Image Credits: Self and Aarti Kamath @ RouteNext.com
“Have you been talking to Matt Preston?” he asked as his nose crinkled with a familiar laugh. He slipped his hand into a pocket behind his chef’s apron and pulled out a smartphone, shrugged saying, “I love how everything is connected through a simple tech.” I was overjoyed as I stood inches away from George Calombaris watching him smile and reply, as I asked him if it was true that he couldn’t ever look away from his phone. I wondered if I hadn’t fallen into my television watching the TV show that I’d followed through the years until the recent end of Season 7. Masterchef Australia always had me scrambling through my day to finish everything before 9PM so I could sit in peace and watch my favorite judges and a bunch of excellent amateur cooks battle on in the best kitchen.
George Calombaris traveled to Bangalore during the Independence Day weekend with a few of his trusted chefs from The Press Club. Together, in partnership with JW Marriott, Zomato and Gold Rush, George hosted a delicious meal for a few lucky guests at JWM. It was, of course, an exciting tasting opportunity. After all, not everyone gets to visit and dine on the chef’s personally cooked plate of food at The Press Club, Gazi, Mastic Cafe, the Hellenic Club or Jimmy Grants.
Always drawing inspiration from his Greek roots, George also picks up flavors and cultural influences from his travel to infuse into his creations. For his Indian audience, George decided to do a desi take on a couple of dishes from The Press Club and Gazi that included Ouzo cured Indian Seabass, Miso Eggplant, Celery & Herbs, and Soft Shell Crab Souvlaki, Honey Lime, Coriander & Mint. There were a few vegetarians in the room, and we were treated to Pilaf in Red Pepper, Miso Eggplant, and the chef’s take on Onion Bajji Souvlaki, Honey Lime, Coriander & Mint. For dessert, we enjoyed a generous serving of Salted Caramel Rice Pudding, Almond Biscuit & Rice Ice Cream. If you are familiar with George Calombaris, then you know he is a master at plating. He treats every plate with respect, and I had the honor of watching him at the task. They were a visual treat, and well conceived. The food blogger in me was not really blown away by the tasting, but instead identified a few technical flaws which was in a way satisfying (I wonder what Matt Preston would say).Being the Hyde to the Dr. Jekyll of kitchens, I mean Heston Blumenthal from The Fat Duck, hasn’t really turned George into a believer of molecular gastronomy. It is not the field, but the term that he repels. “It sounds made up,” he says, emphasizing on the idea that food is a continuously evolving field with no boundaries very much like any other industry. George recounted a day in the kitchen when he’d been trying to create a dish with chips and crisps, presented as if they were hanging on a clothes line in a lawn. He’d tried and failed multiple times while trying to create a mist that smelled like freshly mown grass. Heston walked in and suggested using a rotten banana with the elements, explaining how the two would create a lasting aroma by reacting at the molecular level. “It’s all about understanding those elements,” George says, implying that food is not necessarily art or science, but a deeper subject that we are still trying to understand. Back to the can’t look away from your phone discussion. It was quite interesting to know that George is not only social but also keeps tabs on his staff through his smartphone, so he is always updated on what happens at his restaurants. Is he a control freak? George says, “Well, I wouldn’t say I’m a control freak, just a very controlling person.” It is more than just control that pushes George to send his 4 year old son, James, with a packed meal when he attends birthday parties at fast-food restaurants. The kid can complain when he grows up, but I totally empathize with the chef. “Would you give a child drugs and alcohol?” George asks. “Junk food, processed food, over-refined or bleached food is just as bad. People have religions, mine is food and I will not have it desecrated.”
If you are wondering what happened to Emelia Jackson from Season 6 after George offered her a job at The Press Club, she did take the job for a little while after she moved on to pursue her food dream which even brought her to Bangalore a while ago where she showcased her badass pastry skills at HIGH Lounge.
My only regret from this dream meeting with GC is that I couldn’t get a picture with the man. However, I’m a desi girl, and here we are taught Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna. Someday we will meet again.