I am driven by flavour and produce
One of the most well-known names in Australian cooking, legendary Chef Maggie Beer, Australia's Queen of the Kitchen, is a cook, food author and...
One of the most well-known names in Australian cooking, legendary Chef Maggie Beer, Australia's Queen of the Kitchen, is a cook, food author and restaurateur. She has made appearances on the show several times in multiple seasons as a guest judge and has been a known personality in this industry since almost five decades now.
Her entrance into the competition is met with squeals of giddy delight from contestants when they realise they're about to be mentored by one of Australia's most cherished, and respected food experts.
Currently, Beer operates a business in the Barossa, which produces a range of gourmet foods, including Pheasant Farm Pate, quince paste, verjuice and gourmet ice creams. She co-hosted the ABC television cooking program The Cook and the Chef with Simon Bryant, who is the Head Chef for the Hilton, Adelaide.
Excerpts from an interview:
Tell us your experience at MasterChef Australia?
It is always exciting. So very exciting all the time because the contestants are so enthusiastic; they want to learn. So young and full of energy; not always young but they all come to MasterChef Australia with a hope to change their lives. And I love it.
When did you decide to become a chef?
Well, it happened by luck and the timing of it to be honest. I should also say necessity. We were farmers and nobody knew how to cook then and I have always understood instinctively on how to cook and so I was 34 before I started to cook professionally.
This was only because there was no other way for us to be successful as farmers. And I had loved food all my life. Also, I had had a really wonderful upbringing with food being really important to me in my life. So yeah, that was a driving factor.
Is there a chef you admire? In case there is one, why?
That's a tough one. There are so many! If I have to think from the present times, I think it will be Jock Zonfrillo. He has a restaurant named Orana. And the reason I admire him is because he works with Australian native ingredients with such delicacy and knowledge.
Then he also works with aboriginal community hoping to encourage them and to be able to produce more of their indigenous ingredients. He also has a foundation that he uses to do that. I admire him greatly.
What is your favourite cuisine? Your comfort food; something that you love to eat?
Italian! Or anything from the Mediterranean.
What is your favourite cuisine to cook?
Mediterranean because I live in a Mediterranean climate. I live in the Barossa Valley in South Australia. I cook what we grow. We are farmers first, so we farm olives and fruits and grapes. Everything I love from Mediterranean cuisine grows here.
What is your favourite ingredient to cook with?
It would be a sea urchin.
What do you think is the most challenging ingredient to work with?
Pheasants. People always overcook it.
What's the one ingredient you can't live without?
Verjuice. It is the juice of unripe grape used as a gentle acid.
What are the trends that you are noticing regarding wine and food pairing these days?
One of the things that I am noticing is a real relaxation of the traditional red wine with meat and white wine with fish; it's no longer that way.
It depends on the time; whether its lunch or dinner as to what people might choose for win matching. But I also notice that people are rethinking what to drink with cheese. They used to say red wine with cheese but no longer. Often it is with sweet wine nowadays that is the most appropriate.
The culinary industry is fast changing. How do you keep up with new food trends?
Well, I have to say that I don't. Because I am driven by flavour and produce. And I live in this Mediterranean climate that allows me to cook anything that I want with my produce that is grown in this climate. So, I guess you could say I don't follow trends but flavours and season.
Can you share your funniest kitchen incident?
For years I did a cooking show with a friend Simon Brian in the show named – 'The Cook and the Chef'. He loves chilly and I can't eat chillily. And one day he was cooking a dish with thirteen chillies in the pan and I raced out of the kitchen because it was suffocating me and we still have the footage from the cameraman where it is going up and down because as a professional he kept on filming. It was crazy. So, they filmed me running out of the kitchen and it is funny now it wasn't funny then.
- MasterChef Australia Season 11 airs on Star World