Dining with a Masterchef: George Calombaris

Masterchef judge George Calombaris was in town for an exclusive dinner showcase, and Weekender caught up with him for some tips and treats!

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George Calombaris (right) with a young fan at the dinner

By George, 250 fans got lucky last night.

How often do you get an award-winning celebrity chef cooking for you? At a Hubalicious dinner session last night, the tough-lovin’ George Calombaris whipped up a mean four-course dinner for a room full of screaming fans.

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The judge from Masterchef Australia was in Singapore yesterday to promote Season 6 of the highly-successful series, and spent the evening treating his Singaporean fans to a gastronomical affair. The event was held in the swanky Hotel Jen in Tanglin, which was rebranded from Traders Hotel.

Every dish in this meal was tailored specially for the Asian crowd, fresh from the genius mind of Calombaris himself.

The full course

20141028_202827“Tonight’s first course (is a) traditional sweet pastry we all have for dessert – and we’ve turned it upside down into a savoury dish,” he told the party.

Indeed, the first entrée was a hearty dollop of chicken parfait – imagine a soft mousse, but chicken-flavoured! – served with bitter chocolate baklava, kumquat, and pickled onions.

This was followed by Calombaris’s favourite take on the Greek salad – totally green and topped with stir-fried abalone. One fan was invited on stage to critique this dish in Masterchef style – but she couldn’t contain her astonishment on stage.

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“Wow. It’s very green,” she quipped. A scoop of kale purée popped into her mouth. “Mmm.” A helping of asparagus and feta cheese. Calombaris was mock-shivering in nervousness beside her. “Hmm.” The abalone was next. Three scoops later, she finally delivered her verdict.

“It’s very green!”

I think that’s a pass.

Poached chicken with miso hummus and green mango salad was next, and the night finished off with a delicious helping of creamy chunky chocolate cake (with truffle caramel drops – I will never be happy with truffle fries again!)

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The Grecian tradition

With Greek blood in his veins, it’s no wonder Calombaris’s dishes have a strong taste of Grecian tradition to them.

“My mother was born in Cyprus with Greek heritage; my father was born in Egypt to my grandfather, who was Greek, and grandmother who’s Italian. So it is Greek, (it’s) at all our restaurants,” he told his fans.

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Calombaris preparing a mean Greek salad for the media

And in an interview with Weekender earlier in the day, Calombaris explained that memories and heritage is especially crucial to him in cooking.

“My memory of life will always be a food diary of all the dishes that I’ve eaten,” he said. “My mom’s egg and chicken soup (is) a very wholesome, very classic great dish. She would make me that when I’m sick… You could feel it in your bones. And that for me is a memory I don’t forget to this day.”

Aww. What a softie.

What makes the perfect dish?

George Calombaris
George Calombaris (middle) has high expectations of every contestant on Masterchef Australia
(Photo: Lifetime Asia)

You’d think that for a Masterchef like Calombaris, taste is king when it comes to food. But it’s not – in fact, he can easily hate a good-tasting dish.

“(It must have) that warmth and generosity that it needs – that energy, the feeling,” Calombaris explained to us. “For me, the most simple dish can be tomatoes, in season, kissed by the sun, simply cut.”

I swear there was a sparkle in his eyes when he raved about this perfect dish in his mind.

“I can eat that and go ‘Oh my gosh!’ because it’s given to me specially by someone that loves food and they’re proud of those tomatoes… That for me is perfect, and I’d want to go back and eat it again.”

We have an idea of what local Singaporean dish he’ll be fantasising about too. At our interview, Calombaris was treated to a fresh serving of chili crab, which he absolutely could not get enough of.

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He dove straight for the fried buns – man tou – and finished off by licking his fingers dry. We got so hungry just watching him devour it!

Cheat tip! Calombaris has another cheat you can more easily employ for the perfect dish. Apparently, people underestimate the importance of salt. He advised that sometimes, just a bit more salt will make the difference between an okay dish and an excellent one.

So take these tips with a great big pinch of salt, and catch Calombaris on Masterchef Australia Season 6! See the season promo here:

Catch Masterchef Australia on Lifetime (Starhub channel 514) on weeknights, 7pm and 11pm!

By Pamela Chow

The author of this story with George Calombaris (right)
The author of this story with George Calombaris (right)

Photos: Pamela Chow, Lifetime