Seven days of TV view­ing

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page - DEB­BIE SCHIPP

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.

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