Matt Moran and Maggie Beer tune up their taste buds for a tempting Bake Off
IT takes a lot to lure famed Australian cook, food author and restaurateur Maggie Beer out of her beloved Barossa Valley bolthole.
When she stepped down from her cooking show The
Cook and the Chef in 2009, Beer, 70, thought she was done with TV.
Occasionally she could be enticed into an appearance on MasterChef. Last year, celebrity chef Matt Moran took his show to Beer for an episode of Paddock to Plate.
So when producers of the rejuvenated Great Australian
Bake Off (GABO) wanted Beer to judge alongside Moran, they lay their trail of crumbs carefully.
“I resisted for a long time. I don’t like leaving the Valley,” Beer confesses.
“The big carrot they put in front of me was that they would support my foundation [The Maggie Beer Foundation] – which is trying to change the food in aged care across Australia. The other thing is, I like to learn. If you stop learning you stop living. And I like to laugh.”
Fast-forward to the set of GABO and the vibrant veteran cook is doing both as she enthuses over recipes, coos over contestants and gives old friend Moran as good as she gets – despite a blush of embarrassment reaching her cheeks when she realises he has shared a story of how her straightdown-the line reaction during a taste test of the famous English pudding named Spotted Dick left the crew convulsed in laughter.
“We laugh so much on this set,” Beer says. “The contestants are lovely, the team is great and Matt is such a gentleman. He’s all rough on the edges, but underneath he’s a big pussycat. And [hosts and comedians] Mel [Buttle] and Claire [Hooper] are just crackers.”
But this is no mutual admiration society – Beer the instinctive cook and Moran the technical chef happily pit their food credentials against the other, and revel in their differences.
Moran claims “baking cred” because he trained as a pastry chef and his first business was selling cakes and tarts to a delicatessen.
“She could cook a better tasting scone, she does it by feel and instinct,” he readily concedes, then, searching for the win adds “but I’d decorate it better”.
“I’m more technical. There was a moment a week ago that I turned to her and said: ‘Maggie, I’m really sorry but I have to disagree’, and the minute it came out my mouth I thought: ‘I’m going to get hate mail, because I’m arguing with Maggie Beer’.”
Beer, who prides herself on being described as a cook “because I was never taught, I cook instinctively”, laughs off the compliment, and the dissent.
“I’m rustic and I’m rough around the edges and I’m driven by flavour and texture and feel, she laughs.
“Of course, I don’t have technique – you should see my knife-work it’s bloody awful. And I’m a messy cook. It drives Matt nuts.”
In a world where audiences are drowning in food-based reality television, the pair believes GABO will work – and work well in its new home.
As Beer says, “what is a food show is now on a food channel”.
Moran says the feel-good, back-to-basics approach which is “more true to the UK version” means someone is eliminated, they’re gone, there’s no dramatic build-up, no dramatic back story.
And he says GABO has one massive, vital ingredient: “Maggie. She just resonates with people.”
Ready, set, bake: TheGreatAustralianBakeOff’s Matt Moran and Maggie Beer.