Lyndey Milan, celebrated chef and wine lover and her partner John Caldon, self-confessed Grecophile, set about combining their lifelong passions of food and Greece into a cooking show with a difference.
What came about after several twists and turns was a show like no other. A show that enables you to travel through the Peloponnese in search of the colour and festivities of Greek food and wine but also the history, archaeology and art of the glorious nation. Meanwhile, watch the bond between mother and son as they uncover Greek gems.
Lyndey and Blair’s Taste of Greece is definitely a cooking show like no other. No stranger to cooking on television, Lyndey Milan has graced Australian screens for over 25 years showing everyday Aussies how to prepare and put together dishes. Her son Blair, an actor and voice over artist, wasn’t the first choice but turned out to be the only choice. Blair Milan passed away last month, three days after being diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Lyndey wants to make sure that this show is “a lasting tribute to (her son)” and to everyone involved in the project and the series.
“The original idea was that the Greek Australian (John Mangos – original choice as co-host) would take his long time friend – me – to discover Greece,” Lyndey told Neos Kosmos. “We would cover the food, the wine but we would also do archaeology and history. And the other thing we wanted to do but was to be on the beaten track, but off the beaten track.”
“Everyone goes to Mykonos and Santorini and they are beautiful but if you go to the Peloponnese, it’s very accessible to Athens. It’s the site of the Lion Gate of Mycenae, Ancient Olympia and yet it’s pretty unspoiled there because people have been doing things there like they have been doing things there the way they had been for generations and generations. We wanted to be that little bit different.”
Long-time friend John Mangos was unable to go but because Lyndey was all set, the crew were ready, the Greek government committed, they couldn’t and didn’t want to back out. After a friend suggested she take son Blair as her co-host, Lyndey didn’t hesitate and knew this was the perfect way to create the new style of cooking show. “If you think about it, there has been The Two Fat Ladies, The Hairy Bikers but here was something that couldn’t be faked and couldn’t be ripped off either. And what was lovely was this voyage of discovery with the added element of Blair getting into the adventure, but also you have this lovely mother and son relationship.”
A testament to her son, Lyndey said that the experience “reinforced what (she) already knew which was he was absolutely charming, unbelievably talented as a presenter – and it was his first presenting role – and that he was a joy to be with”. “You know, what I loved was that Blair took to the archaeology and he loved it. Blair ran in the ancient Olympic stadium and he ran the 212 yards in 25 seconds and the Modern Olympic record is 19 seconds and it’s amazing.”
Lyndey had previously travelled to Greece many times before so knew a lot about the Greek food and culture but was determined not to let any preconceived notions get in the way of her discovery this time around with Blair. She giggles when she reminisces about taking him to the agora to eat tripe soup. You can hear the smile in her voice as she relays this story of a meal shared with her son after a long day’s shoot.
“They spread the table with butcher’s paper and just brought out the pork on the spit on the table, chips cooked in olive oil and the souvlaki and some tzatziki and salad on the side and when we finished they just rolled up the butcher’s paper and threw it all away.”
The Greek people warmed to her and Blair. In Lyndey’s eyes they were delighted as “everyone has a relation in Australia”. “And because Greece has their economic challenges, the Greek people were delighted that we were doing this show that will encourage people to travel to Greece.” As a chef, Lyndey has always been interested in all cuisines but says we certainly are in the lucky country when it comes to food.
“The great thing about Australian food is that we borrow from all over around the world and it’s that wonderful melting pot of food. But I think it’s because Greeks came to Australia so early and so many of them went into hospitality through milk bars and cafes, we’ve been exposed to Greek culture and food more. The other thing is that Greek food translates well in Australia. Some cuisines don’t exist well outside of their countries, like I think Spanish food is best in Spain, but Greek food works really well here.”
The show, which will be shown as a seven part series, will be aired earlier than expected, as a tribute to the 29 year-old actor. Lyndey will be releasing a cookbook to go alongside it, filled with some traditional food and some will be her interpretation of Greek flavoured food with a modern spin.