At just 36 years of age, Melbournite George Calombaris is already one of the world’s most accomplished chefs. In 2004, he was voted by Global Food and Wine Magazine as one of the Top 40 chefs of influence in the world.
TV viewers will of course know him as a judge on MasterChef Australia. On Oct 28, Calombaris will be in Singapore to host a special dinner for ticketed guests. Before the event, let’s find out some interesting facts that you may not have known about the exuberant chef.
1. His mother inspired him to be a chef
Photo: Herald Sun
Calombaris’ career began when he apprenticed under Scottish-born chef Raymond Capaldi at the Sofitel Hotel in Melbourne. He exceled early, winning the Bonland National Apprentice of the Year Award in 1999.
Soon after, Calombaris found himself working for now-MasterChef co-judge Gary Mehigan at Fenix Restaurant, leading a team of 11 qualified and apprentice chefs.
Nevertheless, Calombaris still cites his mom, Mary, as his biggest influence. Although born and bred in Melbourne, Calombaris came from a Greek household. His mom would often cook up rich and varied Greek cuisine that would later inspire Calombaris’ own experimental style.
His mother Mary also taught him about the enjoyment and satisfaction of seeing others revel in great food and unforgettable dining experiences.
Mary has even appeared on an episode of MasterChef Australia, teaching contestants how to make a traditional moussaka. Her appearance was so popular, it was that reported that several publishing houses immediately approached her about writing a cookbook after the episode had aired.
2. He owns 7 restaurants, including one in Greece.
Apart from his flagship restaurant, The Press Club, in Melbourne, Calombaris also owns 6 other critically acclaimed restaurants in Australia.
Calombaris is proud of the fact he employs about 300 staff at his restaurants.
"I employ more than 300 staff - I want to employ more,” he said. “But how do you try not to push that cost onto the customer that comes into your restaurant? It's a balancing act."
Along with his many restaurants, Calombaris has found time to write a number of cook books including, The Press Club, Modern Greek Cookery; Greek Cookery from the Hellenic Heart; Georgie Porgie; and Your Place or Mine and Cook With Us with fellow MasterChef Australia judge Gary Mehigan.
3. He represented Australia at the "Olympics of Food"
The Bocuse d'Or is a biennial world chef championship, named after chef Paul Bocuse. It is one of the world's most prestigious cooking competitions and is often considered the culinary equivalent of the Olympic games
In 2001, at the age of just 23, Calombaris participated in the Bocuse d’Or, finishing 16th – the highest an Australian has ever placed. According to The Age, Calombaris spent an entire year preparing for the competition.
4. He lost 20kg in 2013 to keep healthy
Long-time fans of MasterChef Australia were surprised last year to see Calombaris sport a svelte figure.
According to him, his weight loss was down mainly to good eating habits and exercise.
"I'd finish work at 11.30pm at night and go home and eat a big bowl of pasta," he said, "that's not a good idea. I'm still eating the same things, just eating more appropriately."
In an interview with news.com.au, he added that he wanted to lose weight to set an example for his son.
"My son's nearly two and I want to be able to run around with him and not huff and puff. I want to set a good example for him."
5. George’s mantra: Recipes aren’t set in stone, they’re only guidelines
One of Calombaris’s top ten cooking tips include not being restricted to recipes. He also believes that a cook always need to taste everything and adjust the seasoning and flavours as you go along, otherwise you are simply wasting your time.
His other cooking tips include:
Catch George on MasterChef Australia S6, every Mon-Fri, 7pm on LifetimeTM Ch 514. To subscribe, simply tune in to Ch 514 and press the blue button on your remote control. If you’re not yet a StarHub TV customer, you can sign-up here.
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