Meeting George Calombaris in Bangalore
An invite that comes by once in a lifetime landed in spam.
Yeah that's right.
Zomato was kind enough to send me an invite for a 6 Course Press Club lunch with George Calombaris on 15th August. THE GEORGE CALOMBARIS. I had no clue until two days later, alerted by a friend, I checked spam and there it was lying trapped between the loans, credit cards and insurance spam.
And then, another invite for the Press Meet and tasting session with George on the previous day came in. My excitement knew no bounds and I was counting down the days to this event.
My regular readers, family and friends know how crazy a fan I am of the show, Masterchef Australia, and therefore a big fan of all three judges too. I could never forgive myself for having missed an exclusive lunch invite with the holy trinity of Masterchef Australia, three years ago in Bombay and so this was almost like destiny offering me a second chance at meeting one of my food idols.
The Press Meet was held at JW Marriott, Bangalore. After the round of introductions of the sponsors, when George came out to say hello, it was a "pinch me" moment.
Excitement and goosebumps.
You admire your idols on television but don't exactly dream of being in the same room with them. Ever. We were prompted to ask questions but the cat totally got my tongue and I felt quite unable to ask anything.
George and his two sous chefs, one from Hellenic and the other from Gazi, two of his restaurants in Melbourne, cooked up a 3 course tasting session - Fish served with eggplant miso puree, celery and greens, a souvlaki stuffed with deep fried soft shell crabs (and onion bhajji for the vegetarians) and a rizogalo (Greek rice pudding) worth dying for.
One hour down, I finally managed to get a hold of the microphone and ask George a question. I asked him whether he preferred simple homely desserts or the massively complicated ones that made an appearance on Masterchef Australia pressure tests.
"Horses for courses. At home, I am happy tucking into a bowl of rice pudding, but at my restaurant, The Press Club, we go all elaborate with desserts, because that's what people want to see," he said.
He talked about his experience in Bangalore that morning. Going for a run at Cubbon Park, and then landing up at Airlines Hotel to put back in all the burnt calories. I'm wondering how many people accosted him for an autograph on his run!
He said he loved the dosa and the 'savoury fried donuts' with a delicious coconut chutney. No marks for guessing that he was talking about the medu vada. He talked about his love for how real Indian food was in most places even today, and that under 10 AUD, two of them could stuff themselves on food and how amazing was that. Given that a cappuccino at a Starbucks in Melbourne costs over 4 AUD, I can well imagine George's surprise :) He also talked about the similarities among Greek and Indian culture in being family oriented, feeding people and being generally warm and friendly people.
He was also quizzed on molecular gastronomy, his take on vegetarian cuisine, his favourite things about Masterchef and so on. On vegetarian cuisine, George was quick to respond that vegetarianism did have its origins in Greece, making a reference to Homer, and that he loves his vegetables.
I did manage to have a word with him, telling him how amazing was is to meet him and say hello. I almost did not say that out of sheer nervousness and being completely overwhelmed.
The few things that struck me were how down to earth and friendly he was, despite being a celebrity chef with a world-wide fan following. Also, his insights on food, customers and life in general were so simple and the way he shared them, struck a chord with the audiences.
There was still the 6 course Press Club lunch to look forward to, the following day.
I shall write a detailed post on this lunch with the QAs with George Calombaris in this coming week.
Thank you, Zomato, Gold Rush and JW Marriott (Bangalore) for this amazing experience
(c) Nandita Iyer 2006-2015