Wealth of cul­tures in culi­nary abun­dance

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv - Ian Cuth­bert­son

FOR some years now, our tele­vi­sions have been slowly mor­ph­ing into gi­ant elec­tronic cook­books. Es­pe­cially if view­ers ex­pand their hori­zons to pay TV, where there are more cook­ing shows than you can poke a soaked ke­bab stick at, with at least one ded­i­cated chan­nel, LifeStyle Food, show­ing noth­ing but. Those with hum­bler TV ap­petites are hardly left to starve on free- to- air TV.

I must ad­mit at the out­set I al­ways pre­fer the softly- softly, mod­er­ately ed­u­ca­tional ve­hi­cles, such as Nigella Law­son’s var­i­ous se­ries, the ABC’s The Cook and the Chef and Maeve O’Meara’s Food Sa­fari to the scald and im­mo­late approach of pro­grams such as Gor­don Ram­say’s Hell’s Kitchen.

In fact, I don’t care at all to see con­tes­tants’ as­pi­ra­tions tossed down the sink hole for the vi­car­i­ous and vi­cious grat­i­fi­ca­tion of view­ers.

So give me Maeve over Gor­don any time. If O’Meara errs in this beau­ti­fully shot, se­dately paced show about the abun­dant va­ri­eties of lo­cal cui­sine, it’s in her slightly bland ex­pres­sions:

that’s a lovely colour’’; that’s a taste sen­sa­tion’’. Com­pared with the reg­u­lar bawl­ing out of hope­ful chefs, I can live with that.

The idea of Food Sa­fari is to ex­plore the wealth of cul­tures and cuisines thriv­ing in Aus­tralia, to de­liver a culi­nary travelogue with­out leav­ing home.

While there is a good deal of prepa­ra­tion and cook­ing tech­nique on dis­play, from which most of us who as­pire to cook can learn some­thing, the em­pha­sis is not as much on help­ing you to pre­pare food at home, as on, say, The Cook and the Chef . In­stead, it’s about im­mers­ing your­self in the flavours and scents, the colours and cre­ations, and most es­pe­cially, the peo­ple of the var­i­ous na­tions rep­re­sented.

Tonight it’s In­done­sian cui­sine, a source of food I have not had much ex­pe­ri­ence of, apart from the odd youth­ful pil­grim­age to Bali, and much more re­cently to Ratu Sari, in Syd­ney’s Kings­ford, one of the restau­rants pro­filed here.

O’Meara’s great skill is to help us wit­ness the soul and pas­sion for cook­ing of the peo­ple she pro­files, in quick sketches, as she drifts about their kitchens.

How much do you have to love cook­ing to want to do it six days a week, nearly ev­ery week of the year? If you are like Ro­hana Halim, chef and owner at Ratu Sari, the an­swer is, a very great deal.

O’Meara gets out of the kitchen and into the pro­duce mar­kets with her chefs. She toils a lit­tle with them, with­out over­whelm­ing, or hog­ging the cam­era, then adds nar­ra­tion and stun­ning vi­sion of vastly dif­fer­ent culi­nary pro­cesses to com­plete the pic­ture.

Pas­sion for cook­ing: Maeve O’Meara, cen­tre, with the chefs pre­sented in this sec­ond se­ries of Food Sa­fari

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