Viewpoints from Aussie Cuisine

  • MasterChef has had an undeniable impact on increasing food awareness in Australia, and abroad. Whilst the career path of its contestants are fast tracked by the show, the food style is often freestyled, which does often invoke or represent an interpretation of Modern Australian Cuisine.

  • The contestants who have not been exposed to the traditional TAFE system, which is still largely underpinned by the techniques of European cuisine, offers them a totally fresh perspective on the concept and construct of their dishes.

  • Our love of outdoors and seaside culture has heavily influenced the evolution of our cuisine. The TV show Surfing the Menu was a celebration of the food derived from this exploring this culture.

  • Food and travel have deep connections, providing a fresh cultural canvas to view both ingredients and techniques through a new lens. The opportunity to forage, catch and cook, often informs a new and far simpler approach to the preparation, which celebrates our origins.

By Philip Youngman

MasterChef has done more than creating a growing interest in the industry among viewers, it has also been responsible for launching more than a few careers. Some former contestants have gone on to open restaurants, launch product lines, write cookbooks and host their own TV series. In a very real way, MasterChef is giving birth to a generation of people who are directly influencing the future of Aussie Cuisine. 

Today we speak to two former contestants who teamed up to create their own series and book. Following in the footsteps of Curtis Stone and Ben O’Donoghue, Hayden Quinn and Dan Churchill are Surfing the Menu: The Next Generation. Having recently finished their trip around Australia to film the series, we asked the guys what “Aussie Cuisine” means to them.

“Our love for outdoor activities and healthier food options – and of course our amazing farmland has led to the evolution of these nourishing starts to the day. Not to mention the lifestyle of the café movement and how relatable it is on our shores. It’s not just a cuisine – it is a serious movement!”

Definition

AC: What is Australian cuisine?

HQ: A tough question to answer this one. I was actually talking to a mate the other night about this when we were booking a restaurant and I asked “what sort of food is it” and he said, “hmmmmmmm I guess its sort of modern Australian????”

Now that’s a term which I am not sure anyone could give a definition for either. I think at the heart of it, Australian cuisine is food which is fresh, sourced locally and exemplifies that fun, loveable, sharing and open nature that Aussies (as a people) have. It’s nothing too stuffy, or too serious, but can come in any shape for form when it comes to flavours and flavour profiles.

True Australian – or true indigenous cuisine – is the food which Dan and I got to experience when we were on the road for Surfing the Menu during our trips to remote parts of Australia meeting the many indigenous Australians. Ground cooking, bush tucker, fresh hunted foods etc.

DC: Australian cuisine is as diverse as it comes… it’s quite notable that in the past we really haven’t had a distinctive dish like a paella for Spain, or pasta for Italians. In saying this, we do have a more a movement – the breakfast trend and café culture is something derived from our shores. Avocado toast is fast becoming loved around the world and this is something (we like to believe) we started.

Coffee is in the same vibe. Australians love their coffee! I am the first to admit I am a coffee snob (laughs), but what’s great is the role it is playing around the world and its relationship with bringing people together particularly around breakfast. I live in NYC and everyone is specifically seeing it as an Aussie driven trend so that’s a serious win.

Influences

AC: What do you think were the primary influences behind its evolution?

HQ: Immigration and multiculturalism, plus being open to new and different foods and influences.

DC: We have a multicultural population but it has taken time for us to evolve with this and find our own niche.

Our love for outdoor activities and healthier food options – and of course our amazing farmland has led to the evolution of these nourishing starts to the day. Not to mention the lifestyle of the café movement and how relatable it is on our shores. It’s not just a cuisine – it is a serious movement!

TV cooking shows

Unvieling the prawns and fish, eatingAC: How important a role do you believe TV cooking shows play in influencing Aussie cuisine?

HQ: Hugely. Especially shows which are on during prime time and have that large and broad reach such as shows like MasterChef. These shows reach your “Betty from Blacktown” viewer and expand their ideas of what food can be.

DC: Well for starters I got infatuated with food by the connection it made to my family watching Jamie Oliver do his thing on ABC.

My two brothers, mum and dad would look at the ingredients, the stories, the techniques and would learn so much! I think they are such an amazing time for families to come closer together and provide an education on not only life skills but something we all love!

Food is awesome, everyone loves to eat and TV provides a medium of education that allows us to enjoy and learn. Surfing the Menu: The Next Generation has allowed Hayden and I to really tell the story of local Australian produce. Not only is it being seen domestically but also around the world. We are inviting people into our land and truly understanding where things come from and where they begin – that is sheer tastiness!

Aussie dish

AC: In your opinion, what is a truly Aussie dish?

HQ: (Laughs) A pie and choccy milk from the servo? (had a few of those when filming Surfing the Menu) – again a very hard question.  I think it has to be lamb, fresh veg and some form of “starch” – but that’s classic.

DC: (Also laughs) I honestly think avocado on toast with a poached egg sums up Australia. It’s colourful, it has a café vibe and it’s something we do at home or order at a restaurant/café.

Favourite cuisine

AC: Which cuisine – besides contemporary Australian – is your favourite?

HQ: Japanese and Mexican.

DC: I love cuisines from all over the world. They all tell a story. They all have a purpose and I wish to learn about each and every one of them!

I grew up with the notion of loving pasta. Even though I am known for my more nourishing meals, pasta is something I still have every so often. I love making it from scratch, but more importantly, I love the role it plays in telling a story. I have only a little bit of Italian in me, but I feel 100% Italian! I love their way of life, the way they perform their daily tasks, their produce and of course cuisine!

Food & travel

AC: When you travel, is food a consideration in your travel plans?

HQ: Definitely part of it, but sometimes it is a side event, most of the time these days travel is with work and work is with food, I don’t get too many “holidays” these days. In the past, I have been to places like Mozambique which was a trip purely focused around the ocean and adventure and definitely not food (not much going in Mozambique, tomato paste, tiny fish, rice and hot chillies).

DC: I think food is the reason I do travel in the first place. I am always looking to learn more techniques, flavours and stories. I want to know why things are created, where they come from. So when I pick a place to travel to it is based on what foods and traditions I want to learn about.

“Surfing the Menu: The Next Generation” airs on ABC1, Sundays at 6 PM.

Image:

Digges, M. (7 March 2017). Get to know Dan Churchill and Hayden Quinn from Surfing the Menu, Next Generation. SBS. Retrieved from https://www.sbs.com.au/food/article/2017/03/07/get-know-dan-churchill-and-hayden-quinn-surfing-menu-next-generatio n