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Five Minutes with Andy Allen

Masterchef season four winner, Andy Allen, tells us who has been his greatest influence, what he is looking forward to at this year’s Regional Flavours and gives us his hot tip of what he thinks will be the next foodie trend…

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO MOST AT THIS YEAR’S REGIONAL FLAVOURS?
The program in the Hunting Club looks great, so I’m keen to see the other chefs presenting, and what they’ll be cooking as we all kind of fit under this ‘theme’ I guess. Also it’s going to be good to see my old Masterchef judge mate Matt Preston, along with George and Gary!

WE’RE MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO YOUR COOKING DEMONSTRATION! CAN YOU GIVE US A HINT AT WHAT YOU’LL BE ‘PLATING UP’ FOR US AND WHAT TECHNIQUES WE ARE SET TO LEARN FROM YOU?
Darren and I are pumped for this demo. We’re working with Meat & Livestock Australia on this one, so the focus is on secondary cuts of beef & lamb. We see a lot of slow braises and BBQ stuff happening at the moment, so Darren and I are taking a different approach to these secondary cuts, and showing you some styles and techniques that we use in the kitchen which you may not have seen before, but with our tips you’ll be able to easily substitute these into your home cooking, as well as try cuts of meat you may not have explored at home before.

REGIONAL FLAVOURS IS OF COURSE BASED IN BRISBANE’S ICONIC SOUTH BANK PRECINCT. ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO CHECKING OUT ANY LOCAL SOUTH BANK RESTAURANTS OR SPOTS WHILE YOU ARE HERE?
I always like to explore parts of a city that can give me a nightcap after a hard day’s work. So I’m looking forward to sampling one of the small bars along Southbank, or stopping off at a pub to catch the end of a footy game. I’m spending a bit of time in Brisbane these days and I’m loving it.

WHEN YOU GET SOME DOWNTIME FROM THE WORK KITCHEN, WHAT DO YOU COOK WHEN YOU ARE AT HOME AND HOW DOES YOUR COOKING DIFFER BETWEEN THE TWO (WORK AND HOME)?
Good question, and the answer is a real blend. All of us at the Ducks do a lot of cooking at home; we like to mix it up in our home kitchens and in doing this, our home cooking makes the basis of many items you’ll see on our menu. We’re all mates so we like to have each other over for a feed, especially when we want to trial a certain technique or a different flavour combo. If we can trial and test it well at home and everyone likes what they eat, we can then shape that dish to fit on our menu, and share it with our customers.

WHO HAS HAD THE GREATEST INFLUENCE ON YOUR COOKING AND WHY?
This may sound a bit one-sided, but probably it’s the gang at the Three Blue Ducks – they are the guys I attached myself to when I got into the industry directly after Masterchef, and I haven’t looked back. I gravitated there because I think inherently their ethos to food was the what I was looking for, because it’s what I think I liked. That ethos is simple; a healthy outlook on food, and packing it with flavour!

HAVING TRAVELLED EXTENSIVELY, WE CAN IMAGINE YOU HAVE HAD SOME TRULY MEMORABLE FOOD EXPERIENCES, WHICH ONE STANDS OUT MOST IN YOUR MIND AND WHY?
I’ll give you a good and a bad:
– The good was meeting Jose Avillez (Portugal’s Jamie Oliver) in Lisbon, and sucking the mustard out of the head of the biggest red prawn I’ve ever eaten, while shooting our show Eat The World and dining in his restaurant Cantinho Do Avillez.
– The bad was visiting a small town in Rioja Spain and in order to appease the locals, Ben Milbourne and I had to break down, chop, fry and eat Lambs testicles. They were cooked ‘medium’ !!! There’s a video on Youtube if you want to re-live the moment.

FINALLY, WHAT’S YOUR HOT TIP TO BE ‘THE NEXT BIG FOODIE TREND’ IN 2018?
Interestingly I was talking about this last week – I’m about to head up to the Northern Territory to shoot another few episodes of my show Eat Australia, which will focus a lot on native Australian ingredients. And although chefs have traditionally worked with lots of native and indigenous Australian ingredients in restaurant kitchens, it seems that these are becoming far more accessible to the home cooks, and so I’m excited to see this incline in availability leading to herb cabinets in Aussie homes stocked with Lemon Myrtle and Strawberry Gum, for example. Would be so cool.

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