Over the life of his now-extensive television CV, chef Matt Moran has come to learn not to be forced by ambitious producers to being anyone other than himself.
Moran’s TV credits have included MasterChef Australia, My Restaurant Rules, Heat in the Kitchen, The Chopping Block, Paddock to Plate, The Great Australian Bake-Off and Back in Time for Dinner.
“If someone tries to make me be someone I am not, then I won’t do it,” he insists.
“When I did The F Word for Channel Seven that was ‘go hard’ but I didn’t enjoy it. It was trying to create drama with me being like Gordon Ramsay, but I’m not. I speak my mind, firm but fair.
“If I’m telling someone they’ve done something wrong, you have to tell them why. If you can’t do that then you’re just being a bully, and I’m not.”
Next week he returns in his second season of Family Food Fight for Nine, again taking the ringmaster position. But as a successful chef with 30 restaurants of his own, why the urge to do TV? Moran says variety is the spice of life.
“I’ve been around long enough that I only do something if I like it. The challenge for me with this show is being host and judge combined, which I really enjoy,” he explains.
“I enjoy the families and the concept. It’s a really fun show. The best thing about this show, compared to any other show that I’ve done is that there is no down time. It keeps me busy all day, watching the cooks.
“That’s what I hate in TV, the down time. I like to be busy.”
Season 2 sees the return of food critic Tom Parker-Bowles and pastry chef Anna Polyviou, but there are format changes including 8 teams of 2 (last year there were 6 teams of 4). On offer for the winner is $100,000 and bragging rights.
“This year is vastly different. I think they learned what did and didn’t work,” Moran explains.
“It was hard for the viewer to connect with 4, but 2 is much easier. The game changes are more thought-out and harder.
“Yesterday they had to go down to trawlers and catch their own crabs and cook them for us. It was bloody great.
“For a contestant to meet a trawler who has been doing it for 5 generations, you just appreciate it more. When you know the story behind the produce, it generally tastes a lot better because you feel obligated.”
While viewers can expect to see Afghan, Italian, Lebanese, Maori, Islander and vegan dishes, there is less focussed on ethnic heritage in the casting.
“It’s not as prominent this year. Last year it was the Greeks vs the Italians vs Lebanese. These guys are diverse but the tasks aren’t as much about culture,” he says.
“I think it’s based more on their cooking ability, rather than where they’re from.”
FFF format has since been picked up in other territories, including a rare bite from ABC (USA). In crowded market, dominated by formats with eliminations, can the show improve in its second season?
“The most important thing is the food and whether it is aspirational. But the next thing is that it creates drama, so it becomes watchable. I think it will never stop. I remember the first few years of MasterChef, everyone said it was a phenomenon but how long could it last?” Moran recalls.
“I would always say ‘About f***ing time and it’s here to stay!’ People are obsessed by food. You can see it wherever you go.”
Family Food Fight premieres 7:30pm Monday on Nine.