Friday, 3 June 2011

Interview: Marion Grasby

Marion Grasby shot to fame in the 2010 season of MasterChef. She has her first cookbook, Marion: Recipes and Stories from a Hungry Cook, set for release on July 1st. She will be appearing at Shearer's Bookshop on Wednesday, June 29th at 7.30pm.

Hi Marion, thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with me!

From seeing you in the media and from what I’ve been told you have an absolute, all-encompassing passion for food. What drives that for you?
I think that when you have a genuine love for something you cannot help but be completely consumed by it. People often ask me when it was that I fell in love with food, but there was never an exact moment of time I can pinpoint. Cooking and eating for me is quite simply joyful and that’s why I do it.

How would you describe Marion: Recipes and Stories from a Hungry Cook?
Well, I think it’s a little bit Thai and a little bit Australian…just like me! The way I cook, eat and even gather my ingredients are all influenced by the places I’ve been and the people I love. I’ve travelled and lived all over Australia, Papua New Guinea and Thailand (my Mum is from Thailand). All those places, as well as my family, have influenced the way I cook and so my cookbook is not just a recipe book but also a little storybook about my life.

I’m not a foodie so this may be an obvious one, but why Recipes and Stories from a Hungry Cook and not Recipes and Stories from a Hungry Chef?
My Mum is a trained chef and I have great respect for the time and dedication it takes to gain the title of a professional ‘chef’. I’m not professionally trained and so I prefer to be known for what I am…a very passionate (and hungry) home cook. My recipes are not from a restaurant kitchen. The food in my book is very much for the home cook by a home cook.

What do you hope readers will take away from your cookbook?
Of course I hope that readers find recipes that inspire them to cook. But I also hope people find a much more general type of inspiration. For me, my cookbook is proof that if you have a little dream, if you take a chance and you work hard, you might just get what you want in life.

When Adam Liaw visited us he illustrated the amount of hard work and long hours involved in creating a cookbook. Can you tell me a little about the process that went into creating your book?
I loved every minute of it! Well…maybe not at 3am when I was editing the manuscript…but most of the time   In all honesty though, it was such a wonderful and inspiring experience for me. We travelled back to Darwin, where I was born, and visited the local markets and farms that I remembered as a kid. I also took a photographer and my Mum back to my mother’s village in Thailand. I got to spend time with aunties, my uncle and grandmother for the first time in 25 years. So the whole process was very special for me as well as my family.

Out of the 80+ recipes you present in the book do you have a few favourites?
Oh no! Don’t make me choose! Well…if I had to, I’d probably pick Beggar’s Chicken as my favourite. It’s a soy and star anise braised chicken that my Mum would often make when I was growing up. I guess it was our family’s version of a good ol’ roast chicken. Just the smell of that deeply spiced, simmering black broth makes me feel loved.

Is writing also a passion of yours, considering your original career as a journalist, and the writing you do for MasterChef magazine and the Marion’s Kitchen blog?
I was very much a nerdy bookworm when I was little and I think my passion for reading spilled over into a passion for writing by the time I’d finished school. I was an ABC journalist for about 3 years and it was the storytelling and writing aspect of my job that I treasured the most. I’m very lucky to have stumbled across a career that lets me cook and write.

You had left your career as a journalist to pursue a Masters of Gastronomy degree prior to MasterChef, in what direction were you hoping your food career would go?
I had no idea! All I knew was that I loved food and I needed to get out into the culinary world to figure out what I could do. I’m such a believer in ‘doing’ first and figuring out the details later. I had a teeny tiny hope that one day I might possibly convince someone to let me write a food column. Little did I know that 3 years later I would have a food column and a cookbook!

What’s the biggest myth about cooking in the MasterChef kitchen?
I think most people don’t realise how long the whole process takes. In TV time the series goes for about 13 weeks. In real time it took 10 months from my first audition to my elimination. I spent 6 of those months living in the Masterchef house, away from my partner and family. My partner Tim lost 8 kilograms while I was away!

Can you tell me a little about your other current project, the Marion’s Kitchen Food Range?
My Marion’s Kitchen food range is another dream come true for me. It’s a range of ingredient kits for some of my favourite Thai dishes – green curry, red curry, fishcakes, satay and basil and chilli stir-fry. Each kit contains all the pantry staples for each dish, for example kaffir limes leaves, Thai basil, fish sauce, coconut milk and bamboo shoots. I used all my own recipes to create the pastes, sauces and marinades. Through the six-month development process I ate more Thai curries than anyone would in a lifetime!

Since we’re a bookshop I should ask, are you a reader? And what are you reading at the moment?
I’ve always been a reader. I alternate between easy-reading novels and academic food books. I’ve just finished reading The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez. Now I’m in food nerd mode and am reading Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History, by Sidney W. Mintz.

What’s next for you?
I’d really like to take some time out in the next few months to do a bit of travelling. I think it’s important to seek out new experiences and places to be inspired by. I would also like to learn how to knit.

Thanks for your time and we can’t wait for the event!
Me too! See you all there!
 Marion Grasby will be appearing at Shearer's at 7.30pm on Wednesday 29/06/11. Tickets are $15 and must be booked in advance. Call (02) 9572 7766 for bookings and information. 

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