Home' Scoop : Scoop 52 Contents 62 SCOOP AUTUMN 2010
for the Lifestyle Channel -- The Best in Australia
which currently stands at three series -- all filmed
in the Gare family s converted church in North
Kitchens are funny places, says Anna with a
throaty guffaw as she explains the show s dynamic.
Described as part cooking, part comedy, part
chaos, the show captures a genuine spontaneity and
off-the-cuff "earthiness" as Ben, Darren and Anna
compete to create themed dishes for guest judges.
There is banter, wild stories and, says Anna,
quite a bit of below-the-belt stuff that has to go
but "that s kitchens for you".
"I think we all become a bit younger when we
are together," she adds.
The show, based on a British version that only
lasted one series, is created by Perth-based produc-
tion house Mago films. Surfing the Menu, with
the square jawed, larrikin chef Ben O Donoghue,
put Mago on the map and husband and wife team
producer, Marion Bartsch and writer, Alun Bartsch
are proving to have quite a knack with the genre.
Unlike Ben and Darren, who are seasoned TV
performers with formal cheffy credentials, Anna has
followed her passions with a distinctly DIY ethic.
On screen, her girl-next-door appeal with a
little Nigella flair in her theatrical gestures and
her retro chick aesthetic are winning ingredi-
ents; in 2008 and 2009 Anna was nominated
for favourite female personality in the ASTRA
(subscription television) Awards. The show is
captured largely as it happens with three cameras,
and the result might be a little more Three Stooges
than Margaret Fulton but there is a Gen X and
even Gen Y appeal in the fast-paced frivolity. And
the food is seriously good. She admits to many
endearing moments of self-doubt.
"Both those guys are amazing chefs who have
worked for Michelin-star restaurants and I thought
what am I doing putting myself in competition
with these guys and on TV where thousands of
people can watch me? "
But the proof is in the pudding, and on screen,
as Anna more than holds her own with a cooking
style based around light, fresh meals often simply
prepared with a genuine flair. Food purist Darren
may shake his head exclaiming "but that s not
how you do risotto", but the clash and clamour of
three different styles in one smallish kitchen makes
"You do forget about the competition during
make up a menu with my own creations on it and
she would say well, I will have a toastie roaster ."
On the issue of food qualifications Ian
Parmenter has the last word.
"One of the problems these days is that there
are too many TV chefs who don t know about real
cooking and Anna s a real cook.
"Look at Stephanie Alexander, Maggie Beer,
Rick Stein -- they all come from a background of
loving food and being good cooks not from being
well trained cordon bleu chefs."
Anna says TV is good for her not because of the
fame element but because it stretches her abilities.
"I m one of those people that unless I have a dead-
line I don t work well. I need a good kick up the
bum to get going and to become more creative -- I
need to be under that pressure but I m not chasing
being famous -- I m not doing it for that. I m
doing it for personal challenge and motivation."
There was a flurry of publicity recently when
Anna turned down a callback audition for the
"LUC COULD ALWAYS TELL WHEN I'D WON
DEPENDING ON THE HEIGHT OF MY EYEBROWS"
"There are lots of media cooks and some may even cook as well
as Anna but I don't think any can match her extraordinary warmth,
humor, vivacity and charm. What's more she doesn't turn it on for
the camera, she's like that all the time, which can of course get a
bit exhausting if you happen to be a rello!"~ Ben Elton
filming because we are learning from each other
but it does feel good when you win. I d come
home and Luc could always tell when I d won
depending on the height of my eyebrows and then
I d whisper I beat them ."
Says Anna: "Mago films are pretty adept at
making cooking shows that appeal to all different
types of people. If you re not that into cooking,
there s always something else in there for you."
Cue Anna s new solo show, Quickies in the
Kitchen, also by Mago films, which is not nearly as
racy as you might suspect but does add a little ce-
lebrity chat element to the slicing and dicing. It will
debut on the Lifestyle Food channel later this year.
It may have been a circuitous route to the TV
kitchen for Anna but she remembers playing chefs
and waiters as a child rather than doctors and nurses.
"I loved the whole theatre of food when I was
young. My sister would lie down beside the pool
and say let s play restaurants and I would say oh
great -- of course looking back now I think God
she was cunning but I was so excited. I would
smash hit cooking show MasterChef -- which
brings us back to family. Anna calls the blended
family she has with Luc Longley The Brady Bunch.
Luc has two teenage girls from his previous
marriage and Anna s two girls are 14 and 16.
The high school years are upon them and even
though the potential offered by MasterChef, if she
had been successful, was huge, the timing was just
not right. It would have been too disruptive to
film in Sydney.
"Luc and I have been married for a year now
and together for five. We both came from Fre-
mantle families and we have known each other for
years. Every night is a party when you have a big
family and I do like to gather people together to
feed them so it has been a real bonus meeting Luc
and the girls. I m the happiest I have ever been --
don t they say life begins at 40?"
And that, she says, may be a fitting end to the
interview; besides, Luc and the girls have requested
a roast and, if she goes now... she can just about
make the shops. sm
Anna and husband Luc Longley
Sophie & Ben Elton
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