Simon Gault’s Mediterranean food adventure a palatable viewing experience


OPINION: It’s one of the best kept secrets. Kiwi celebrity chef Simon Gault stumbled across it when he visited the Greek island of Samos. 

In How We Eat With Simon Gault (Prime, Sundays), he tasted a few wines, then a few more, and his complexion changed to every shade of a traffic light.

The sample he savoured goes to the Vatican, not just to priests and cardinals, but all the way to Pope Francis. It’s what he drinks. I’d pontificate about that. The Pope’s Pinot should be stocked in every supermarket, but instead it remains a secret on Samos. 

How We Eat is a pleasant departure for Simon Gault. He was stern, often grim in MasterChef NZ. Now he’s relaxed, smiling and has added the word “wow” to his dialogue. He visits two Greek islands to learn about the Mediterranean diet and then compares it with what we eat.

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We find chef Simon Gault in a more relaxed and jovial mood in How We Eat compared with NZ Masterchef taskmaster.

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We find chef Simon Gault in a more relaxed and jovial mood in How We Eat compared with NZ Masterchef taskmaster.

It’s as different as chalk and Greek feta. The residents of Ikaria and Samos eat a simple diet of vegetables, herbs and olive oil while Kiwis get orgasmic over processed food. Our restaurants exacerbate the problem. Fresh veges or salads come a poor second to pork belly and mash.

Gault points out that one in three islanders live over 90, drinking goat’s milk and eating fish, honey, eggplant, zucchini, peppers, squash and herbs. They’re a tarragon of virtue. It’s a lifestyle so removed from ours that it’s difficult to make comparisons.

The difference in culture and lifestyle makes the programme attractive. However, Gault should spend more time in Greek kitchens cooking and sampling before introducing the benefits of butternut and bay leaves to New Zealand chefs. 

Then there’s olive oil, lots of it. The Greeks love it by the jugful. They claim it’s better than botox and would add hair to every bald Bachelorette contestant.

All Rise (TV3, Tuesdays) has returned to our screens. It has a catchy title and several endearing characters. Lola Carmichael is an LA judge who likes interrupting and getting her own way. When Cody Kopple, whom she successfully prosecuted, is given a retrial, Lola is angry. She’s more annoyed that defence lawyer, Felice Bell, could succeed second time around.  

Now a judge, Lola entrusts the prosecution to Mark Cullen. So far, so good. The key witness is Choke, an ex-con. But he won’t co-operate. Choke has found the Lord and is too busy handing out church leaflets. Mark tells him he can’t hide from his past. Choke has an epiphany, agrees and the episode whimpers to a conclusion.

It could have been good. Some smart interaction at the bench with Choke, as the masterstroke, would’ve lifted the episode. He could’ve handed out a few leaflets to the jury. “How do you find the Ten Commandments, guilty or not guilty?”

But there was no “all rise” in court, which is the point of the TV series. 

It may be morbid curiosity, but I found Inside Belmarsh Prison (TV One, Tuesdays) fascinating. Here were Britain’s most notorious prisoners in one enormous lock-up. They include Ian Huntley, Michael Adebowale, who killed Fusilier Lee Rigby, and Julian Assange. 

Resident prison visitor Ross Kemp was allowed in for six months. He gave an arresting performance as he talked to Governor Rob Davis and even some inmates. There was the Pope family, three brothers behind bars who regard Belmarsh as their local. Charlie, a serial burglar, was making a half-hearted attempt to learn how to establish a gardening company. Trouble is he’d steal his own plants. 

The most high-profile prisoner was Tommy Robinson, an anti-Islam activist, who spent nine weeks in solitary on contempt of court charges.

Tommy came with a rent-a-mob who became violent outside the prison walls and caused a lock-down. Tommy’s mail, which had to be opened, was far greater than Jo Jo Rabbit downloads.

The documentary was riveting but, like Belmarsh itself, was closely censored. Neither prisoners nor staff gave their opinion about Britain’s high security prison. The answer is for Kemp to do a stretch and find out himself. In solitary.

Malcolm Hopwood is a Stuff columnist based in Manawatū

Celebrity Chef Simon Gault is on a mission to uncover the secrets of the Mediterranean lifestyle.

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Celebrity Chef Simon Gault is on a mission to uncover the secrets of the Mediterranean lifestyle.



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