MasterChef Australia judge Matt Preston talks Elvis, food and fashion
Is this your first time you’ve visited Abu Dhabi?
This is my first visit to Abu Dhabi. We filmed MasterChef in Dubai four years ago, but I wasn’t able to come down here. I’m excited to be in this city. I’m already in love with it, there’s something assured and cosmopolitan about this city that I really like.
Are you doing any sightseeing while you’re in town?
I’ve got a great friend here who I’ve not seen for four years and we’re going out to have shawarma tomorrow night and he’s going to take me out to see the sights.
You’re known for your fashion sense. How would you describe your personal style?
Wear what I want! When I arrived in Australia, men wore blue shirts and dark blue suits. If I wore a bit of colour I was seen as a bit odd. Last season I fell very much in love with bright colours – like salman, rose – colours that traditionally men in Northern European cultures don’t wear. I like to play with those conventions and challenge them. The cravat is a symbol of this. It seems like a very odd thing to wear but for 400 years, that was the tie. The tie is a very modern invention that is almost out of fashion in Australia. I try to dress for myself rather than other people. Some people love it and some people hate it.
If you weren’t a food critic, what would you have been doing instead?
I would have loved to be a musician but I would be seriously restricted in that because I’ve got no talent. [Laughs] But I did play in a punk band. I think I might have been a DJ. You just need a box of records and a plane ticket and you can go anywhere in the world.
What are the new food trends we are going to see next year?
An increase in the growth of vegetarian dishes and vegetarian meals celebrated above seafood and meat. I think there’s a trend to cook on an open fire, so a move away from the water baths and things sealed in plastic bags. I think the other big trend you are seeing is kind of a rebirth of technique. In the nineties it was all about crazy techniques taken from chemistry and then it swung all the way back to championing local ingredients. Now we’re kind of seeing a synthesis of the two things.
If you could cook a meal for anyone – dead or alive – who would it be and why?
Oh who would I want to cook for? I’d want to cook for Leonardo da Vinci. I mean Elvis Presley would be fantastic, we could eat peanut butter sandwiches together – that would be a laugh. I would like to cook for a young Sophia Loren and maybe Monica Bellucci, maybe the Chelsea football club, maybe the Collingwood football club….
For me I’m just happy cooking for anyone. The most important person you cook for is the person you love. If I think of the most important meal I’ve cooked, it would be using a white truffle I picked from the hills of Umbria, Italy for a dinner with my wife. Those are the really memorable meals I think.
You’re such a seasoned hand in the kitchen, do you ever get nervous?
Oh yeah, all the time. You have to understand I’m an okay home cook but I’m with these two legends. Gary [Mehigan] is the master of technique and George [Calombaris] is the master of creativity, so I get totally terrified. The first time I made toum garlic sauce they looked at me like I was an idiot and there was this wonderful moment where I saw a fleeting moment of respect just in the back of their eyes.
What is it like working with George and Gary on MasterChef Australia?
It’s a terrible chore. I’ve done it for nine years and I realised I must have done something awful in my previous life to have to do this. No I’m kidding. We didn’t think the show would last two months, we thought it would be a disaster. What has happened is the show has been amazingly successful and taken us around the world. I got a note the other day from someone in Cameroon and it’s crazy to think a show you made in Melbourne is watched there. We’re all in this wonderful situation where we are so thankful and blessed to be working at a show we believe in, creates people who go on to do wonderful things in food and is a job we feel passionate about.
What’s the most overrated food trend in your opinion?
Oh, where do you want to start! The serving of drinks and salad in jam jars. My current least favourite trend is frankenfoods. You make a milkshake and put a doughnut on the top and then some chips and it’s like what are you doing? It’s just stupid. Just have the doughnut and love that doughnut.
Matt Preston will be at Rosewood Abu Dhabi on Friday, December 9th for an afternoon tea appearance and meet and greet from 2pm to 5pm. Tickets cost Dhs250 per person. Afterwards, he’ll be at a dinner at Rosewood’s all-day-dining outlet Aqua from 8pm onwards, tickets are Dhs495 per person.
On Saturday, December 10 he’ll be at Dolce in the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal from 2pm to 5pm for another afternoon tea that costs Dhs250 per person. For more information or to buy tickets visit: abudhabievents.ae