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On a food sojourn

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Chef Gary Mehigan describes himself as the busiest lazy person he knows. Which basically means that he would love to be lazy, but never has the time! But when he is busy riding a motorbike through the streets of Hanoi, or cooking up meals on the beaches of Chennai, or fishing in River Mekong, being lazy is obviously nowhere on his mind. For those who don’t know, Gary can currently be found heading to different locales in Southeast Asia and cooking up a storm in his new show Far Flung with Gary Mehigan, on Fox Life.

How far has he been flung, exactly? Well, let’s just say he has managed to take an epic ‘food trip’ across Southeast Asia, sampled the local fish markets in India, learnt the art of making kimchi in Korea, and even got a first-hand experience of making fish sauce in Hanoi.

What more, it’s not just his experiences that he wants to share with the audiences, but also those of his other ‘band’ chefs who are a part of Fox Life’s exclusive Food @ 9: India Special with Gary Mehigan. So, be prepared to accompany Gary on his Far Flung sojourns, head out with David Rocco as he discovers India in Dolce India, experience Sarah’s Todd excitement as she sets up her first restaurant in India with My Restaurant in India, and get high with Kiran Jethwa’s Spirited Traveller. In conversation with Sunday Herald, Gary Mehigan sheds light on the shows, his food experiences and more:

Tell us a little bit about Fox Life’s FOOD @ 9 band…

The shows lined up are all about food and travel. Viewers can look forward to a great variety here. Apart from Dolce India, Spirited Traveller and Far Flung, there’s also a great line-up of international and Australian talent too. You have Miguel’s Tropical Kitchen, Maeve O’Meara’s Food Safari, Jamie’s Kitchen, Peter Kuruvita’s My Sri Lanka, and more. It’s some great programming. I am so food-obsessed that I watch all these shows myself. When it comes to food shows, I like watching something with a bit of commentary and some entertainment. And that’s what Fox Life’s FOOD @ 9 band is all about.

You are a self-acclaimed food tourist! What does that mean?

As I have got older, I have realised that the pleasure that I gain from food now is very different from the pleasure I gained from it when I was younger. When I was young, it was all about the dignity of labour and practising and perfecting my craft. I am 50 now, and the pleasure of experiencing the world as a food tourist excites me. Sharing plates of exceptional food amidst great company is a universal language like music; everybody can understand and derive joy from it. A food tourist is someone who is obsessed with food to the point where every holiday they take tends to revolve around food, and everything else comes a close second.

How’s the experience of shooting for ‘Far Flung’?

For those who don’t know, we filmed six episodes around Southeast Asia for Far Flung… We went to India, South Korea, Laos, Vietnam and Hong Kong. We had an absolutely fabulous time. For example, we went to Mekong river to fish and then created a dish out of our catch, which was just amazing. In Laos, we made jaew bong, which is like traditional salsa, by smashing ingredients in a mortar and pestle to get those smoky, sweet-salty-sour flavours, and that was so thrilling.

While filming on a Chennai beach, going to the market to buy our equipment, setting those up, and visiting the local fish market, and haggling with the fisherman’s wife over the price was so much fun. I also created my own version of a mild turmeric and ginger-based curry. These are all unforgettable experiences for me. I still cook that Chennai curry at home just because it is an inspiration from my travels. So, I hope that when people watch the show, they get the colour, the expression, the kind of enthusiasm that I am feeling, and be inspired to cook something themselves!

Any memorable moments from the show?

Riding a motorcycle through the streets of Hanoi was an absolute thrill. We went down to a place called Phu Quoc to see how fish sauce was made. I became a massive fan of the artisans of fish sauce. The entire process of making fish sauce — the fishing, fermenting and distilling — is an incredible process. I began to appreciate the flavours and complexity of what just seems to be an everyday ingredient, more.

How easy or difficult is it to shoot such food shows?

Compared to the real world of busy restaurants and running businesses, for me, working on food shows is a real pleasure. It’s like the pinnacle for me as a foodie. To take the combination of all my experiences as a chef and restaurateur, and translate them along with my travels for audiences, and to inspire people, is a privilege. I find that while travelling, working and cooking for a show like Far Flung, you get a very different experience as opposed to the one as a tourist. You dig a lot deeper, and you get a real-life experience.

People are addicted to food shows now. What’s your take on it?

The world, including food, has changed enormously in the last 30 years. Social media has played a massive role in that. For instance, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are all underpinned by food today. The food content is much more instantaneous, there’s a lot of variety. You can pretty much get whatever you want, and I think that’s wonderful. Now, the question is, do people cook more because of the surge in such shows? I don’t know. Some do, some don’t. But, I am very pleased to be a part of this fandom today.

Source: Deccan Herald

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