"Our 'like a wow' video crossed 7 million views; we were shocked by everyone's response" - Gary, Matt & George
We at India Forums had the opportunity to exclusively sit with the trio and went on to talk about with the trio as went on to talk about several things ranging from the parallels between global flavors with Indian flavors, to the limitations that come with the reach of these ventures, among other things.
Published: Sunday,Nov 26, 2023 12:45 PM GMT-07:00
Even though the trio of Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston have been synonymous with MasterChef Australia for eleven seasons in the recent past, the trio have now moved on for it for the longest time. Even though it has been over four years, their real-life friendship has only blossomed, leading to other professional ventures as well.
Now, in collaboration with Conosh, the trio was recently in India and has been travelling consistently, having specially curated menus, and masterclasses and sharing several titbits of information on cuisines and other things.
We at India Forums had the opportunity to sit with the trio and went on to talk about with the trio as went on to talk about several things ranging from the parallels between global flavors with Indian flavors, to the limitations that come with the reach of these ventures, among other things.
Q. What, according to you, are the interesting parallels between Indian cuisine and global flavors?
Gary: I think the thing that I love, I think that what Australians love about Indian food is texture. And what they don't understand yet, there's a whole world of texture out there that they've never tasted before. You know, so, you know, George, you know, was just gagging to go out the other day and eat panipuri. It's that, in essence, that panipuri or puchka, or golgappa epitomizes that kind of ride of texture and temperature. And, you know, there's liquid, there's crunch, there's smooth, there's chunky. Do you know what I mean? Yeah. I think that's the thing for me.
George: Look, priority number one is that both our cultures love food. And, you know, it's all the arguments, the tears, the laughter that happens around food. But, you know, there's obviously some similarities with spices, especially my mother's from Cyprus. So, you know, cinnamon, clove, cardamom. You know, it's quite common. And, you know, we love, you know, things on sticks. And bread. Of course.
Matt: Well, I think probably for me; growing up in London, North Indian flavors were everywhere. You know, rich. So, maybe Kashmiri, Punjabi, that's big. In terms of now being an Australian and being there for 30 years, we share a love of big, bold flavors. We share a love of the grill when we're obsessed with fire. And the final thing is we all search there absolute love, especially with Melbourne. And it's the love of sour, especially in Maharashtra. Your ability to get sour out of citrus, yoghurt, Tamarind, vinegar, and khachapuri, you know, there are so many wonderful ways that you bring sour, and we play in that same space of how can we bring sour.
George, you know, was just gagging to go out the other day and eat panipuri - Gary Mehigan-
Q. Do you feel there's always this limitation with in terms of, you know, reaching the most amount of people because considering you're catering to like one and a half billion people. But of course, not everybody is going to be directly aware of it, maybe because of the pricing, maybe because of the awareness. So, what do you think is the biggest challenge in that case?
Matt: You've got to credit Conosh for having the chutzpah. This is exciting and monumental and awesome that, you know, we were able to travel through three cities to cook our food. It's great that Gary's been here (in India) a hundred times so he could go, guys, use this. What about that? Let's do that. So, collaborating on a menu that is not. Um. You know, sort of Frankenstein, sort of taking the piss, trying to put a butter chicken into a vol-a-von, but some really tasty food that respects, you know, where we are, but also showcases who we are. We'd love to be here all year round, showing our food. But you know what? How exciting you get to watch Gary on Nat Geo. Travelling around all parts of India, you know, which is, which is another access into our lives.
Priority number one is that both our cultures love food. And, you know, it's all the arguments, the tears, the laughter that happens around food - George Calombaris-
Q. Any particular way or manner you think you can reach the remotest of people because that's pretty much where, you know, the maximum population lies here.
Gary: I don't think that's our, I don't think that's our goal. I think, you know, Conosh, for example, has done an incredible job. I mean, it's, for me, there are relationships that you have, and there are commercial relationships you have, um, and this one right now with Conosh is pretty special because they're, they're totally genuine, foodie people. It's a collaboration, if you like, even as a platform. That's a kind of an extension of our role on MasterChef. And to pull this kind of event together is extremely expensive. It's a big commitment. It's a big risk. We fed a thousand people over the trip. And they've also been, you know, the team at Conosh, with very little help from me, I think I did two cities, um, have travelled 22 cities around the country to unearth, you know, the ultimate Home Chef of India. It's kind of a perfect storm. Like, we judged the competition the other day, 20 contestants, picked five finalists and then the top three and number one, and we saw food from all over the country. You know, it was the far northeast, you know, the far southeast and west, you know, Maharashtra right here, you know, in the middle of the country. So, you know, it's been, even for these guys, like I said, you've eaten a lot of different food over the last, literally, six days. It's been incredible. So, yeah, it's no small undertaking. So, that ultimate home chef of India,
Matt: I actually don't think there's another competition in India at the moment that's dragging in people from all corners of India in the same way that Maharashtra did. And a broad demographic in terms of, there were a fair number of those people who didn't speak English. And obviously, the people we relate to are the 7 million Maharashtra viewers who speak English. So, when you talk about 1.4 billion, you know, we're actually... I mean, how many people in India speak English? Yeah, maybe 20%. Yeah, so that, I think that's key. I think the other thing that's exciting for us with Conosh is the investment in what they've done. Normally, you'd fly an international chef with one sous chef, maybe. You'd put them in a hotel that has no understanding of their food, and you'd let them try and do something. And that's why often those international collaborations fail. With Conosh, they've gone not one dinner but six. That's hugely important. Right. Number two, they've brought in... They've brought in young chefs from all over India into like a kind of Conosh crack squad. I mean, it's great having them there. But the fact that they then for... Each is probably, say, two days. So, that's six.
The reaction to that (just looking like a wow video), as you see, is, oh, my God, they're here, and they love India - Matt Preston-
Gary: With MasterChef, you want to meet the judges. Right. But that's not realistic. When 50 Cent comes here, how many people are going actually to hang out with 50 Cent? Absolutely not. I think... I mean, we're lucky because 50 Cent has fame, but what we have is familiarity. So, in terms of probably the best way of our value then comes in terms of social media and seeing us here. Stirring up a bit of excitement. And interacting with trends like the... We did the 'Just Like a Wow' trend, which I think is now about 7 million views.
Matt: And the reaction to that, as you see, is, oh, my God, they're here, and they love India. And that's possibly, I think, our positive impact can be that we've come here. Because we've all come here a fair bit. Gary, obviously, more than all of us. But I've seen over 30 years, I've seen a dramatic change in how India views itself. And how young Indian cuisine is changing. And this is, for me, the most exciting time to eat in India that I've seen in 30 years.