No Stone unturned
“It’s difficult (to choose our national dish) because the food here is so varied,” he said.
“There are obvious things like pies, sausage rolls, lamingtons and pavlova at Christmas. And we’re such a multicultural country, it makes it hard to pinpoint.
“Even when you think about cities like Melbourne and Sydney, there are differences in food culture, and then that varies again from urban areas to regional areas. It can also be the little things, our antiauthoritarian approach to breaking all the rules, for example.
“Last week I was telling a guy about a hamburger with the lot and he said ‘What’s that?’. So I explained you get it from the fish and chip shop and it has egg, lettuce, tomato, whatever you want — the lot — and he was just amazed we got our hamburgers from the fish and chip shop. We are unique. I don’t think we’re known for our food overseas, but people who come here end up being overwhelmed with the variety and quality.”
Curtis has been based in LA for more than a decade with his wife of five years, American actor Lindsay Price, and their sons, Hudson, 7, and Emerson, 4.
And despite a professional career that seems to be booming with popular Maude, and more recently the butchery and restaurant Gwen (both eateries are named after his grandmothers), he says he still has strong ties to Australia. Which is why we see him so often on our screens, usually spruiking Coles or as a guest judge on MasterChef.
“I come back about seven times a year,” he says. “And when I do I feel like I never left, in that sense I’m lucky because I get to live a double life. There’s a lot to miss about Australia when I’m not here.
“And I try to bring the kids back every year too. They love the beaches and going to Nanna and Poppy’s. I think it’s really important they understand that part of their heritage.
“It’s funny, because only recently my son told his teacher he’s really an Aussie, which was cute.”
But if you think mealtimes are easy for the celebrated chef, think again. He says his harshest critics can be his own children.
“You have to develop a kid’s palate, and it’s not easy,” he says.
“I tell my kids ‘ You don’t need to like everything, but you do need to try it’, and that generally works. It can be a real mission.”