The first thing to abandon you when you are sick are the beloved tastebuds - naturally for me, alarm bells were ringing. Thanks to my wonderful, friend / wingman (this be explained later in the post, promise!) Kath from A Cupcake or Two I was able to attend the MasterChef Live event running this weekend at Moore Park. A day surrounded by food stalls, and demonstrations from Australia's top chefs.. come on tastebuds, don't let me down - I have always been good to you!
Along with a Media scrum, and other lovely food bloggers - Karen from Citrus and Candy, Simon from Simon's Food Favourites and Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella we jostled for positions during the photo op with Gary, George and Matt. I really do enjoy seeing the chemisty and commaradery between these three guys - I don't think any of it is put on for show - I mean, look at that photo above of Matt partronising poor George the Christmas elf!
The Judges, along with several familiar faces from the show greeted the waiting crowds before opening the gates - and boy it was a bullrush! There are 2 parts to this event - The Festival of Cooking in the Royal Hall of Industries and the Masterchef Live theatre extravaganza show which was in the adjacent Hordern Pavillion
There were literally hundreds of stalls from Australian producers - homewares, specialty ingredients, popular restuarants, from organic producers to naughty sweets, kitchen appliances..It was like Toys-R-Us for the food obsessed. Just in time for Christmas, right? I always get overwhelmed during events like these - overstimulated by all the bright lights and food samples. There were a few familiar stalls from The Good Food and Wine show in July, but I found that there was a larger selection in this event.
The big point of difference of this event was the number of Cookery Classes all sticking with the MasterChef theme. Brining in the big guns and capitalising on the Celebrity Chef nature of the show - there were plenty interactive cookery areas run by popular chefs. In Basics Skills area, you can hone your cookery skills and master the basics of food preperation and cooking disaster free dishes - looking back, I think I should have done my family a favour and attended a session. The sessions are first in bessed dressed - so the more organised you are, the better you can plan your day and secure a spot.
Above : Individual Cooking stations at the Basics Skills arena and the Spice Station at the World Foods zone where you could create and take home your own spice blend.
Showtime! I've seen many concerts at Hordern Pavillion. Kanye West, Phoenix, The Strokes - but the true rockstars in the packed venue today were the holy trinity of Mastechef : Gary, George and Matt. Our tickets included premium seating so lucky for us we were seated right up front. The show was absolutely packed - and there were plenty of little Masterchef chef-lings in the audience too.
The 1 hour show itself was entertaining - with past contestants Adam and Marion plus series regular Donna Hay making an appearance. It was an hour of live cooking demonstrations with George and Gary, playful banter with Matt and alot of Audience Participation - with 4 members of the audience being selected to participate in a 'Pressure Test' - keep reading to find something very interesting about these 'random' audience contestants :)
Our tickets, which included Premium seating, entry and a free beverage at the Jaguar VIP area, and general show access cost $120. There is a range of tickets you can purchase from $55 each or family passes for $170 - but if you decide to skip the show and just want to spend a day in the Festival of Cooking, the cost is $25 per adult and $10 for children.
We go back to see if we can catch any of the classes in the Baking zone, and admire the amazing croquembouche on display. I do a double take and ask - "Isn't that the girl that got picked from the audience to do the Pressure test in the theare show??" Yes, it was and she was wearing a STAFF t-shirt. So much for random audience selection and participation right? But I suppose, its all for entertainment! I just wonder what she did to her "prize"
As we walk around, we spot the lovely David Bitton at the Game Farm stall, cooking up special treat with his Bitton Gourmet range. I actually quite liked the selection of exhibitors at this event - but as I've said before, I tend to get too overwhelmed. My main mission when it comes to these events is trying the food on offer so we head out to 'The Park' which is an outdoor area with more stalls - and where we were told we could find some food vendors.
As we walk around, we see the 3 wise judges doing a book signing at the Borders stand - there was a very long line of course of people getting that perfect Christmas present signed. Check out Gary's cheeky smile after adding a mo' to Matt's book!
There was also an area outside where you could 'Grill' a chef and ask them questions and advice. We spot the lovely Kylie Kwong, and I was so excited to say hi to her and snap a quick photo!
Okay, so back to our search for food - I was already hungry after the theatre show.. being surrounded by so much food our tummies were definitely making lots of loud noises! The Gazebo group, home of the Winery venues had a lovely set up in the middle of the park - bringing their quirky decor along too.
The Italian Kitchen and Bar at Bondi RSL is another place I have added to my ever growing list of places to try. I think that is one of the many perils of food blogging - so many places so little time! I order the Arancini $8, my favorite! I liked the way it was packaged and I promise the staff that I will visit them soon to try the rest of their menus. The arancini is freshly cooked, and had a gooey center with parmesan and peas - delish!
When we saw a big Charlie and Co. sign, I was very excited - maybe I could try the truffle fries again, and this time it won't be cold! But they only have the Wagyu Burger and Chilli Dog on offer
Above : Charlie and Co Chilli Dog and Wagyu Burger - a too heavy for a hot day! But it made some hungry bloggers happy!
Din Tai Fung at World Square also had a stall, along with the very populr Chef's Gallery, Mad Mex and Efendy - serving up affordable treats to the festival goers.
We then grabbed a seat in the BBQ Theatre, with the session run by the Sydney Seafood School at the Fish Market. I was very excited to learn some trick here as they were preparing some Marinated BBQ salmon cooked on the grill. I love me some grilled salmon, but somehow manage to muck it up on the BBQ everytime. The trick I learned is to make sure that the meat is salted, to get that cruncy outer shell, and to make sure that it is completely cooked before turning the piece. Uncooked protien is what causes 'sticking' to the grill, and hopefully now half my salmon won't end up stuck to the webber grill. I think I might invest in one of their classes, as I am truly a seafood lover - I just can't get the cooking right!
Taking a break from the heat we take a break and grab a drink inside the Jaguar VIP lounge. The airconditioning is truly welcomed! I love my little Toyota Yaris - but the Jaguar XKR was some eye candy. Appropriately named 'Snow Egg' for the event - it was actually pretty cool to spot Peter Gillmore inside too! Thats him in the black shirt :) Such a stalker!
Kath and I pass by the Couture Cake Stall and of course we get in line to make some cupcakes. I'm currently going through a fondant decorating phase at the moment - with my Angry Birds cupcakes, words with friends cake and Demos's Domo cake, each with their own mishaps of course! I think I should really take a class with them to learn how to do things properly.
Back inside, we walk past the Hanks Jam and Pete Evan's stand. Earlier in the day, I confessed to the other bloggers about my love for him, and how his pizza oven is on the top of my Christmas wish list. I just love a pizza man..and yes, maybe I did happen to say I would leave my husband and 3 kids for Pete. (I am not married, nor do I have 3 kids.. And Demos is well aware of this obsession and his two words are always 'Nigella Lawson') But yes..please keep reading :D
One of the first stalls we saw at the start of the day was the Wild Sugar stand. I was always a big fan of Skye from Masterchef, she made the most amazing desserts on the show so we saved the best dessert until last. We were able to meet the lovely creator and sample the Chocolate Avocado Mousse with Raspberry Cream and Finger Lime Tart with Coconut Cream. These cups of goodness were AMAZING and as Skye explain were a sweet treat without so much guilt. She swaps the cream in these desserts with Avocado or Coconut milk, and instead of sugar - uses natural honey to add sweetness.
We also sampled he green tea and double choc ice creams and they were delicious! The wild sugar range of desserts can be found at Thomas Dux stores or check out the website at www.wildsugar.com.au
We were in for a treat with Frank Camorra's demonstration at the Professionals theatre. I was very very excited to see him in action, and re-creating his signature dishes. Hey, its was a quick Movida fix without the plane ride!
Frank recreated signature Anchoa dish - a Movida favourite (Although the sorbet melted under the lights), a Bacalau (salted cod) dish and a octopus dish too. I'm going to consult my Movida cookbooks now to find out the exact espanol names to do justice to Frank. Ahh - what a lovely man! Yes, I had my very own Movida fangirl moment. (Check out our Movida posts here and here)
Another Masterchef section inside was the "How to..?" area where you could ask the chef more pressing questions. There was a big line waiting for whoelse but Adriano Zumbo. Where is the cakewalk when you need it! He is always so nice to his Zumbo groupies - but there can only be one chef in my heart...
Thanks to my wingman, we were able to spot the ever so dashing Pete Evans as we were leaving. What a way to end a very very fun day! Haha - I have the biggest smile in this photo, and was honestly so super excited! What a day it was, and of course when you are sick - everyone tells you to rest and recover.. but for me - A fun day at MasterChef Live sure did the trick!
Once again a big thank you to Kath and to Stellar* for the VIP tickets. Hopefully they run this even again next year - and if there is a Pete Evans stand - you know where to find me!