Don’t expect foul-mouthed Gordon Ramsay-style antics from Matt Moran on his new show, but don’t expect a pussycat either. Channel Nine’s The Chopping Block sees Moran and co-host Catriona Rowntree visiting ailing restaurants around the country and giving it to them straight. Each show sees two eateries critiqued, and whichever does the best job with its makeover and makes the most of Moran’s tough-love walks away with the glory and a cash prize. Morris Mansour, of Morris’ Egyptian, says he’s happy to participate, but doesn’t want to be the Aria of Dulwich Hill. “The pyramids and the Sphinx met Napoleon Bonaparte and sent him packing – I think we can stand Moran.” The Chopping Block premieres on Channel Nine in February, www.thechoppingblocktv.com.
Read on for our web exclusive interview with Matt Moran and Catriona Rowntree, plus try some of Matt's recipes and watch a video clip of the show.
Matt, did your friend Gordon Ramsay happen to give you any advice for the show?
Matt Moran: Gordon gave me a little bit of advice. The first piece was "lose some weight, you fat c," the other one was that they’re running [Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen] Nightmares before ours – "I’ll get the ratings, so don’t f it up for me.”
What have you learned from visiting these restaurants?
MM: I don’t want to put these guys down – that’s the last thing I want to do. Ours is a very different market at Aria, and it always makes me realise that to have a successful restaurant you have to use great products. It’s so easy to put a good dish on a menu when you’ve got good produce rather than second-rate stuff, so I feel pretty lucky about the kitchen I’ve got. I’ve seen some scary hygiene practices, and organisation – you don’t realise how organised you are until you come to other restaurants. It’s just chaos.
Scary hygiene practices?
MM: One of them, and I won’t say which, was the worst, filthiest kitchen I’ve ever seen. And I’m from Blacktown. It was so bad.
Do you have to be an expert on each cuisine to be able to help them?
**MM: **No, I’m not an expert on Egyptian food, say, but what I can bring is something clean and fresh – taking a good product and doing something with it. It’s not rocket science, really.
What’s doing TV like for you? This is the fourth show I’ve done now, and it’s starting to get a little bit easier.
Catriona, are you eating constantly on the show?
Catriona Rowntree: I thought that doing this show I’d gain five kilograms. It’s actually working out that I’m losing weight because we’re running around like headless chooks racing from one location to the next. If you saw some of the restaurants that we’ve filmed in – the ‘before’ scenes of course – you’d see that it’s a mixed blessing.
Where do you like to eat yourself?
CR: I have a foot in both Melbourne and Sydney. In Sydney I like the Bather’s Pavilion at Balmoral. It makes me proud to be a Sydneysider, as does Aria, of course. And I love watching friends from overseas go green with envy when I take them to Icebergs in Bondi. In Melbourne, I’ve just fallen in love with Mirka at Tolarno Hotel, and I love the Stokehouse in St Kilda – some friends from Channel Nine put me on to that one and now I go there all the time.
What’s Catriona like behind the burners, Matt?
MM: I’ve cooked for Catriona, but I’m still waiting for her to cook for me.
CB: I provide the entertainment, but I treat someone like Matt with instant respect because I burn two-minute noodles. And I’ll still eat it.
This interview was posted on 28 January, 2008.