EACH week, Ballarat chef and food writer Suzi Fitzpatrick quizzes industry identities on the local hospitality scene. This week, she got all festive with the camera-shy Viv Mason from Masons Cafe.
Suzi: Viv, I’ve callled upon you for comment a couple of times this year and dropped your name here and there. But I’ve been saving this interview for the festive season – I just have to share your Christmas cheer with everyone.
Viv: It’s nothing special – just the same food we have always done.
Suzi: That’s rubbish! You must know that the food you produce in that very little kitchen is scrumptious, very different to the generic menus we are accustomed to and always beautifully executed.
Viv: I certainly don’t like to be boring or do things by halves.
Suzi: What is that divine aroma and all those cute packages?
Viv: That’s our spice range we have been packaging today. We sell so many bits and bobs. We blend our own spices – Tandoori, Moroccan, Middle Eastern dukkah and Chinese five spice. We also sell small packages of quality sea salt, vanilla beans, saffron, fresh local hazelnuts and many dips and condiments.
Suzi: People often ask me where they can get speciality ingredients locally and I tend to send them your way...
Viv: So it was you who sent in that man with the funny hat looking for haggis...
Suzi: Oh no, not I (he he). So what can people order for Christmas?
Viv: All the traditional and luxury Christmas goodies. We have a flyer in store which lists all the menus and has an order form attached.
Suzi: What do you recommend for a fuss-free Christmas feast?
Viv: Cranberry and lemon-seasoned turkey and then glazed honey ham. It’s all very foolproof. If it’s fish you like, we have vodka and citrus-cured salmon and our own potted prawns.
Suzi: Are you doing the entire buffet in case that’s what people need?
Viv: Absolutely. We’re doing red cabbage, hazelnut and Meredith goat’s cheese; ancient grains with dried barberries and preserved lemon dressing; and spiced beets with dukkah and saffron hung yoghurt.
Suzi: Will it be Christmas pud or buche noel or maybe some white Christmas?
Viv: That’s all a little puritanical. I have a spiced chocolate mousse with praline (that’s praaaleen phonetically, not preylean); lime panacotta with lime jelly and berry sauce; a mascarpone trifle with rose and raspberries; and our signature giant brown sugar meringues with sour cherry sauce and yoghurt cream.
Suzi: Can I have a bit of everything? If Ballarat had a MasterChef challenge, I would most definitely want you on my team. Where did you learn to cook this yummy food?
Viv: Cooking is something we just picked up from Mum when we were young. Mum entertained a lot. I love good food and growing up in New Zealand, we had fantastic produce available.
Suzi: What is the best job you have ever had?
Viv: The best would be here at Masons Cafe. I trained as a dietician in New Zealand and I very much enjoyed the work I did in the Endocrine Unit Hospital.
Suzi: And the worst job?
Viv: When I was 15, I worked in a private guesthouse. Every morning, we had to peel 100 potatoes and 100 onions. It was a hideous job and I was paid a pittance of $20-a-week.
Suzi: What is the biggest job you’ve catered for?
Viv: Back in the days of BTV6, we did a telethon with Molly Meldom and all the Hey Hey It’s Saturday team. We had very specific instructions about who could have beer and who could have bolly (Bollinger). It was an unlimited budget with continuous food for 24 hours.
Masons Cafe, 32 Drummond Street North, Ballarat