Hello friends and welcome new readers! An incredibly hectic 3.5 month trip to Australia and a dysfunctional (and subsequently retired from service) MacBook Pro have led to Miss Marzipan‘s extended period of absence from the blogosphere, but I intend to jump back in the blogging saddle as of… now!
Although my time away was filled with fun, happy little adventures and loads of fabulous food-related exploits (mostly eating… lots), I wanted to share with you one of the most unique opportunities and enjoyable experiences of my time away.
I make no secret of my love of MasterChef Australia. Throughout both my pregnancies and beyond, MasterChef Australia* has been my ultimate “comfort television”** viewing choice. Five seasons of the show have produced inspirational stories and faces and, standing out from amongst them as one of the most creative/talented contestants to emerge from the MasterChef kitchen with an amazing new career in the food world, was professional artist Poh Ling Yeow, who placed runner-up in Season 1. Back in 2010 as we watched MasterChef unfold from our couch in Stockholm (a few months behind Australian television viewing audiences), I was a Poh fan… as was my husband… and, later on, baby L (who danced for the very first time in his high chair to the MasterChef “count-down” music when the series was repeated on Swedish television).
Fast-forward a few years/MasterChef seasons***, and I found myself back in Adelaide at the start of this year with (thanks to a hook-up from my gorgeous brother) an incredible invitation to assist Poh and her team at the opening of their first market stall, Jamface.
I was too tired and too rushed on the morning of Jamface‘s fanfare-free opening to be nervous… which is a good thing for sure, as it prevented me from potentially acting like a giggling buffoon upon meeting Poh for the first time. I needn’t have felt intimidated in any case, as Poh is as warm, down-to-earth, engaging and open as she appears to be on television. She apologised for not being able to be very available to me on account of having so much to do before the stall opened, which of course she didn’t have to… I mean, in my mind it was clear who was doing a favour for whom!
Even when stressed by the small, inevitable, inconvenient bumps in the opening day road (many of which Murphy’s Law would have occurring literally minutes before the first customers arrived), Poh’s endearing, self-deprecating sense of humour, ability to creatively problem solve and her fabulous, supportive team gave me the utmost confidence in the Jamface stall’s first day success.
And, of course, it was hugely successful.
How could it not be? With Poh’s drive, passion and arguable Midas Touch, plus a concept like “fun dining, not fine dining”, delicious locally made-with-love edible goodies, gorgeously packaged, charmingly branded and served with a smile direct from an equally charming hand-built stall, Jamface is that baby you know will grow up leading a fortunate, love-filled life!
And perhaps you think I am talking it up a little, in which case you may want to read some other opinions on the Jamface matter…
Such as this review by Slice…
… and this Tweet by MasterChef Australia alumnus, lovely Callum Hann, who stopped by that day and kindly spared me a few moments of his time for hellos, pics and so on.
But I digress. Within minutes of arriving at the stall I was donning a Jamface by Poh handmade apron, bustling around assembling boxes for the pastries, loading Milly Fillies (Poh’s take on delicious little French pastries, vanilla mille feuille) into the cake display cabinet, botching up a spot of piping (ugh!), being handy with some paper towel on the damage-control frontline when it started to rain unexpectedly and watching Poh at work whilst trying to stay out of her way and not be too much of an annoyance to her “official” team (who were a bunch of darlings!).
My energy levels were boosted by the latte that was kindly purchased for me, the “reject” Milly Filly (too overstuffed with crème pâtissière to stand correctly, thanks to my slightly heavy-handed, cupcake frosting-adept self) that I consumed in a most unladylike manner and by the arrivals of the first customers (market-goers are so friendly!).
It was “out there” with the market-goers that I found the place where I could be of most use. Not a hard task, really. The Adelaide Farmers’ Market attracts some serious foodie types… and who doesn’t love free samples of gorgeous, delicious edibles? I rotated the samples I handed out. The rosemary crackers were a hit, as were the pecorino cheese ones… and the sesame… and the plain! It seemed as though every other person who tried one, bought some. It was the same story with the rich-in-fruit jams and the beautifully presented pot-set yogurts. I looked over at the pie warmer to discover the Paris Pasties had sold out in what seemed like minutes of the stall opening. The Milly Fillies were as popular as you would expect an adorably presented, scrumptious, homemade, pastry-filled-with-vanilla-creme concoction to be. And the pizzas. O. M. G! The pizzas were beyond mouth-watering. I was lucky enough to have one for lunch. The fried bases (genius, albeit of the evil variety), the simple combo of a tasty homemade tomato sauce (Poh’s Two Timing Tomato is delectable), a light sprinkling of cheese and fresh basil makes for a genuine taste sensation; classic flavours with a clever Poh twist. Seriously, one of the best pizzas I have ever had. And I love pizza!
There were people who came specifically to see Poh/her new stall or to be able to try her food for the first time, after years of seeing her cooking on television (on MasterChef , her very own popular cooking show, Poh’s Kitchen, and more). One absolutely delightful girl, who introduced herself as a “foodie”, “bookworm” and the daughter of another market stall holder (at The Cabbage Patch Catering Company), said she’d been waiting in excited anticipation for weeks to meet Poh after hearing she’d be a regular face around the market. Another lovely young lady approached me sheepishly, saying that she was nervous and “fangirling it” just knowing that she now had the opportunity to meet Poh. She explained that while other teens worshipped pop stars, her heroes were all chefs. And Poh was one of her favourites. Later that morning, I handed two awesome guys from Melbourne some samples of Jamface fare and we chatted about the quality of the Adelaide food scene, before one of them looked over at the stall behind me and exclaimed “Oh my God! Is that Poh?!”, before saying that he thought he might burst into tears at the happy prospect of meeting her.
My little brood came to visit too and I’ll never forget the proud and excited look on little L’s face as he saw me standing there with a ceramic plate balancing samples of jam. He beamed at me as though I was the coolest, most amazing mama on the planet! Both he and baby Cupcake sampled some of the food and stole some of Poh’s attention. Matt from the Jamface team gave L a small, blue, plastic market stall stool for which he’s developed a 3 year-old’s strange and inexplicable love (he tells me “it’s beautiful”) and which, as a result, we had to cart all the way back to Stockholm with us.
My time at the market flew by far too quickly. I had found a rhythm, had worked on my product knowledge/related banter, and had well and truly banished any sense of nervousness (or shame, it seems… I was taste-testing the samples too!). But, with heavy heart and happy tummy, I handed back my apron, thanked Poh and her crew and dashed off to a birthday party, wishing I could teleport myself to Adelaide and, more specifically, to the Farmers’ Market every sunday.
Imagine my surprise when, the day before we left Australia (blub, blub 😥 ), Poh met me for lunch and gave me a signed and dedicated copy of her recipe book, Poh’s Kitchen, and the very same apron I wore on the opening day of Jamface as a memento.
Do I need to mention that I cried? More a sentimental fool than fangirl, I guess! 😉
Thanks for reading! 🙂
❤ MM xx
*In fact, I was watching clips of MasterChef Australia while in active labour, literally a couple of hours before heading to the hospital to give birth to baby Cupcake! If that’s not crazy enough, I was also baking chef/restaurateur/MasterChef judge Gary Mehigan‘s delicious date and lemon scones (from MasterChef MasterClass) at the same time, pausing every couple of minutes to breathe/scream through a contraction, before getting back to baking. My husband wisely left me to my loco baking mission, despite being rather concerned about my physical (and mental) state! Those scones were my last meal before Cupcake entered the world… and they “carbed me up” for the delivery. Now that’s hardcore MCA dedication! They should give me a trophy 😉
**River Cottage and The Great British Bake Off are also up there in my estimation. My prenatal “comfort DVD” watching was comprised of (and completely limited to) Harry Potter, films 1-4. The rest of the Harry Potter films were too dark and menacing for my pregnancy hormones to deal with. Sad, but true.
***At the Unley Gourmet Gala (a completely unrelated event in that was held in January), I was lucky enough to meet another former MasterChef contestant, Season 2’s Marion Grasby. She had just finished a public cooking demo, but was extremely generous with her time. Little L, who was with me, looked up at Marion and said “It’s so nice to meet you.”, to which Marion replied “Oh, it’s so nice to meet you too!”… And she seemed very genuine. Is it just me, or are the contestants on Masterchef Australia waaay warmer than contestants on other reality television shows? Now that I have met three of them in person, I know it’s not merely a case of crafty editing!
and before I go, I’d like to take the opportunity to…