The MasterChef Influence

When my nephew announced to me on the day I was minding him that he has found his vocation in life, I expected it to be a ten year old’s pipe dream. But when he proudly stated that his calling was to be a pastry chef, and the name Adriano Zumbo was spoken in the manner a boy speaks of a superhero, I was grinning with excitement.

“Why don’t we make something today?” he suggested in lieu of the usual Pokémon, board games and DVDs that occupy his visits.

Gabe is no stranger to cooking. From a young age, I have watched him make pesto under the guidance of his parents. He later graduated to cooking Bolognese sauce, making baked apple desserts, chocolate mousse and his favourite, lemon tart. He has a discerning taste and an appreciation for food. That goes for making it and eating it.

Inspired by his visits to Zumbo’s pâtisserie and numerous episodes of Masterchef Australia, which he and I have discussed with equal passion, engaging in detail about recipes, ingredients and techniques, we shopped locally for ingredients and returned to set the stage in the kitchen.

MasterGabe and I set out to make cherry clafoutis using a recipe I adapted from France – A Culinary Journey, a book that delivers classic regional cuisines. Mentoring an aspiring young chef is not a task to be taken lightly. When I had asked my mother to teach me how to cook, her idea of helping was to fetch ingredients, wash and dry utensils and generally watch her prepare. I wanted to make sure his experience was more hands-on than mine.

I explained to him the hows and whys and taught him about opportunities for practising certain techniques such a separating eggs when a recipe doesn’t call for it, just to have the experience. MasterGabe had no reservations about getting his hands dirty pitting juicy cherries, greasing the baking dish, melting the butter without burning it, weighing and mixing the ingredients to the right consistency. He sneaked in a little taste every so often, followed it with an opinion and even gave me a prediction of the final outcome.

For our second dessert, we attempted Adriano Zumbo’s Vanilla Pannacotta and successfully managed to avert potential kitchen disasters by recalling the slip-ups from that MasterChef episode. But the end result did not totter and wobble “like a Rubenesque woman in five inch stilettos” (Matt Preston). Next time we’ll use a gelatine leaf instead of estimating the amount of gelatine powder needed.

MasterChef Australia has undoubtedly inspired many children and adults alike and ignited a curiosity about food, ingredients and quality produce. In a country that is battling obesity, getting children involved in all aspects of food preparation may well be the antidote to sedentary lifestyles and fast food consumption.

The clafoutis, served lukewarm with a dusting of icing sugar passed the taste test with appreciative noises and high scores. Before he left, MasterGabe asked that we spend another day creating in the kitchen.

I may just have a young Adriano Zumbo in the making.

Cherry Clafoutis
Halved cherries by MasterGabe

Cherry Clafoutis
MasterGabe in action

Cherry Clafoutis
Presenting the dish

Cherry Clafoutis
Bon appétit!


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About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of popular online magazine Gourmantic and Cocktails & Bars, a website dedicated to cocktail culture and the discerning drinker. She is named in Australian Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential List since 2013, is a member of The Academy responsible for judging the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the inaugural Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions.