Currently on our screens hosting the brilliant Destination Flavour: Scandinavia, Adelaide-raised cooking identity Adam Liaw is returning to his hometown for a couple of special Tasting Australia events.
Aside from carving a career on television (SBS), print (Fairfax and The Guardian), Liaw was ranked as having the most influential social media presence in the Australian food industry by Klout, while websites such as Buzzfeed and news.com.au have gushed over the 2010 MasterChef winner’s amusing and cutting quips. Unlike his charming, warm and inquisitive nature on TV, Liaw is devastatingly funny on Twitter, an intelligent and honest social and food observer who is funnier than most comedians that use the medium. Liaw says that people appreciate the unfiltered voice that a social media platform like Twitter allows.
Seriously, what’s the deal with @SBS continually allowing me to make TV shows but not letting me sing, write songs or present Eurovision?
— Adam Liaw (@adamliaw) May 2, 2016
“I think that’s possibly what people like to see,” says the author of the cookbooks Adam Liaw’s Asian Cookery School and Adam’s Big Pot. “I think messages can be over produced, whether it’s a TV network telling you what you can say on camera or an editor of a magazine or book editing your copy.”
I just used a dry shampoo as part of my schedule as a working parent so I guess this is what third-wave feminism feels like. — Adam Liaw (@adamliaw) May 2, 2016
Given his Twitter presence and voice is different to his TV personality, does he ever think about his different media voices? “People are inherently different depending on the circumstances,” he says. “I don’t see it as being a contradiction at all. If you’re acting exactly the same way at a job interview as you are with your mates at the pub then there is something wrong with you,” he laughs.
First they ignore you. Then they mock you. Then they fight you. Then they say it’s apparently “the law” you have to wear pants on the bus. — Adam Liaw (@adamliaw) April 29, 2016
For Tasting Australia, Liaw will host one of the ‘A Few of my Favourite Things’ tours where he will guide people through Chinatown. While he won’t reveal where he will take his guests, he does says the Central Market will be the primary focus of the tour. “Having grown up in Adelaide, I spent an awful amount of time in and around that area. I used to live near there as well when I moved into the city. In my opinion, it’s the best and most user-friendly market in Australia. It’s one that harks back to the old farmers’ markets of old without having to pretend. There can be lots of farmers’ markets these days that kind of try to pretend to be what the Central Market is and always has been. The Central Market is truly authentic. It is exactly what it says on the box.” Aside from this, Liaw will cook as part of the huge Origins Dinner, Tasting Australia’s showcase event. He isn’t at liberty to reveal what he will be cooking although he does know what he will be preparing. “It’s chefs’ cooking – I don’t consider myself to be a chef – but the idea of Origins is that it’s chefs cooking stuff that they eat at home. It is certainly stuff we all eat at home.” The latest series of Liaw’s popular SBS show Destination Flavour turns it lens towards Scandinavia to focus on the New Nordic movement and the food and culture of northern Europe.
This is one of my favourite recipes from the whole series. Viking-style salmon cooked in front of an open fire on a plank of chestnut wood. A photo posted by Adam Liaw (@adamliaw) on
“One of the really great things I’ve taken away from New Nordic is a greater appreciation of vegetables and that’s, I guess, a topic that’s very hot in the food world at the moment. Now, you have non-vegetarians buying vegetarian cookbooks and we’re enjoying eating vegetables a lot more. We are starting to define our meals by vegetables. That can apply to vegetarians obviously but also to meat eaters as well. I also think, and this is one of the things that has really clarified my thinking since making the Scandinavian series, is say you have a Sunday roast, it is all about the meat in terms of are we having lamb or beef or chicken or whatever. I think the difference between a good Sunday roast and a fantastic one are the vegetables that go with it. If you just have a roast chicken and a salad, that’s fine. But if it’s a really good salad and if you put extra effort into the vegetables, it can just elevate a very simple meal into one that’s absolutely spectacular.” Was it the New Nordic movement that attracted him to film this series in Scandinavia? “New Nordic is the dominant topic of conversation, or it has been for the last 10 years in terms of high-end food,” he says. “There’s also this part of Scandinavian food that is completely familiar with what we have in Australia. There’s a very strong cultural connection between Scandinavia, I guess via England, through to Australia that we may not fully appreciate. Some people think the meat and three veg thing is Scandinavian. If you see the traditional dishes of Scandinavia, a lot of them are very similar to what we have here. Some would say that Scandinavian languages have the biggest influence on English (more than say Latin for example). Right down to the blue tin of Danish butter cookies that your nan used to put out when guests came over, that comes from a centuries-old Danish and Swedish tradition of serving different types of cookies when people visit.” After Liaw won MasterChef in 2010, he said he was interested in opening a Japanese restaurant but this is yet to eventuate. “I don’t have the time to be honest. It’s always been an idea in the back of my mind. I wouldn’t know where I would find the time to do that. I’ve got two kids now and I don’t really want to lose my dad time going off to a restaurant and cooking for an evening. Never say never.” Given that Liaw was working as a lawyer before his food career took off, does he want to stay in the food industry for the rest of his career or would he go back to law? “That’s a tough one. I love it. I absolutely love what I do. I’m not dying to get out of it. I’m not dying to open a restaurant or anything. I just enjoy what I’m doing at the moment and I’m lucky enough to keep doing it. When it stops being tenable I’ll maybe look at something else.” Adam Liaw: A Few of my favourite Things Saturday, May 7, 11am Victoria Square The Origins Dinner Saturday, May 7, 7pm Secret location tastingaustralia.com.au adamliaw.com