The annual ‘World on a Plate’ event in Bengaluru held every year, sees hordes of foodies, chefs and restaurateurs come together to celebrate food. This year, MasterChef Australia’s judge George Calombaris was the crowd puller, and as usual, he did things in style. When I joined him on his table as he sat looking over the Bengaluru skyline, the conversation of course turned to food.
George’s connect with India is not new, but it is definitely unique. “In Australia we like our space, but now with so many trips to India, I have become an expert. I really enjoy my time here. I feel a sense of familiarity. A lot of familiar faces,” says George.
George started his flagship restaurant The Press Club in Australia in 2006, and today his hospitality group, MAdE Establishment, comprises 20 restaurants including gems such as Hellenic Republic and Gazi. With two decades in the industry, he has seen multiple trends and shifts. According to him, in the last couple of years, the food culture has undergone a massive shift.
Thanks to the internet, it has become easy to connect over food and learn things quickly. “We are so connected now more than ever. When I started cooking 23- years-ago, the only way you could learn about other chefs was order their cookbooks, and that would take two months to reach. Now, you can get everything instantaneously, which is great and fantastic.”
However, he does caution that gaining knowledge is hard work and one has to earn it. Passing on the knowledge one has learnt is also important, he says.
George is often seen sweating on MasterChef Australia when he eats chilli while sampling a contestant’s dish. I ask him how he manages the spice in Indian food.
“I love chilli,” he says.
George, who had his fill of dosa at breakfast earlier that morning, says he likes butter chicken, and when he is craving for Indian sweets, he indulges in jalebi. Though he is quick to point, “I have learnt that India is not just about a curry. It is so much more,” says George, pointing out to the diverse food habits and cuisines that India is home to.
The recent demise of Anthony Bourdain is still on all our minds, and the conversation shifts to a pertinent though hardly discussed topic about stress and depression. Opening up on the topic and as someone who had interacted with Anthony, he says, “
To deal with such challenges in the hospitality industry, he has a solution and what he is doing at his level.
I ask him who has his back, or who watches out for him when he is busy with all his projects. He promptly responds, “I am very lucky I am surrounded by incredible people. My Chairman is an incredible man who has been a ray of sunshine for me in the last few months. My board, my staff and my executive chefs, and there are half a dozen of them that I absolutely cherish and adore and I have got a great family.”
On that high note he signs off only to go and gear up for the dinner night he is hosting later in the evening.
Again, George doing what he does best, dishing up finger licking food and having his audience eating out of his hands.