Thank goodness all the Christmas stuff is now over. Don’t get me wrong I actually really like the whole build up to the festive period. But that’s probably because I don’t have to worry about it professionally (catering) I worked out, that for the best part of 25 years I had spent many hours preparing and cooking Christmas food. The festive bun fight started for us in early November. Yes, turkey, trimmings, puddings and mince pies eaten in huge amounts. So by the time Christmas day arrived you were thoroughly fed up with it. Now Christmas is a joy, cooking for just a few people is really nice and a real pleasure. There is also the added bonus of valuable time off with the family. Something again that I did not have when cooking in hotel kitchens.
This year I had the added excitement of knowing that I was going off to Australia filming for ITV’s This Morning programme. The bizarre point being that almost 30 years ago to the day I set off to Australia travelling as a young chef! I am really interested to see how the whole place has changed. Aussie food has come a long way over the past few years. Very good chefs such as Neil Perry & Tetsuya Wakuda have really paved the way in putting Australia on the world foodie map. Even a certain Mr Blumenthal is relocating here whilst his mini empire in the UK is revamped.
We have spent months working on the whole project trying to get a really good feel for Australia’s very cool food scene. The whole movement really is based on good raw product, and then cooked carefully. Many countries around Australia have influenced present day Australian food. Indonesia, China, Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia all play their part. So with all the bits and bobs in place I set off.
It’s an early start, like always; the Ethiad staff are very organised at Heathrow’s terminal 4. Me and Will (my director) have to film me pitching up and checking in to kick start the first film. The staff are charming and professional apart from a rather grumpy Ethiad boss who seems to bark at everybody. I recognise him from the Airport programme, the documentary screened a few years ago. Oh well, we all have off days.
After a nice breakfast I board the plane and settle down for the seven-hour flight to Abu Dhabi. The plane is clean and the staff very helpful. I order a cappuccino that’s arrives cold, but I do not complain. I catch up on my scripts and finish off a lot of reading. Lunch is good; I order asparagus, scrambled eggs, roasted tomatoes and bread. On the whole it’s okay, but lukewarm, I decline a second cappuccino.
After a quick nod off we are starting our decent into Abu Dhabi. Its dark and as we disembark I’m met by a charming Etihad member of staff who takes me through a quick re check in and x-ray, and then off to the lounge. We only have a couple of hours to wait before the second half of the flight.
The lounge is cavernous, with chilled and hot food stations, plus spa, huge bar and plenty of space to spread out. The food offering is pretty spectacular; blowing away anything I have eaten at Heathrow. From sushi to steamed River Nile Perch in coriander sauce (I had that and it was very good) Steamed rice, freshly and perfectly cooked vegetables are first rate. Before long my lady returns and escorts me right to the door of the plane, that’s great service.
The plane is full and due to bad weather in Australia (not a good omen) we are delayed by two hours. Eventually we take-off and I settle down to a quick film and a little cheese, then sleep, if I can. With a flight time of thirteen and a half hours there is no rush for anything.
We arrive in Sydney, the weather is overcast but it’s very warm, feeling a bit tired now, but happy to be here.
Border control and customs clear I meet up with my transfer driver David. We chat about various things whilst we drive into Sydney. He is Chinese and has been in Australia for well over 30 years. We also chat about China’s one child per family policy that came into force in the 1978. It’s a bit grim, so we quickly move onto how beautiful Sydney is and within no time we arrive at the Adina apartments that is going to be my home for the next two nights. I say goodbye to David and check in.
My room is okay, large with kitchen area and small balcony and with a sideways view of the Darling Harbour area. I unpack shower, shave and put my feet up. I’m not really tired after having a good few hours’ sleep on the plane so head out to explore the area.
Its Friday night and the place is buzzing. The harbour is packed with bars and restaurants and music is everywhere. It’s certainly a happening place and full of people enjoying the start to the weekend. Back at the hotel I settle down to a cold beer and watch the Australian football team on telly.