It’s always a treat to sit down and watch shows like, My Kitchen Rules, Masterchef and Junior Masterchef where we see extraordinary dishes created from hard work and pure imagination. But I must admit, they have changed the way people throw a dinner party – and I’m not happy about it.
I remember the days when I’d cook a lamb roast and everyone would be impressed – there’d be oohing and ahhing with friends commenting on how fabulous the meal was – I’d smile and say, “oh, stop it,” while secretly enjoying the flattery….and the best thing was, it was almost effortless to make. Now I see an 11 year old on the TV making a Beetroot and Blue Cheese Salad on a Wonton Base with Caramelised Eschalots, and it makes me want to cry into my two minute noodles.
These shows have now set the bar extraordinarily high and put pressure on all of us regular cooks to be as good as Peter Gilmore or Kylie Kwong. On the last season of Junior Masterchef, the kids (8 to 12 year olds) as part of a challenge, made Donna Hay’s Four Layer Chocolate Cake. I thought, if these little ones can make Donna’s cake, how hard can it be? …Long story short: my version ended up as a two layered crumbly tower, with a hard lean to one side and extra icing to hold the whole sad looking thing together.
Recently, I went to a friend’s house for a dinner party. Every time I go there, it’s like eating at a 3 hat restaurant. This particular time, my friend, Todd, nonchalantly tells us that dinner will be casual, nothing too fancy… then wheels out a six course degustation menu with matching wines. By course six, I’m all like, “No really, I couldn’t have any Chocolate Chipotle Walnut Torte, not after all that Thai Cracked Crab Curry and Pheasant in Orange Sauce. I’m as full as a tic.”
Yikes!!! Is this now the standard of what dinner should look like when having friends over? Has the expectation of the dinner party gone through the roof since Adriano Zumbo introduced the Croquembouche to the masses on Masterchef?
Worse, I was throwing a dinner party only a few weeks after Todd’s soiree, so what the hell was I going to cook that even came close to that? By the end of the night at Todd’s, I resigned myself to asking for the bill, and promised I would leave a generous tip. He laughed at the gag, but I was only half joking.
You’d think after working on a few cooking shows over the years, I’d be an expert cook, right? Learning through osmosis by some of the best culinary experts in the country. Sure I’ve picked up a tip or two, but as far as timing out a meal is concerned – well, let’s just say, it’s all up the ying yang. So for my dinner party – post Todd’s – I decided to invite ten people. I had prepared a highly detailed schedule so I’d know when entree, main and dessert had to be served. I even had alarms going off, so I knew what time I had to start prepping the next part of my menu. Dessert would be out no later than 9pm…Long story short: the veges were overcooked, the meat was undercooked and we were eating sticky date pudding at 10.45pm.