Some of you will know I am not a big fan of the Master Chef phenomenon. So when I met 2013 winner Aaron Brunet I was a little surprised. Aaron is a quietly spoken person who someone aptly described to me the other day as gentle.
This is surprising because my impression of most contestants on such shows is they are just as interested in the fame and glory as they are the food. They are what I would describe as “look at me” types.
The fact is that shows like Master Chef are churning out a new winner every year and although the shows might be rating hits can the contestants translate this into a successful cook book? It must be a daunting task to have just won Master Chef and then have to embark on writing your first cookbook. Putting together a cohesive cookbook with a clear vision is tough for even seasoned food writers, not to mention the skill of writing a recipe that is clear and precise but also easy to follow.
Aaron admits he was conflicted when he first sat down to write his book. He was an amateur cook having been challenged for three months to cook like a professional. “When I started writing this book” Aaron says “my perspective was coloured by the expectations I felt I had to live up to because I had won Master Chef.” Aaron says he tangled himself up in knots trying to live up to his perceived expectations. “It was the classic situation where you are trying too hard to create something instead of letting the process happen” says Aaron. “By letting o of expectations and having fun thinking about how I’d like to eat” Aaron says “everything started to flow.”
I am pleased he decided to create a book around the food he and his family enjoy as the result is a refreshing book with interesting but not necessarily complicated recipes. It is clear that Aaron has a great palate and understands the importance of balancing flavours as well as texture. But this is illustrated in recipes like Fishcakes with Lemon Wedges and Tartare Salad.
It’s clear that Aaron has a deep appreciation for food and that this love is illustrated in recipe in the book for things like Peanut butter on toast. This recipe takes up four pages of the book, more actually if you want to include making the butter and the sourdough for the toast.
As I write this I realise that four pages on making peanut butter toast may seem over the top but I think this is the point of the book. Aaron wants you to see that love and care for your food makes all the difference. Anyone can slap on cheap nasty peanut butter on some toast and eat it mindlessly for breakfast. That though is a completely different experience to eating carefully made toast from bread you baked with homemade peanut butter.
Reviewed by Vicki Ravlich-Horan
Cook With Me by Aaron Brunet
Published by Random House