Three things with Matt Preston: ‘I once went to a party and woke up with my pants missing’ | Australian lifestyle

matt Preston spent 10 years judging MasterChef Australia, a gig that made him famous for his discerning palate, sharp tongue and collection of fabulous cravats. But that TV juggernaut was just one chapter of the London-born food critic’s long career. Preston has also worked as a food columnist and magazine editor, as well as penning a range of cookbooks – including one called Cravat-A-Licious. To help Australians level up their morning meal, this month Preston is sharing weekly brunch recipes through the ABC Melbourne newsletter.

Unsurprisingly, all of Preston’s most useful belongings reside in the kitchen. He is particularly fond of a spatula, a Japanese knife and a leather apron in his collection, but the utensil that rules them all is a Microplane grater. Here, he tells us about the many uses of that indispensable item, as well as the story of two other important objects – one sartorial, the other deeply sentimental.

What I’d save from my house in a fire

My arms are full of photo albums, my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather’s silver inlaid ebony walking cane, and my family as the flames lick around my ankles and I head for the door. Yet I stop to grab the most important thing.

'The most evocative of connections to my childhood': Matt Preston's Bossy Bell.
‘The most evocative of connections to my childhood’: Matt Preston’s Bossy Bell. Photograph: Matt Preston/Supplied

This is Bossy Bell, a small wooden cow on wheels with yellow plastic horns and a bell around her neck that, as you drag her behind you, rings incessantly and annoyingly. This was my first toy and still clangs when you roll it across the carpet. The horns are slightly toddler-chewed and the paper insets that cover her are faded, but she’s still my first toy, and the most evocative of connections to my childhood.

My most useful object

Needless to say, my kitchen is full of extremely useful things that get rolled out most days – along with a German poppy seed grinder and an Italian garganelli machine that never get used. My head is easily turned by irrelevant kitchen gadgets and I have a whole cupboard that’s like a gadget graveyard.

My favorite useful things are a green silicone spatula, which means that licking the cake mix bowl is no longer a temptation as it catches every last skerrick of batter – but that died last month. Then there’s a Japanese knife I was given by workmates at Delicious magazine when I turned 50, and the softest of leather kitchen aprons that weathers beautifully the more I wear it.

But really, and boringly, the truth is that the one object that I cannot do without is a long skinny Microplane. The teeth of this rasp are fine, sharp and closely set so a small lump of parmesan becomes a huge airy cloud. The most fragrant zest falls from it to garnish dishes, like citrus rain. It’s as happy performing the mundane – like grating nutmeg or garlic – as it is weirder tasks, like creating a Brazil nut snow for my vegan caesar salad, or grating frozen cream cheese over my microwaved leeks.

The item I most regret losing

I went to a studio sale by the designer Nicole Farhi and my eyes immediately spotted a long sheepskin jerkin. It was $360, which was all I had, but still a bargain and it became my thing.

It was my warm blanket when stranded out, my rug when I picnicked with the woman I love, my-look-at-me-I’m-so-rugged, wear-it-all-the-time, functional fashion piece that felt at home anywhere. It was a bit caveman, too, so perfect festival ware. I think it did six Glastonburys over the years. Over the next 30 years it wore better and better until it started to go at the pockets. The only people who could repair it were saddlers and the local bloke who repaired horse blankets.

It disappeared a couple of years back. I don’t know what happened but, as a bloke who once went to a party across town and woke up the next morning back at home with my pants missing, I obviously can’t be trusted with clothes.

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