At just 36 years of age, Melbournite George Calombaris is already one of the world’s most accomplished chefs. While one of his largest claims to fame is as one of the judges in MasterChef Australia; in 2004, at the age of just 26, he was voted by Global Food and Wine Magazine as one of the Top 40 chefs of influence in the world.
His modern take on Greek cooking is an exciting blend of experimental and traditional but is always firmly rooted in the lessons he learnt in the kitchen of his Greek Cypriot mother, Mary.
Apart from his flagship restaurant, The Press Club, in Melbourne, Calombaris also owns 6 other critically acclaimed restaurants in Australia.
Calombaris is proud of the fact he employs about 300 staff at his restaurants.
"I employ more than 300 staff - I want to employ more,” he said. “But how do you try not to push that cost onto the customer that comes into your restaurant? It's a balancing act."
Along with his many restaurants, Calombaris has found time to write a number of cook books including, The Press Club, Modern Greek Cookery; Greek Cookery from the Hellenic Heart; Georgie Porgie; and Your Place or Mine and Cook With Us with fellow MasterChef Australia judge Gary Mehigan.
2. He represented Australia at the "Olympics of Food"
The Bocuse d'Or is a biennial world chef championship, named after chef Paul Bocuse. It is one of the world's most prestigious cooking competitions and is often considered the culinary equivalent of the Olympic games
3. He lost 20kg in 2013 to keep healthy
Long-time fans of MasterChef Australia were surprised last year to see Calombaris sport a svelte figure. According to him, his weight loss was down mainly to good eating habits and exercise. "I'd finish work at 11.30pm at night and go home and eat a big bowl of pasta," he said, "that's not a good idea. I'm still eating the same things, just eating more appropriately."
In an interview with news.com.au, he added that he wanted to lose weight to set an example for his son. "My son's nearly two and I want to be able to run around with him and not huff and puff. I want to set a good example for him."
4. Recipes aren’t set in stone, they’re only guidelines
One of Calombaris’s top ten cooking tips include not being restricted to recipes. He also believes that a cook always need to taste everything and adjust the seasoning and flavours as you go along, otherwise you are simply wasting your time.
His other cooking tips include:
- You can only be a great cook if you start with great ingredients.
- Salt is one of the most important ingredients – you can be fancy-schmancy with all the techniques under the sun, but if you don’t know how to transform the flavour of a dish with the right amount of salt, then the dish will never be great.
- Preparation (mise-en-place) is the key to culinary success. It doesn’t matter whether you’re cooking in a restaurant or at home, if you’re well prepared you’re going to get good results.
- If you don’t want to eat your own food, then don’t serve it to others.
- You must live to cook, not cook to live.
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