Celebrity chef Matt Moran on why Paddock to Plate is his personal TV tucker triumph
CHEF Matt Moran is sitting at a rickety old wooden table for six, with mismatched wooden and plastic chairs, on a chilly winter’s night in a former shearers quarters at his dad’s farm a half-hour’s drive from Bathurst.
On the table are the remains of a tasty block of pre-dinner cheddar, random crockery, freshly-grilled lamb chops, simple salads and sauces, and a bowl bulging with potatoes roasted in duck fat. The industrial heaters haven’t turned up, so an oil heater is doing overtime taking the chill out of the room.
Moran is mid-sentence, telling how his new cooking show, Paddock to Plate, might just be his best culinary creation yet, when he remembers the truffle.
A couple of weeks before, during filming of his Foxtel cooking series, Moran and his team unearthed the prized culinary fungus the size of a small fist, and have been transporting the ingredient equivalent of black gold with them ever since.
Someone’s dispatched to the kitchen to retrieve it from the freezer.
Weighing in at 110g, it would cost about $220 and the tiniest sliver of truffle can elevate a simple dish to dizzying new heights.
Moran calmly picks up a knife and begins shaving it on to the potatoes. As the potatoes are passed around in their chipped dish, the heady aroma fills the room.
If ever there was a lesson in the difference between fine dining and dining at its finest this is it. It’s a moment that encapsulates why Paddock to Plate is the show Moran dreamed of making – celebrating everything he knows, loves and is still to learn about food.
After more than 20 years carving out a career as one of Australia’s finest chefs, Moran’s show, launched last week, shares what he now loves most – showcasing simple ingredients, which demand no fancy food foams, at their best.
In last week’s debut episode Moran milked a salmon for its roe.
This week, he heads to Victoria’s High Country where he meets some fearsome characters – and that doesn’t just apply to the bees he’s allergic to as he gathers honey.
In the small town of Bright, Moran is laughingly put in his place by Italian chef Patrizia Simone when he is too lighton with the salt as he helps prepare her famous salami.
It’s moments like this Moran has treasured on his Paddock to Plate journey – his first television venture since stepping down as MasterChef Australia’s “fourth judge” last year.
“For me this is my love now, it’s my passion. That’s why I’m not doing reality TV,” he says.
“All those shows have their place for me, but I care too much about food and what I do and the people that produce it and I want their stories to be told. It’s me. We are going out and meeting unique people with a story to tell, and we are cooking where we find it.
“I’ve got a different knowledge of food. I’m not reinventing the wheel when it comes to the show, but I’m putting my spin and belief in it. And whatever I’m finding, I’m letting the produce speak for itself.”
Moran might be liberally sharing the truffles on this night – a high-end touch to a simple offering – but is adamant Paddock to Plate might surprise because of its simple approach to produce. “This is where it might shock a lot of people, because I think people know me as that fine dining chef,” he says.
“I’m using beautiful produce and just letting it speak. It’s just reinforcing to people that you can cook something simple and it can still be a work of art or easy.”
Of course, Moran dreams of the show being a hit, but you get the impression even if it’s not, the chef has marked off a personal milestone.
“I was contemplating what was happening in MasterChef (in 2012), when the idea for this came up,” he says.
“I loved it because I wanted to cook on a show – and this enables me to do four or five cooks on an episode – and I wanted to connect with other passionate nutters out there that care about food like me.
“It’s made me fall in love with food afresh.
“And sharing that with as many people as possible – making it accessible to them is what is now driving me.”
PADDOCK TO PLATE WEDNESDAY, 7.30PM, LIFESTYLE
Full plate: Paddockto
Plate host Matt Moran.