He might have cooked in some of the world’s best restaurants, but Better Homes and Gardens’ celebrity chef, ‘Fast Ed’ Halmagyi, says nothing beats a loving spoonful of Milo, writes Jen Vuk.
Under his sunny disposition celebrity chef ‘Fast Ed’ Halmagyi hides a steely resolve—to get time-poor Australians back into the kitchen.
‘I believe in the democracy of great food—after all delicious things shouldn’t be off-limits to anyone,’ the Better Homes and Gardens popular cooking presenter tells Warcry.
‘A great many of the things I learned to cook in my years working in some of the world’s best restaurants are actually just simple concepts taken to complex ends. So all I need to do is distil the tastiest parts and transform them in relatable ways to help everyday families eat better food.’
Since 2004, Ed has done exactly that on Channel 7’s popular lifestyle show, and in the kitchen he lives by the maxim, ‘When you do less, the ingredients can do more’.
‘There’s a tendency to think that cooking is all about the chef, but actually that’s not the case,’ he says. ‘There are two people far more important in the equation—the farmer, and the diner. When someone has produced an incredible piece of food, our only task is to tease out its core characteristics, the thing that makes it incredible.
‘This is best done gently, with respect, and with humility. It’s more of an act of respect for the ingredients, and less about showing off. And the diner, who is the real reason for cooking, will always taste the difference.’
As food presenter (Ed also hosted Discover Tasmania in 2007 and regularly appears on Sunrise) and food writer, Ed certainly has come a long way since his first job as a kitchen hand, although a career in cooking wasn’t always on the cards.
‘I really thought long and hard about joining the Navy,’ he says. ‘I believe in public service, and reckon Australia’s Navy is an extraordinary organisation. Other than that I’d love to be a full-time writer...except for the fact that I need to pay the mortgage!’
Ed’s good-guy persona isn’t just a television construct. Being thankful and giving back are ingrained in his DNA, thanks to his late grandmother Alice who, he says, was a lifelong member of the Salvos.
‘She and her colleagues did so very much good work, and it’s a key part of my personal development as a young man to understand the importance of charitable works. For that I thank Alice, and The Salvation Army. Life is so much richer when you give of yourself.’
A keen fisherman and long-distance runner, the happily-married father of two, who lives near the beach on Sydney’s Collaroy Plateau, says he looks forward to getting together with his extended family at Christmas.
For Ed, the annual season isn’t ‘so much a specific time or place, but a feeling’.
‘It’s funny, my family always try to get me to take the daybook and not cook, but what they don’t realise is that cooking for my family at Christmas is one of my most favourite things—watching the people I love around a table overloaded with delicious things.
‘I love the feeling of being able to do that. It’s the hospitality of Christmas that
I crave and feel most strongly about.’
This year the day will be spent at his father’s house.
‘We’re planning a backyard Christmas at Dad’s place. The menu will be a Turkish feast—Dad remarried after Mum passed away and his wife Gulden is from Izmir, so I’m doing some flavours from her place. I hope it’s a hot day.
‘Dad’s near the beach so there’ll be a few swims along the way as well, indulging in loads of coffee and fruit, taking the dog for a run, opening some presents, eating way too much and collapsing.
‘Pretty much the same as every year,’ he says with a laugh.
Asked to name his favourite family dishes, Ed, who has a Hungarian background, says that while goulash and cherry dumplings were delicious, they only came out on ‘special occasions’, and the one thing that really takes him back to his childhood can be found on supermarket shelves.
‘Funny thing is, I go back to my childhood with a spoon of Milo straight from the tin. Wow, I used to do that every day after training. I reckon it made me the man I am today.’
Click here to view Ed’s Christmas recipes.