WHEN MasterChef favourite Marion Grasby was eliminated from the popular TV show last year, her shock departure made front-page news.
Many would argue the judges’ decision was nuts, and in the end that’s what it did come down to – peanuts.
Marion’s undoing was a chunky, slightly oily satay sauce of the variety you will find in Thai street food.
Now satay is one of the most popular items in her Marion’s Kitchen range sold in Woolworths and IGA supermarkets across Australia.
“After MasterChef, I worked on it (satay) for months to get it absolutely right and get it out there on the supermarket shelves, so it’s pretty funny,” she laughed.
Marion came ninth in the competition but is perhaps the contestant who has capitalised most on her MasterChef experience.
The morning after the elimination episode went to air, offers from publishers to do a cookbook flooded in.
Pan Macmillan has just released Marion: Recipes and Stories from a Hungry Cook, which is an attractive collection of recipes peppered with Marion’s life story and food philosophy.
Best of all, it’s a cookbook written by a passionate home cook for home cooks.
Some of the recipes were handed down by her Thai mum, a qualified chef, but the majority are Marion’s own creations influenced by the places she’s lived and the people she’s meet.
In Hungry Cook, Marion says food should be “fun and a little bit crazy”, a philosophy which inspired the banana fritters with fish sauce butterscotch recipe.
“For me, cooking is about being creative and I hardly ever cook the same thing twice because I always want to try new things,” she said.
“It’s not like I get it right all the time. There certainly have been disasters along the way, but you can’t learn stuff if you don’t try.”
Marion describes herself as a “food nerd” who lives and breathes food. While undertaking a Masters in Gastronomy, the former ABC journalist ate 730 toasted cheese sandwiches – all in the name of research.
Marion was working in SA for an Italian food providore and decided that was the best way to get to know the produce. Her favourite toasted cheese sandwich, by the way, is made on thinly cut sourdough bread with lashings of butter, a little pickle or quince paste and a tasty Gruyere. A recipe for mushroom and Taleggio toasties is in her cookbook.
Not everyone can claim to be on a first-name basis with Heston Blumenthal, whose Fat Duck Restaurant was awarded three Michelin stars, but despite her admiration for the UK gastronomer, Marion declares her mum is her food hero.
“My mum has given me a very natural love of food,” she said.
“In my household, we cooked, shopped and ate together. It was a big part of my life.
“My mum comes from a very poor village in Thailand. She left school when she was 11 and ended up being a qualified chef in Australia, which is very inspiring for me.”
While MasterChef put her in the public spotlight, Marion is adamant she’s “not just a flash in the pan”.
She plans to consolidate Marion’s Kitchen and continue her food writing but her big dream is to open a wine bar with her partner Tim.
So who does Marion think will win this year’s MasterChef?
“It’s very hard to pick a winner because on the show, I think its half luck, half skill,” she said.
“I like Dani because she always seems to be having fun. Michael, too. I like his food, and I always like to support South Australians.”