The judges get a cul­ture shock when they take nine con­tes­tants to Japan for a much-needed mas­ter­class, writes COLIN VICK­ERY

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - TV GUIDE -

JAPAN is not all karaoke bars and cherry blos­soms, as the lucky con­tes­tants left in

found out. The an­cient cui­sine makes for a fas­ci­nat­ing week of cook­ing and post­card tele­vi­sion even the show’s judges found in­ter­est­ing.

Matt Pre­ston had only vis­ited Japan once be­fore this trip - and that was 15 years ago.

Gary Me­hi­gan made his first visit a year back, while Ge­orge Calom­baris had never been be­fore now.

But as Pre­ston says, the nine con­tes­tants who jet­ted to Japan got a much-needed mas­ter­class in at­ten­tion to de­tail.

“Depth, pre­ci­sion and ob­ses­sion un­der­pins so much Ja­panese cui­sine. No mat­ter what you think you know,” he says, “you know noth­ing.”

“You don’t go to a restau­rant and have tem­pura and yak­i­tori and sashimi. You go to a tem­pura restau­rant, a yak­i­tori restau­rant, a sashimi restau­rant – it is very spe­cific. The chefs that run them are mas­ters.”

The week starts with a mys­tery box chal­lenge in front of Tokyo’s 1400-yearold Senso-ji Tem­ple; while con­tes­tants also cook at a lo­cal Yoko­cho - an al­ley packed with street stalls, which feed thou­sands of Ja­panese lo­cals each day.

“Around ev­ery cor­ner and down ev­ery lane way, there is some­thing ex­cit­ing,” Pre­ston en­thuses.

“You can go into a place that looks a bit neon and plas­tic and you might have the best yak­i­tori you’ve ever tasted. That is ex­cit­ing.”

Me­hi­gan hol­i­dayed in Japan with wife Mandy and daugh­ter Jenna a year ago and ad­mits he suf­fered cul­ture shock.

“A lot of the top res­tau­rants are 10-seaters and 12-seaters and im­pos­si­ble to get into,” Me­hi­gan says.

“You al­most need some­one who is a reg­u­lar cus­tomer to give you a ref­er­ence or re­fer­ral to get in.

“For­tu­nately there was so much good food ev­ery­where you could sort of mud­dle your way through.

“Sur­pris­ingly, there are a lot of great cof­fee shops in Japan and bril­liant pas­try shops – they are ob­sessed with French pas­try.”


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