The big cheese
Celebrity chef, reality show judge and restaurateur George Calombaris has his finger in many pies. Here he talks to Neos Kosmos about the new season of MasterChef, his two new restaurants set to open in Melbourne and impending fatherhood
As the hit reality show phenomenon MasterChef returns for its third season tomorrow night, judge George Calombaris is in no way resting on his laurels. While last season's finale episode achieved a record breaking audience of 5.2 million, Calombaris is cautious.
"I'm a pessimist," he insists. "It's like when I open my restaurants I'm always anxious, worried, concerned, and it's fine. If you don't do all that I think you're a bit too relaxed. I'd rather be concerned on my toes and that's the way we are on the show." Having just returned from Greece where he reopened his restaurant in Mykonos for the season, Calombaris admits he's still shocked by the show's success.
"People are talking about it in Greece, when I was in Abu Dhabi and Dubai last month people noticed me on the street; they all know the show now, it's aired in 27 countries, so it's exciting. I can't wait for it to get back".
Tomorrow night will mark the start of an exciting season for MasterChef fans, Calombaris insists. "It's like a footy season kicking off, the whole of Australia is waiting for this Sunday, they're excited," he says. "We broke record ratings last year, it was massive. So this year that stress is off and it's just about creating a really good cooking show that demonstrates how if someone wants to change their life, and their love is for food, we can help them facilitate that." The success of the show, and the increase in cooking-based television programs, has seen a shift in Australian home cooks, Calombaris says.
"Kids are cooking now, they're talking about food. I was at a building site a couple of months ago and there's tradesmen on scaffolding talking about croque en bush and macaron, and it's exciting," he says. "Kids are coming to my restaurants and wanting to know more about a dish or more about food and if we're changing the Australian psyche at that age, that's promising. In years to come there's going to be some serious dinner parties happening around Australia, and I'm sure they'll all be sitting there wondering whatever happened to those three chubby judges."
The show's appeal is in its accessibility to all viewers, Calombaris says. "It's everything: it's reality, it's real, it's positive, and if someone does something wrong we tell them but we also tell them how they can make things better and fix them," he says. "MasterChef has come at the right time where people are looking for positive family TV where they can sit around the couch together as a family.
It appeals to people from all walks of life, it doesn't matter what nationality, culture or race, people want to watch it." While Calombaris has been filming this season's series since last October he is also set to open his restaurant St Katherine's, in Melbourne's Kew, next week. "It was two years in the making. The name comes from the church I was baptised in, I'm very excited," he says.
The restaurant is themed around Ottoman food, spanning from Cyprus (where Calombaris' mother is from) through to Turkey, Lebanon and Malta. At the end of the year he and his business partner will also open a new restaurant, Mama Baba, in South Yarra. "People say 'geez, you're opening up a lot of restaurants' but I only open them with the right people. My partner at Mama Baba, Vasilios Donoudis, is a brilliant pasta chef and we've been very excited about doing this project," he says.
While in Greece last week the 32 year-old was "foraging" for ingredients and making olive oil. He considers travel just one of the "amazing rewards" for the hard work he puts in. The chef will also soon be wearing yet another hat with fatherhood fast approaching.
His partner is five and a half months pregnant, and due to give birth on July 30. "My parents are very, very excited they're going to have grandchild number five in the family, which is cool. And I can't wait," he says. With so much on his plate, Calombaris is often faced with the question of whether he even has time to cook anymore.
"When I'm at the Press Club I'm in my chef's jacket, but do I sit and chop onions? No, that's not my job anymore," he responds. While Calombaris writes his own menus and is still very "hands on" in the kitchen from morning until night, he admits he doesn't peel potatoes anymore, instead delegating these tasks to his chefs. "Valentino doesn't sew the buttons on his suits," he says.
MasterChef season three begins tomorrow night on Network Ten with the Top 50 week. Once the Top 24 contestants are chosen and enter the renowned MasterChef kitchen team challenges this season will include a 24 hour endurance test to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner for 450 miners in a remote Outback gold mine, a BBQ on one of Australia's most iconic beaches and, of course, cooking for some of the most acclaimed - and fearsome - chefs in the world.
What MasterChef is serving up this season:
SUNDAY: This night will change slightly from last series and will feature a mixture of Mystery Box and Invention Test, or a Team Challenge.
MONDAY: Pressure Test and Elimination - The contestant/s (as determined by Sunday night) facing elimination compete against one another in the pressure test challenge. One must leave the competition for good.
TUESDAY: Celebrity Chef Challenge will be known as Immunity Challenge in 2011 - the winner of Sunday night takes part and goes into a cook-off with anyone from a renowned chef to an apprentice, or another home cook. Neither competitor will know what dish they will be cooking until the judges reveal it just before the clock starts ticking. If the contestant's dish is voted as the best, they will win an Immunity Pin, which can be used to avoid an elimination.
- Register Now
- Fans make the Wanderers a good investment
- Do it like the Greeks says German consul
- Turkey condemns NSW's genocide recognition
- Tailor made coffee
- Sisterly love to the end
- Mykonos: Something to 'Crowe' about
- Greek shipowners choose Chinese shipyards
- Fitch upgrades Greece's credit rating
- Political history in the Arts
- Simon, Carle and Nichols return to A-League
- 8 May 2013 | 12 Votes
- 3 May 2013 | 9 Votes
- 15 May 2013 | 9 Votes
- 8 May 2013 | 8 Votes
- 13 May 2013 | 7 Votes
- 30 Apr 2013 | 6 Votes
Local and international artists that express Greek themes and ideas through their art will be showcased at the Colours of Greece on Parade, held by Festival Hellenika.
A winter must in a Greek household
Greek shipowners have chosen Chinese shipyards for the construction of at least 60 percent of the new vessels ordered in the last few years.
Tv personality, Helen Kapalos was the guest of honour at Alphington Grammar's Mother's Day High Tea
Harry Kewell's hope to be picked for the Socceroos squad is in doubt
Senator Xenophon says current ballot rules are "stacked against independents" and has moved to create the Nick Xenophon Group
A lecture on Ancient Greek jewellery 'Mycenaean to Hellenistic' will be on this Wednesday at the Greek Community Centre in South Brisbane
Greeks know good coffee. This year's World Barista and Brewer Championships sees a tailored and very talented Greek team vie for the top gong.
The National Consumer Credit Protection Act has been amended to include regulations covering reverse mortgages
Round six of Victorian Premier League this weekend brings new coach for Oakleigh Cannons
MP Maria Vamvakinou has vowed to stop Golden Dawn opening Australian offices after what she saw in Greece
The FFA chief, David Gallop says the A-League will make up for a Socceroos' loss
The party had consistently spent 30 per cent more than it earned over its time in power
Nicholas Saramaskos made his name working for a chrysanthemum cultivator and grows some of the best in Australia
49 and his first trip to the Greek islands, Australian actor Russell Crowe is living it up in Mykonos
A dancer for more than 15 years, 20-year-old Natalie Marinopoulos will shine in the world's first amateur production of the famous musical, The Phantom Of The Opera
The Victorian government's grants program will fund improvements to community-owned facilities up to $100,000
Senator claims Labor's asylum seeker policy is the reason for the government turning a blind eye to the Malaysian election result