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June 21, 2024

MasterChef Australia chefs on their big reunion dinner in Gurugram

By Payel Majumdar Upreti
It is not every day that celebrity chefs Gary Mehigan, Matt Preston and George Calombaris cook dinner for you. Yet, thanks to CONOSH, a community of gourmands and food lovers, who had
organized the whole tour for the three celebrity chefs, we were having a meal conceptualized and cooked by the three celebrity chefs themselves! It is also not everyday that you sit down for a cocktail and food tasting, that comprises of over seven courses, with 3 dishes in each course! Once I saw the menu, I was assured that I was in for some marathon eating, wishing I had put on comfortable pajamas instead of festive clothes. The gilded
individual menus gave us a preview of what we were in store for.
Image Courtesy: Conosh
Just like a surprise box unveiling (MasterChef Australia reference if you didn’t know it already) as we enjoyed a glass of wine before
the seating, we were focused on entering the dinner with an empty stomach for the big reveal! While the trio are the best of friends, it is the first time that they have come together to work on a project post MasterChef Australia! “The popularity of the show was unprecedented – we grew from a ramshackle studio near the Sydney airport to a show which had viewers across 19 countries, India being our biggest demographic!” recollected Matt Preston in a one-on-one conversation a day before the event. The popularity of the trio sustained well past their exit from the show, prompting this tour. Gary Mehigan has been crucial in bringing them together, with his extensive presence in the country, with a Nat Geo show, and food popups in different parts of the country.
The TV show was a cult favourite in India, and everyone who had booked their slots for the meal was keen to see if the judges would recreate some of their known dishes from the show, and we weren’t disappointed. Out of the set menus, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options began with a ‘snack attack’ comprising of three very different dishes representing Matt, Gary and George’s personalities. While Matt had made an inspired Korean ‘Hotteok’ – a savoury pastry made with glutinous flour, stuffed with soft cheese and dill, George had two options on the menu -spanakopita bites, with a macadamia skordalia, and a vegemite scroll, with fava bean puree, caramelized onions and caper leaves.
Image Courtesy: Conosh
Course 2, by George was one of my favorites, and the most unusual on the menu, if you asked me. It comprised of olive oil poached tuna, tzatziki, warm pita and mountain oregano. Half salad, half chip- and-dip, the flavours were unexpected, but worked so well together – just the sort of sorcery you would expect from the chefs.
Image Courtesy: Conosh
The next course was a contrast – clean flavours burst through in Matt’s Arabian Gulf sourced prawns, seasoned with a finger lime butter sauce. Lemon worked hard in this meal, brought in as the hero yet again in Gary’s Lemon Ricotta Raviolo, with an Agro Dolce sauce, interspersed with bursts of Golden raisins. By this time, we were beginning to feel quite full, it is purely the merit of the dish that I couldn’t stop eating, for me to finish my plate.
The initial three courses done, the chefs came onto the stage to do a little chit-chat with the audience. While they recounted their stories of the show, some banter on the India Australia cricket
match, and their travels in the country (Matt Preston in particular has developed a love for kasturi methi), our fourth course – the cheese platter – was served. For the cheese platter, Saganaki cheese was served, paired with a Kangra tea highball made with Longitude 77 single malt. The cheese was melted into a crisp, paired with a papad, a refreshing allusion to its texture. A poached fig with wild honey provided a necessary contrast to the cheesy crips.
Image Courtesy: Conosh
We then moved onto the mains, and Gary Mehigan served us some outstanding lamb shanks, marinated with Méchoui spices, Pommes Fondant and Cypriot Grain salad. The vegetarians had a
crisp thousand layered potato with Méchoui spices, Three flavours of winter and the same salad. The lamb was so perfectly cooked I could cry. It was definitely the best course of the three.
We were too full by now, but soldiered on to dessert anyway. For dessert, there was Baklava Ice Cream Sandwich, Roasted White Chocolate Tart and Dark Chocolate Ganache, Passion Fruit Jelly,
garnished with the biggest surprise – the humble sonpapdi! This was such a revelation – for all those who feel sonpapdi doesn’t have a reason to exist, perhaps you haven’t sprinkled it over your
chocolate ganache before this! The roasted white chocolate also deserved an applause, all those (like me) who think white chocolate is too sweet, roasting it definitely improves upon it. And with that, we were ready to call it a day.

Anushka Manik

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