Get to know one of Australia's greatest new celebrity chefs and the star of stunning new cooking show, Tasting Tasmania.
Ben Milbourne is a household name in Tasmania. But if you're not from the great 'Apple Isle', you may recognise him from his days on MasterChef or on his own hit show, Ben's Menu.
Despite his recent popularity on-screen, Ben is still a small-town guy. Born and raised in Tasmania, he grew up with a love of grandma's cooking and a family tradition of diving for abalone.
He still lives in Tassie with his wife and two kids, Charlie, 2, and Jack, 9 months, where he runs food tours in between hosting his shows and working on cookbooks.
He continues to love the island for, what he calls, its "anti-mass market mentality": a place where locals produce small amounts of food on small patches of land and focus on doing it well.
In turn, this approach has influenced Ben’s food philosophy, which he sums up as: “Produce is king.”
Ahead of his new show, Tasting Tasmania, we spoke to Ben to find out who and what inspires him, how to pick the best produce, and what he cooks at home.
What was your favourite part of filming Tasting Tasmania?
I really love the east coast of Tasmania. The thing everybody thinks of when they think of Tasmania is MONA, so going to MONA is always spectacular. But if you just drive along the Great Eastern Drive – you could do it over a couple of days – it is just breathtaking.
What do you think makes Tasmania a great foodie destination?
We’re really lucky we have a very temperate climate. We get all four seasons, so you can specifically grow food for that season. In the rest of Australia it’s moved away from that a little bit.
We also don’t grow huge amounts of food on our land for huge populations. Whereas the rest of the world has been cultivating their land for thousands and thousands of years for massive populations, we’ve only been doing it for a couple of hundred years, so we haven’t drawn all the nutrients out of the soil.
What are your best tips for finding good quality produce?
It’s about building relationships with people.
In Tasmania, I’m really lucky I know all my growers directly. They’re not very far away from where my property is. Not everyone is that lucky.
Most people go to the supermarket when they shop. But still, make friends with people at the supermarket. They’re the contact point. They will know where the food came from.
Even if you’re shopping at Coles or Woolies, you can still talk to the fruit and veg people, and say 'do you know of anything that came in today?' They’ll direct you.
What's your go-to quick and easy meal?
Pasta. I’ve normally got abalone in the house somewhere, so I’ll probably do some pasta with abalone, garlic, lemon juice and chilli.
What's your favourite cuisine?
What's your beverage of choice?
Whiskey on ice with a little bit of soda water.
Name five things always in your fridge:
- Citrus fruits
- Herbs (Ben and his family have a herb garden)
Name the three most important ingredients in your cooking:
- Good quality salt
- Olive oil
Who is your favourite cook?
David Moyle, the head chef at Franklin (a restaurant in Tasmania). But if I'm not thinking about the industry, I would say my grandmother.