Rachel Khoo Pens A Love Letter To Melbourne In New Kitchen Notebook Series

27 March 2015

There's just something about Rachel. It's a certain je ne sais quoi on-camera. The red lips, the bangs, the vintage frocks. But Ms Khoo's appeal is more than skin-deep. There's a natural 'realness' that has set her career on an upward trajectory; a recipe for success that has brought her to Australian shores from her native Britain via Paris.

The Le Cordon Bleu graduate has cranked up the heat for Michelin-starred chefs and successfully run Paris' smallest underground restaurant, but when it comes to meals to impress, Rachel's plan of attack is a little less laborious.

"I usually book a really good restaurant [laughs]. That way I'm not sweating in the kitchen with food all over my clothes. I'm a messy cook."

Rachel is currently in Melbourne – the pacesetter of the Australian food scene – filming a new, eight-part Kitchen Notebook series in and around the Victorian capital.

 Rachel Khoo mixes it up in Melbourne

While three years have passed since The Little Paris Kitchen burst onto the BBC, Rachel's new program pays homage to her first foray into television and sees her cooking up a storm in a Melbourne pied-à-terre.

"I've been spoilt rotten, really!" says Rachel of her current stint in the city. "I've been to Melbourne a few times now, but every time I'm here it's brilliant."

Like any true Melburnian, Rachel has even adopted a local coffee shop as her own (the honour goes to Allpress roaster and cafe in Collingwood). "You can't serve bad coffee in Melbourne," she says. "You'd get into serious trouble."

According to Rachel, it's the diversity as well as the quality of the fare on offer that makes Melbourne a foodie mecca. "There's a whole bunch of young chefs who are doing really interesting things," she adds. "You could roll from one place to another, basically!"

Rachel Khoo's Kitchen Notebook: Melbourne sees the former public relations professional shop, hunt, forage, eat and cook her way around Australia's culture capital.

"Like the other Kitchen Notebooks, it's basically the same concept of me looking for inspiration, learning about another place and taking that with me into the kitchen. It's kind of part travel and discovery and part delicious food," says Rachel.

"Each person and each kitchen has added something unique and valuable to the show and I feel very grateful to have that experience."

An empire of cookbooks, a dedicated YouTube channel, loyal social media community and a string of successful television series sees Rachel traipse across the globe in search of the next scribble for her trusty kitchen notebook.

"What drew me at the beginning to food is what food does," explains Rachel. "It brings people together and that's certainly something I discover from my travels."

 Rachel Khoo's Kitchen Notebook cookbook

Before setting foot in Australia, Rachel was in Malaysia where "everybody's passionate about food and they all have something to say about it". But the down-to-earth chef with the Parisian pedigree still believes there's no place like home.

While her heart belongs to London, time spent in Turkey as part of the Kitchen Notebook: Cosmopolitan Cookbook series left a lasting impression.

"The one place we visited which I found really magical was Istanbul," says Rachel. "I'd never been there before and loved exploring the culture. It's not just the food, but also the smells, the spices, the call to prayer, the architecture... It all kind of created a really magical place for me."

When it comes to navigating the minefield of tourist traps and finding the most authentic local food abroad, Rachel admits it helps to know somebody but says there's still no substitute for following your nose and trusting your instincts.

There's a lot to be said for this kind of honest attitude, which is a big part of Rachel's allure. While her cookbooks and shows ooze flair and finesse, the recipes are simple at their core, focusing on seasonality and bringing out the flavour of each ingredient.

"I'm not big into food trends," admits Rachel. "For me, it's all about making tasty, delicious food that's approachable in the way you make it and also enjoyable.

"I think sometimes with this gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free, grain free, everything free – there's no joy in the food anymore.

"I just think people have lost the sense of balance. I learnt that in France, you know? You can eat your croissant but you just don't have it every day. My dad would just say it's common sense."

 Meet your new favourite celebrity chef

It's this kind of grounded thinking that has seen Rachel become a rising star in an already well-stocked pot of celebrity chefs.

Having found success in Europe, Rachel is now set to woo Australian audiences with her carefree approach to cooking when the Kitchen Notebook: Melbourne series airs on SBS in July this year.

In the midst of getting cosy with the world's great food cultures and meeting and eating with seasoned chefs, Rachel says keeping it simple is always le bon choix.

"If somebody ever invited me around for dinner, I'd be happy with scrambled eggs on toast. As long as there's butter on the toast – that's important – I'd be happy. You don't need to go crazy. It's about sharing that moment together."

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hun_yj5u4S0[/embed]
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To whet your appetite for Rachel Khoo's Kitchen Notebook: Melbourne, which airs later this year on 23 July at 8pm, SBS ONE will be showing the Kitchen Notebook: Cosmopolitan Cook series from April 2.

For your own foodie holiday in Melbourne, visit your local Flight Centre or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest travel deals.

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Ashton Rigg

When I'm not at home in Brisbane, you’ll find me wanderlusting around hipster bars, eclectic boutiques and arty nooks. From bagels in Brooklyn to strudel in Salzburg, I believe the best way to experience a destination is by taking a bite! Tweets & 'grams at @AshtonRigg