On a quiet street in Brunswick, roughly 20 people piled into a private residence to witness a culinary disaster. The victim, or chef (whichever you prefer) was Lou Wall, winner of the 2018 Melbourne Fringe Award for Best Emerging Artist for her satirical show Lou Wall’s Drag Race.
The premise of the show, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Cooking For, is based on Jamie Oliver’s hit TV show 30-Minute Meals. Following in Oliver’s footsteps, Wall was tasked with cooking a risotto, a salad and a cheesecake in the space of 30 minutes with the added challenge of being bombarded with questions from the audience and presenters.
Upon entering through the garage, each audience member was given a card to write questions for the chef during the half-hour. After that, the audience was ushered into the house and crammed into the small kitchen that reminded me of the earthquake room at Canberra’s Questacon.
The chairs faced the kitchen benchtop and Jamie Oliver’s face beamed down from a photo frame on the wall. The audience then watched a short video of Jamie Oliver explaining the concept of his 30-minute meals before the co-hosts, Hannah and Alberto, introduced the chef.
Wall made her big appearance by awkwardly jumping out of the pantry, which seemed quite small given her height. She seemed a bit scared but nevertheless up for the challenge. After Wall tried to jam a whole stick of celery into the lid of the food processor, it became quite clear she didn’t spend much time in the kitchen. When asked what dish she’d cook to impress someone, she answered “mi goreng”.
While Alberto read out the cooking instructions, Hannah pestered the chef with question after question and occasionally an audience member was called upon to read out theirs. As Wall raced around the kitchen like a headless chook, the questions didn’t stop coming. The stand out question from the crowd was “tell us your worst food poisoning experience in four words”, to which Wall replied “Vietnam. Dog. Not. Duck”.
By some miracle, Wall managed to cook all three dishes and then it came time to try it. Hannah and Alberto donned matching Jamie Oliver masks with cut-out eyes while ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ blasted through the speakers.
A simple cross of the arms signalled that one audience member wasn’t keen to have a go, and the first lady to volunteer wasn’t up for trying the risotto. One by one, each audience member got up and slowly made their way down the corridor of the house to try a spoonful of risotto, salad and cheesecake.
Surprisingly, the food didn’t taste as awful as I imagined it would, and although not a lot can be said for Wall’s culinary skills, she managed to keep her cool (most of the time) despite the pressure. Plus, it made for a hilarious performance. The audience was given a card to score Wall based on her composure, presentation and performance.
After trying each carefully constructed dish, everyone was given a Jamie Oliver mask as a gift for coming to the show. I look forward to seeing all the people in Jamie Oliver masks running around Melbourne this Halloween.
This was the first of six I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Cooking For shows where a different chef would cook each night. Each chef’s overall score will be posted on the production company’s Facebook page and the chef with the highest score will win the competition. Good luck Lou.
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