Matt Preston has revealed the truth about a “secret hand gesture” he’d make while filming MasterChef.
Speaking to news.com.au to promote his new memoir, Big Mouth (due out November 7), Preston said he came up with the on-screen gesture to let his wife, Emma, know that he was thinking of her.
“The first four years of MasterChef were shot in Sydney and my family lived in Melbourne,” the food critic explained.
“So I had to find ways when she was watching the show, of letting her know that she was there (in his mind).
“At that point, I used to wear two wedding rings on my left hand, so during tastings I would twist the ring on my finger … so that she could watch and know that I wasn’t just lost in some strange MasterChef celebrity bubble but I was actually remembering her.”
Tension with Gary Mehigan
In Big Mouth, Preston also reveals that things were “a little frosty” between himself and fellow judge Gary Mehigan in season one of MasterChef in 2009.
“You have to understand that there is a fundamental cobra versus mongoose relationship between food critics and restaurateurs,” the cravat-loving star told news.com.au, adding that perhaps Mehigan wasn’t thrilled with a review he had written about one of his restaurants in the past.
“I’m the guy who came to Gary’s restaurant, The Boathouse, and had a wobbly table and wrote about how wobbly my table was. He wasn’t happy.
“So there was a certain amount of professional suspicion, shall we say,” he laughed.
Preston said the pair quickly sorted out their issues and he now considers Mehigan to be “one of my most trusted friends”.
Hounded by paps
The first few seasons of MasterChef made the three judges, Matt, Gary and George, household names in Australia.
It also meant they were followed by photographers wherever they went.
“I was told that a ‘damaging’ picture, you know, Matt Preston feeding his kindergarten age daughter junk food, was worth about $40,000, so you can understand why photographers were out there,” Preston told news.com.au.
In Big Mouth, Preston shares a particularly amusing paparazzi-related story about his Channel 10 co-star, George.
“George thought he was being hounded because there was a photographer basically camped outside his house in Bondi,” he said.
George was so annoyed by the pap’s presence that he decided to move out of the property.
“He was like, ‘that’s it, I’ve got to leave, I can’t be in Bondi anymore, there’s too many paps’,” Preston recalled.
As George was in the process of moving he out, he confronted the photographer.
“He was like, ‘I’m going!’ and (the photographer) said, ‘who are you?’” Preston laughed.
It turns out the pap was actually camped out on the street to take photos of Lara Bingle who lived a few doors down.
MasterChef secrets revealed
Preston shares some behind the scenes secrets about MasterChef in his memoir, Big Mouth.
For example, he answers a question that gets asked on social media every season by viewers watching at home: “Don’t the dishes go cold before the judges have a chance to taste them?”
“We had a number of strategies to ensure that we could see the food in its best form,” Preston told news.com.au.
One of the strategies was to get the contestants to make a second dish once the challenge had ended.
“We’d taste that in a speed tasting before we did the main tasting,” Preston said. “We would go around and look at things like how high the souffle had risen and were the chips crispy.”
The former judge said they’d also taste the dishes as they were being made by the contestants.
“We were wandering around the whole time, you could see us in the back of each shot, poking into pots and tasting,” he said.
“All you’re trying to do is make the playing field for the contestants as even as possible.”
In his memoir, Preston also writes about his adoption, his fractured childhood, some shocking family tragedies, his disastrous spell in the British Army and his burgeoning journalistic career in 1980s London.
It will be released on November 7.