No slowing down



TV chef Fast Ed chats with North Shore Living’s Joe McDonough about life in lockdown and the completion of his latest project.

‘Fast’ Ed Halmagyi is approaching 20 years on the small screen, best known for his long-held role as Better Homes and Gardens’ warm and engaging cooking presenter.

Of course, Ed – who grew up in Balmoral – is also a highly successful food author, and just last month released his seventh cookbook ‘Seasonal Kitchen’.

When North Shore Living catches up with the much-loved local, he is lamenting lockdown like the rest of us, but excited about the future.

How has lockdown been for you Ed? 

Oh, it’s been awful, but I’m wary of venting my frustration too much because it hasn’t been as bad for me as it has for a lot of other people. 

I’m fortunate to live in Bilgola, and like so many people, I’ve taken to very, very long, unnecessarily long daily walks with the dog, who’ll look up at me halfway through like, ‘Are you kidding me?’

But in terms of work, it’s put paid to all our filming and travel – all media production other than writing has pretty much ground to a halt.

As a result, all of us here are doing as much recipe creation as we can. So, when the time comes when we open up again, and events return, we've got content ready to go immediately for people, because they’re going to want to go fast and go big.

We’re also doing a lot of online cooking classes for corporate clients, just last night we hosted one for the employees of a big hardware chain. A lot of companies are investing in the mental health and wellbeing of their staff, which is great.

Speaking of recipe creation, and you’ve just released another cookbook. Tell me about that!

I’m proud of ‘Seasonal Kitchen’, the content is really good; the photography from Dave Morgan and Rob Palmer is spectacular; and it’s something that people can share with their families.

The recipes are not just tried and tested; this is a collection of the very best things we've done over the last few years. So, the sorts of things that people asked for again and again… all the things we just know from market research have really made an impact.

Do you have a favourite recipe?

I firmly believe that parents should always teach their teenage sons how to make a chocolate cake, because any young man who can make a chocolate cake is never lonely on a Saturday night [laughs].

One of the things that did the rounds for years and years was the chocolate fondant or lava cake.

Generally, the inside is not actually molten chocolate but rather uncooked cake batter.

If you happen to be unwell in any way or pregnant that's a big issue because of the raw egg. So, I did a version of a lava cake filled with a liquid center that everybody can get stuck into. It’s also one hundred million times easier to do – that’s the official measurement.

Your cookbooks are always eagerly anticipated, and that’s largely because of the affinity you’ve built with your viewers. What do you put your television longevity down to?

A lot of chefs look at some of things we do and go, ‘You can’t get people to do that, it’s way beyond their capacity’, and I think that's absurd.

I start off with the belief that my viewers are intelligent, and provided you talk them through it in an even-handed way, calmly and smoothly, and trust them, I think you can explain anything to them.

So, I’ve always had that fundamental respect for the audience and that's always been key to everything I do, and why after 19 years I’m still doing this.

Secondly, producers are always pulling me up for speaking to the camera in second person. It's never like, ‘I'm going to grab myself some caster sugar and stir that in’. Instead, I’ll be like, ‘What you need to do is grab yourself some caster sugar’. It’s not my adventure, I’ve already done it. 

There’s no end of TV shows, books and podcasts of people who want to tell you how clever they are, but there is another space, which is where your first and most important role is to look after other people and make them feel good about themselves. That's my job, that's what I love doing. 

Seasonal Kitchen with Fast Ed is on sale today in all good book retailers. 

Joe McDonough, Editor-in-Chief, Peninsula Living Magazine

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