Where diversity is celebrated: celebrity chef Matt Preston on the latest season of MasterChef

As the latest season of MasterChef Australia comes to a close, judge Matt Preston talks diversity, Indian food, and home-style cooking

The first overseas letter Matt Preston received after the launch of the reality cooking show, MasterChef Australia (MA), was from India. “He wrote about how he and his family watched the show every day and they loved the cooking and the respect shown to the contestants. It was beautiful and something we set out to achieve when we started MA. We wanted a show that was honest and supportive of its participants and had universal appeal,” says the celebrity food journalist, critic and television personality.

The show also has diversity. This season, in particular, has been like a multi-cuisine experiment, with contestants whipping up dishes from Japanese, Malaysian, Bangladeshi and Dutch food. This year’s finale features a Dutch, and a Malaysian chef. “It is exciting to see the breadth and diversity of contestants we get year after year. They are reflective of Australia’s food diversity,” says Preston, adding that he would like to see more Italian chefs in the competition.

Over the years, MA has had its fair share of Asian and specifically Indian-origin participants, from Rishi Desai to Nidhi Mahajan. They bring to the table Indian-inspired curries and rotis, which Preston appreciates; the judge loves his Indian food. On repeated visits to India, he has waxed eloquent about his love for khubani ka meetha, curry being a comfort food, and ensuring that the first dish he eats is dosa.

His relationship with Indian food goes back to his childhood. “I grew up in London where Indian food is almost our national cuisine. You would find more Indian than British restaurants. But it is only after travelling to India that you realise the richness and diversity it has to offer. Every few kilometres, the food changes and that’s amazing,” he says.

Preston finds it weird and a little ironic that the one Indian chef that most people know in the world is Gaggan Anand, who doesn’t even own a restaurant in the country. “Indian cooking is changing and this is reflected in some of the restaurants in the country. It would be nice to know about the other Indian chefs who are redefining the country’s food,” he says.

When he moved to Melbourne 15 years ago, there weren’t as many Indian places. “The food was restricted to small corner shops and street stalls. That has changed dramatically. Now, you find places serving modern interpretations of Indian food and even lesser known regional cuisines,” he says.

It is this home-style cooking and focus on regional cuisines that he hopes to showcase in the show’s future seasons. In the new season (they are currently shooting season 10), there have been a lot of talented people cooking with feeling. “They are going back to their roots. We want to encourage this more approachable style of cooking. Sometimes, chefs tend to get very excited by the complexity of the dishes and their presentation,” he says.

MasterChef Australia airs from Monday to Friday at 9 pm on Star World

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Printable version | May 31, 2020 12:23:42 PM |

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