MasterChef host denies sexism and pleads for focus on food
GEORGE Calombaris wants you to keep calm and eat a cupcake. Or some moussaka. Or even a croquembouche.
Just chill out and relax, stop taking the MasterChef promos so seriously and concentrate on the food, for that is what the show is all about.
He's talking, of course, about the Season 5 MasterChef promos that play heavily on the oldest stereotype in the book - a woman's place is in the kitchen - and traditionally men have no idea what a spatula is, let alone what to do with it.
The ads pit women against men in a culinary battle of the sexes and have provoked outrage and cries of sexism.
"Don't be ridiculous," Calombaris says with a jovial laugh.
"It's just tongue-in-cheek. We've always had 10 girls and 10 boys. We're just acknowledging that this year. It's still and always has been about who can cook the best."
He admits with the success of My Kitchen Rules, the show has a lot to prove this year, but he is not worried.
"You just have to look at the numbers to see the impact this show has made on people's lives.
"Out of 75 contestants throughout the five seasons, only five of them aren't now working in food. It's not only a dream they have but they are actually doing it and that's exciting.
"That's what sends tingles up my spine and why we do it. The other shows, they don't have that kind of success."
Calombaris is a man obsessed with food. He always has been.
He oozes passion like a chocolate lava cake for all things food: shopping for it, preparing it, eating it, talking about it.
He's just opened his newest restaurant, Gazi, in the home of the former Press Club, which will also reopen in a new location later in the year.
And while he admits he doesn't get inspired so much by the dishes on MasterChef, he thrives on the passion for food he sees in the contestants.
"I'm obsessed with food. I just love it so much. And these contestants, they are the same, and that, for me, is inspiring. I love hearing their dreams and helping making them a reality," Calombaris said.
He's seen plenty of fame-hungry contestants but admits he has become pretty savvy at weeding out impostors.
"If they tell me they want to be the next Jamie Oliver, I'm like 'Give me a break'.
"But if they tell me they really love making sausages and want to open up a gourmet sausage shop, then that is a real tangible dream I'm excited to help them achieve."