MasterChef Australia’s Gary Mehigan to Sell Stake in The Boathouse Cafe to Find Time for Himself & Be With Family
SPENDING AN evening with MasterChef Australia‘s co-host Gary Mehigan can be a deep dive into the world of reality television — just the kind of appetiser a curious mind would seek out. With the May 1 premiere of the mega-hit series’ Season 9 on Australia’s Network 10 behind him, Gary spent an evening with a bunch of foodie journalists at Le Cirque, The Leela Palace New Delhi’s prestigious rooftop restaurant, on Friday, June 9. The hotel’s executive chef, Adrian Mellor, and Gary had laid out a delightful five-course dinner, which helped the conversation just waltz along.
Gary said a lot of interesting things. He said, for instance, that he plans to sell his stake in The Boathouse, the all-day cafe at the Melbourne suburb of Moonee Ponds, to be able to find more time for himself and his family, especially now that his daughter Michaela is 16 and really interested to discover the world. Back in 2013, Gary sold his award-winning restaurant Fenix to find more time for television.
“I have kept the entire August free for myself, just to be able to be with my family, read the books I want and eat at the places where I have wanted to go to,” he said. Of course, his daughter, who is now more interested than before in travelling (she is soon setting off on a volunteer’s tour across Cambodia), is a major motivation. “Now, we can travel with her without having to worry about a grumpy little girl around us,” he said, adding that he would love to do another travelling food show such as Far Flung, which took him to India, Vietnam, Laos, Hong Kong and South Korea.
A price you pay for being an A-list celebrity is that you have no time to be alone with you. It is this luxury that Gary is seeking out. “I sometimes am jealous of Matt Preston, who can go anywhere in the world and come back with stories about what he did and where he ate,” Gary said, comparing his life with that of the food journalist, who doesn’t have to worry about a restaurant to run when he’s not doing MasterChef. “I want to surprise him the next time he comes back from a trip and say, ‘You know what, I had the most amazing meal at this place in China’.”
The series extracts a lot out of its best-known faces. It means an intense seven months of shooting, eating and travelling around the world promoting each new season (India, Indonesia and South Africa continue to be major international markets for MasterChef Australia). It makes them just want to be by themselves.
For the contestants, life is tougher. They are denied access to the Internet, they can call up home just once a day, any chemistry between them is discouraged (“It is only natural for people to get a little too close to each other when they are in a group where everyone is bound together by the same interest,” says Gary), and we don’t get to see the real scenes of heartbreak when a contestant is eliminated.
The judges are particularly tough on good-looking contestants at the beginning just to make sure the producers didn’t get them in just to enhance the glamour value of the show. The contestants are also encouraged to share recipes and to help each other out through difficult moments. The camaraderie helps.
For Season 9, the MasterChef Australia line-up includes two students — Callan Smith, 18, and Michelle Lukman, 19 — and Gary is most excited about them because the cuisine they bring to the table is not hemmed in by geographical boundaries. No ingredient looks strange to them and no combination is beyond the ken of their imagination because, thanks to the Internet, their taste buds belong to the world. They remind Gary of his daughter — “she can watch TV, be on YouTube and check out her mobile, all at the same time”.
The description will remind many of us in Gary’s age group of our own children. The new wired world is giving birth to a new universalist cuisine without boundaries. Let us celebrate it.