For some weeks now, a sizable section of Bangalore has been all abuzz. The three beloved judges of MasterChef Australia, Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan, and George Calombaris were headlining a weekend event called World on a Plate, aka WOAP. From Masterclasses (ranging from 6500 INR upwards) with each of them, to a tete a tete (at INR 2500), to a VIP brunch (INR 6000 per, I believe), alongside entry to the venues (UB City and J.W. Marriott) tickets were on sale for what was billed as a two day gastronomical affair and a chance to meet and watch the three guys in action. I will admit, right upfront, that I am but an occasional watcher of the show and no fan-girl. But when I was offered passes to some of the events, I did indeed head over, especially since two other really good food blogger pals were going too.
For starters, it was chaos right from point of entry (we were reaching in the afternoon, for a masterclass). The JW parking was full and a bunch of their staff were standing outside turning people away – and rather rudely. After listening to this suited and booted man use a high and rude tone of voice that just would not come down, I finally asked him to please watch his tone and lower his voice (which it took another minute of repeating this, reinforced by one more of our party, to have happen). I truly wonder if he would have spoken to a car full of 30-something men that way, or if the sight of three women made his highhandedness make an appearance? It did show how very frazzled and unorganized things were right off the bat – you know half of Bangalore would be in attendance, why not be prepared for crowd control?
Anyways, this adventure later, we parked at UB City, trotted back to JW and made our way to Gary’s Masterclass, sponsored by Knorr (well, they all were Knorr Masterclases). Alongside the Indian MasterChef season 1 winner, who was his designated assistant for the session (and talked rather more than he did!), Gary, all energy and charm, demonstrated the cooking of a roast chicken with veggies and this being a Knorr Masterclass, Knorr Pav Bhaji masala puree. What can I say, the chicken was beautifully cooked and plated (single servings in small bowls were served to the 60 plus member audience), but the taste of the puree just killed it. Yikes! Gary, his demo complete, left the space and you could just see the disappointment as well as hear it from some serious fans who had paid for this privilege – after spending between 6.5 and 8k on a masterclass, one expects quite a bit more than what they got. For one, a masterclass of sixty is just a cooking demo – where’s the scope for interaction? Seeing the following day’s masterclasses though, looks like some attendees did get the opp to take a pic with the judge whose class they attended.
I was one of the “lucky” ones to have admittance to the sponsor/press Meet and Greet. An event that to me, was truly representative of the melee and mela, that this entire event was – will let the pics (above) talk for themselves. The three guys looked zonked and there was no question of meeting or greeting. We were herded like cattle (by some officious and supercilious event folk), lined up, and allowed to stand with them for a photograph, and that, was that.
We then wanted to check out the restaurant pop-ups that were happening at both the JW and UB City. As you will see from the photographs, attendance was sparse (especially at the JW Marriott pop-ups), and all the chefs/stall managers we spoke with at the JW venue, expressed disappointment at the low turnout. Considering the effort and time they had put into this, not to mention the cost, we sympathized. For them, the lack of interest and the waste of food was the concern. Ottimo, Alba, Dum Pukht, Whitefield Bar and Grill, Vembinad, Lavonne (which had two really cool and different ice cream creations, one of which was off-menu and just being served to any kids who stopped by) – to name just a few of the fine dines in attendance, that I can recall off the top of my head.
FreshMenu had stalls in both UB City and JW. UB had so many I truly cannot remember them by name. To taste any of the dishes that were created by the chefs and assembled and prepared on site by their teams), people were paying exorbitantly – imagine a dessert for INR 550, and mains at even higher rates! At UB, there were definitely more people partaking of the food and drink, especially later in the evening. I must add, security was tight and you had to show a band/pass of some kind to gain entree into any of the areas.
The evening event was billed as a Tete a Tete with the three gentlemen, held at the – wait for it – UB City amphitheatre. Tete a tete indeed, with myself and around 2000 of my nearest and dearest friends. Yes, they had two thousand plus passes for this event – rather obfuscates the meaning of a tete a tete, which implies small, intimate. Given the weather, I wondered what would happen should it rain, and since I was able to, asked that question of the Gold Rush powers that be – a very important personage – he being the one who brought the event to Bangalore. I said, what if it rains, is there an alternate venue? His response, with utmost disdain, I might add, was: “if it rains, it rains”! Alrighty then! Lucky for us all, it didn’t. The hour long session was good, only because the three of them were adorable and Matt and Gary were energetic and sharing stories, and talked a lot. The lady who was hosting came across as rather shrill and asked some doozy questions.
Apart from the two packed days of back to back events, preceded by a press con on Friday, Gary, George and Matt were also taken to a number of Bangalore restaurants and such, so it’s no wonder they seemed slightly overwhelmed, especially since every single person pretty much just wanted a photo opp or to make an inane comment of some sort. I also saw video that’s doing the rounds, of the three dressed in traditional attire including the Kannadiga style headgear, as they were starting off the day with a charity event. Like with every thing else they were asked to do, they were good sports, but seriously?! Yes they are celebrities and yes they have innumerable fans and are showmen, but did every single moment have to be spectacle? They cooked breakfast for underprivileged kids on Sunday, which we were told was something they had asked to do when first approached about the event – speaks volumes of these men, in my book. All in all, if I, a non-fan-gal and interested but not involved spectator came away with the feeling that it was all circus, hype, and a raw deal, I can only imagine how those who paid good money, and were fans, felt…