MasterChef judge and restaurateur, George Calombaris, has got his hands full at the moment – juggling his MasterChef commitments, his seven restaurants and working on the reopening of his flagship restaurant, The Press Club.
Add his two young children, James and Michaela, to the mix and it’s hard to see how he even finds time to make his own meals.
While he wasn’t at home to celebrate Father’s Day with his children this September – he was in Amsterdam working on a fundraiser for the burns charity Plates for Mates. He was happy to catch up with Sydney Observer to share some of his kid’s favourite meals.
What kinds of food do you like to cook for your two children?
I’m a very healthy cook when it comes to my kids at home. I cook lots of grains, and pulses; things like lentil soups. I always cook simplistic, delicious, whole foods that are full of flavour. They get lots of good olive oil, yoghurt, meats and fish. They’re very lucky, my son will never know what bad fast food tastes like.
What classifies as “bad fast food”?
When I say “bad fast food” I mean places that don’t use whole food and real ingredients. I just opened up a fast food place called Jimmy Grants in Melbourne, but it’s all whole foods. Everything is sourced ethically – the chickens actually had feathers before they were killed.
Do you have a go-to dessert?
I love baklava you can’t go past that. It’s just filled with lots of beautiful nuts, filo pastry, some honey, and butter. Delicious stuff.
A lot of people have been commenting on your recent weight loss. How did you manage to drop the kilos?
For me it was very simple and easy. I haven’t changed what I’m eating; I really just readjusted my eating habits. I’m still eating the same things – lots of olive oil and good fats, but rather than coming home at 11 or 12 o’clock at night after dinner service at the restaurant and stuffing my face, I’m more conscious of eating at the right times throughout the day. We need to fuel ourselves constantly and I’ve just upped the amount of food that I’m eating, and how often I eat.
Has it been difficult to keep the weight off while judging all of the dishes for MasterChef?
To be honest, not really, it just takes some planning. I get a production schedule given to me months in advance so I know on Monday I’ll be tasting 22 dishes between a certain time, on Tuesday I’ll be tasting three dishes and then on Wednesday I won’t be tasting any dishes. So what I do is, I compensate my meals with the tastings. It hasn’t been hard at all. I mean you’ve got to remember we don’t taste 22 dishes everyday.
Do you have a favourite meal that you look forward to after a long day at work?
I love a good cheese on toast, but I’m not talking about just any cheese on toast. I’m talking about good sourdough bread, great thick cheddar, and beautiful pickles – yum.
What about for breakfast?
For breakfast you can’t go wrong with two poached eggs, a side of avocado, a piece of sourdough and a short macchiato. I’m a Melbournian at the end of the day – we’re coffee snobs down here.
Do you still get to spend enough time in the kitchen now you’re busy working on MasterChef and running your restaurants?
At the moment I do sort of spread myself around all of the restaurants. My first restaurant was the Press Club seven years ago, it has been closed for almost a year now, but it’s reopening at the end of this year as my flagship. Once it opens I’ll be back in there full-time, that will be the only place you’ll find me and I’ll have my development kitchen next door, called the Press Club Project – my creative space.
Tell us about the Press Club Project.
I’ve worked out one thing, George Calombaris is best when he’s creating, not when he’s actually in the kitchen peeling and chopping the onions. So that’s what the Press Club Project is all about – creating new dishes for the menu. I’ve always said: Does Valentino sew the buttons on his suits? No. Valentino designs the suit and he has the right people in the right spot to make it. It’s the same thing with the restaurants, I’ve got to be around but it’s not just about cooking anymore. It’s about inspiring, directing, teaching, following up and being the overall leader that my staff need.
Where can we find you when you’re not in the kitchen?
Kicking a soccer ball around with my son!