife Jools, opening the oven door and steaming more than the sea bass that was on the menu.
MASTERCHEF AUSTRALIA: JAMIE OLIVER CHALLENGE
TDT, Tuesday, 7pm
KITCHEN WHIZ: Jamie Oliver on MasterChef and with the judges.