Raw cow, anyone?

Jock Zonfrillo is one guy who still believes in foraging and hunting for his food.

The Scottish chef, who now lives Down Under in Adelaide, is the star of a new TV series, Nomad Chef.

The 10-part series, showing every Monday at 10pm on TLC (StarHub Ch 427), sees the 38-year-old exploring obscure communities around the world in countries like Ethiopia, Belize and Peru, and learning to cook as the natives do.

After each journey, Zonfrillo, who earned his stripes under renowned chef Marco Pierre White, returns to his restaurant - Orana - to create a new menu inspired by his trip.

For one challenge, he had to get very creative to convince his high-end diners to share in the Ethiopian passion for raw cow.

How did the concept for Nomad Chef come about?

I had been visiting Australian aboriginal communities for over a decade, learning about their culture, idiosyncrasies and cooking techniques.

Discovery (Networks) called me out of the blue and asked if I was keen about this TV show. I said no a couple of times.

Then I found out that Nomad Chef is actually identical to my philosophy of food and learning from cultures. Then I agreed to host.

How much research do you do before going to the assigned country?

I do a little bit online or at the library. But often the information that I get is dated. Cultures change and evolve every day.

So the research I do doesn't necessarily translate when I'm on the ground - which I quite like, actually. It's nice to have to go through an investigative stage when you first arrive.

What's the strangest food that you have tasted?

It would be electric eel in Peru. It was one of the strangest ingredients that I'd ever seen in my life.

It felt like a waterbed... I couldn't stop touching it. And when cooked, it still retained that jelly-like property, which fascinated me. It was really incredible!

Have you ever thought you might get food poisoning from your adventures?

No. But there is a harsh difference between the food that the community eats and the food that I'm used to eating every day.

For most of the places that I visited, the food is so different to my diet that I fell really ill at some point during filming. That was hard... it was physically demanding.

Did you encounter any dangerous situations?

A few times. For example, I was hanging off a cliff in the Faroe Islands. Well, it wasn't the smartest thing to do.

It seems like every episode there was some element of severe danger. But it's all part of the adventure, and I'm a super-adventurous kind of guy, so I thoroughly enjoyed it.

So do you consider yourself the culinary Bear Grylls?

(Laughs) I knew somebody was going to say that! There are definitely some comparisons that can be drawn. Some of the guys at work were calling me Jock Grylls for a laugh.

But Nomad Chef is not about survival like Bear Grylls' programmes are. Ours is about the celebration of the food and culture within a community.

joannes@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Oct 8, 2014.
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