Get­ting into the in­ti­mate nitty gritty of politi­cians’ kitchens gives Kitchen Cabi­net view­ers some­times sur­pris­ing in­sights into what makes our pub­lic fig­ures tick, says the show’s host Annabel Crabb

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - TV - SHAN­NON MOLLOY

You can tell a lot about some­one by how they pre­pare a meal, Annabel Crabb reck­ons. It’s es­pe­cially true of politi­cians. For ex­am­ple, when she ar­rived at For­eign Min­is­ter Julie Bishop’s apart­ment to film an episode of the hit ABC se­ries Kitchen Cabi­net, she found per­fectly chopped and diced in­gre­di­ents neatly dis­played in in­di­vid­ual bowls upon a pris­tine counter.

“By con­trast, (former Trea­surer) Joe Hockey was un­able to lo­cate the knife drawer in his kitchen,” she says. And then there was un­pre­dictable bil­lion­aire­turned-politi­cian Clive Palmer, who al­most set her on fire with a spray can of oil.

“I didn’t see that com­ing. But that’s the beauty of this show – we al­ways end up on an ad­ven­ture.”

Now in its fifth sea­son, Kitchen Cabi­net – the hit part cook­ing, part in­ter­view show – sees a new crop of the most fas­ci­nat­ing fig­ures in Par­lia­ment al­low Crabb into their homes for an in­ti­mate meal they’ve pre­pared.

And whether or not they can cook doesn’t mat­ter too much, she has learnt.

“It’s more about the ex­change and the con­ver­sa­tion – that’s the in­ter­est­ing part. It’s us­ing food, what­ever it might be, as a ve­hi­cle for a re­ally fas­ci­nat­ing chat.”

When she first ar­rived in Can­berra in 1999 as a po­lit­i­cal reporter for the Ade­laide Ad­ver­tiser, Crabb was struck by how nor­mal elected of­fi­cials were off the record.

Run­ning into a min­is­ter and grab­bing a cof­fee, or sit­ting down for a long lunch or quiet din­ner with some party power­bro­ker or ris­ing star, would in most cases give an im­pres­sion of a re­laxed, hon­est and even ad­mirable per­son.

But the mo­ment the cam­eras or recorders flicked back on, most of them re­turned to be­ing “card­board cut-outs of them­selves”, Crabb says.

It’s hardly sur­pris­ing, given the 24-hour me­dia cy­cle and the enor­mous pres­sure that comes with it. Not even the most pol­ished of per­form­ers is im­mune to the odd head­line- grab­bing gaffe. “It’s why all of them, from ju­nior to se­nior politi­cians, tend to de­velop a short­hand, whether it’s a three-word slo­gan or the of­fi­cial party line.

“Then peo­ple at home switch on the TV and see five peo­ple form the same party par­rot­ing the same thing ... and so you can’t blame them for hav­ing a pretty sim­ple view of pol­i­tics.”

It’s why the ex­pe­ri­ence she’s had of politi­cians – see­ing them off duty – is a rare thing.

“In my ex­pe­ri­ence, they’re far bet­ter mo­ti­vated and nicer peo­ple than is widely be­lieved.”

So when th­ese al­most ro­botic fig­ures ap­pear on tele­vi­sion, chop­ping and dic­ing, talk­ing can­didly about their lives, be­liefs and hopes, open­ing up about their weak­nesses, and giv­ing a sneak peek of the in­ti­mate spa­ces that are their pri­vate homes, it can be al­most shock­ing.

Crabb says the most com­mon feed­back of her show is one of sur­prise that a pol­lie they might’ve de­spised was ac­tu­ally quite like­able. “And re­lat­able,” she adds. “Peo­ple are sur­prised they can re­late to a politi­cian. I find that sad be­cause they’re all peo­ple with vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties and per­sonal sto­ries, just like us.”

Among the high­lights of this up­com­ing sea­son is the episode with new Trea­surer Scott Mor­ri­son – per­haps one of the most po­lar­is­ing and di­vid­ing fig­ures in pol­i­tics.

“He has quite a sense of hu­mour, which I don’t think many peo­ple re­alise,” she says.

“And his child­hood is fas­ci­nat­ing. He grew up in a re­ally Chris­tian house­hold but also did lots of theatre. He was quite the ta­lented child ac­tor. In fact, he was in all th­ese TV com­mer­cials as a kid.”

Crabb was equally sur­prised by her meal with ac­ci­den­tal Sen­a­tor Ricky Muir.

“He came to the Par­lia­ment with a very heavy prej­u­dice against him … I reckon that he’s kind of turned out to not be a bad sen­a­tor, re­ally. He takes the job very se­ri­ously, he’s a very moral per­son and he works hard.

“I was re­ally im­pressed by him. And we fin­ished up do­ing some fun burnouts in a car, so that was in­ter­est­ing.”

Annabel Crabb un­rav­els some in­ter­est­ing recipes with politi­cians in the ABC show

Kitchen Cabi­net.

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