‘Eat Life Up’ is a series of pop-up events brought to Sydney by Moro, Australia’s favourite olive oil and a staple product at dinner tables around the country. At its core, Moro believes in the simple pleasures in life, family and food, and the combination of the two can create unforgettable memories that last a lifetime. Hosting the event with Moro are two ambassadors that share the same beliefs: renowned food blogger Lola Berry and celebrity chef Miguel Maestre.
Above the sink at my mother’s house is a book of recipes. This book was passed down through generations in my family, with pages torn out or inserted with glue. There are adjustments noted in the margins with explanations written in sloppy cursive, my great-grandmother’s recipe scribbled out by my grandmother with her own replacement methods and ingredients. These dishes tell my heritage, where I come from. Sharing these dishes and reminiscing over the recipes allows us to reconnect as a family. Through cooking these foods for others, I become the orator of my family’s story, sharing it with everyone who happens to dine at my table. The ‘Eat Life Up’ table is an open cookbook with a wonderful family story to tell.
The Moro olive oil legacy dates back to 1845, when Tomaso Moro e Figli first began bottling the artisanal oils in Italy. Moro landed in Australia in 1960, where olive oil was still considered an exotic import to be purchased from chemists as an expensive “health tonic,” bringing with it to this country the culture of use we have today. Moro uses only the finest Spanish olives for its oil and found one of the best Spanish chefs to demonstrate how to use it to bring the flavour out in any dish: Miguel Maestre.
“I come from a very Spanish family, very close together, ” said Miguel. “The family was always together cooking big meals, always really messy, always really loud. That brings to me the base of cooking; it’s always a happy place. I have really good memories of happy cooking, and I believe in taking that with me in my job.”
When I first met Miguel, I was reminded of what kindled my fire for cookery in the first place. He radiates a passion for cooking and an enthusiasm for life that is completely contagious. He’s an amazing chef, with a Moro logo embroidered on his coat and his heart on his sleeve.
Miguel explained how he became a chef at age 19:
[quote]”I came to a restaurant and knocked on the door and said, ‘I have no idea, I just want to work for free, can you please let me hang around your kitchen? ‘. Within six months I was running the entree section. I slowly built up and up. Now I’m 35, and I haven’t stopped cooking for 15 years.”[/quote]
On the night I visited, Miguel was cooking his Paella A La Maestre using the largest pan I have ever seen. The Spanish name is Arroz con Pollo, meaning Rice with Chicken, but the simple name doesn’t do the dish justice. The chicken and chorizo was seared in the pan before adding the sofrito: a blend of oxheart tomatoes, roasted red capsicum, garlic, saffron, herbs and extra virgin olive oil. The paella became a family event, Miguel calling guests to stir the pan, squish the tomatoes and add a dash of salt or a teaspoon of paprika. Everyone in attendance shifted closer to the pan as the mouthwatering smell drew them in to huddle around the dish. Just like a family event, we all congregated around the kitchen.
The smell of fresh herbs and steaming paella and the aroma of olive oil hovered in the night air above the enthusiasm of the crowd and the live, soulful Spanish guitar. Eat Life Up! is a place to let your hair down, eat, drink and leave your worries at the door. It felt like home.
In my family, the first thing offered at every event is a glass of wine and something to eat, of which I decline neither. Eat Life Up! follows the same tradition. I started with a Mixed Antipasti of jamón with sun-dried tomatoes, olives, marinated globe artichoke hearts and salt grissinis. My favourite starter to any dining experience, this dish is best eaten as it is intended: with a glass of wine in hand while laughing.
The Kingfish Ceviche was perfectly cured with an equal balance of lemon and lime juice. Subtle hints of chilli, garlic, ginger and coriander gave the sashimi grade kingfish an explosion of flavour, while the poached kumara added colour and texture. It was among the best I have ever had, and I worked at a restaurant named Ceviche.
Only once or twice in life will you experience something so wonderful that you are thankful for the experience, yet melancholy because you know things will never be as good as they were at that single moment. A first kiss, personal triumph or paella scooped into a paper bowl. The Paella A La Maestre was sublime. The Bomba rice cooked to perfection with every component perfectly balancing the other, the saffron with the chorizo, the chicken with the sofrito. Only a dish like this can bring strangers together and friends closer and create an unforgettable experience. This is what Eat Life Up! is all about.
[quote]”My biggest accomplishment is my family,” Miguel said “I don’t believe in greatness. I’m a very simple guy; for me my success is at home. I love when people come to see what we’re doing. It’s really special, and I never take it for granted, but my success is at home where Sascha (wife) is waiting for me with my three-year-old little girl, Claudia, and my 8-month-old boy, Morgan. I’m the richest man in the world. Everything else but family is just life.”[/quote]
[quote]”I love the big events, the recognition, the awards and all the stuff,” he continued. “It’s amazing as a professional person, but at the end of the day you come back home and open the door, that’s the greatest stage in the world.”[/quote]
Eat Life Up! rejuvenated my idea of what family is all about. We may lose sight of what truly matters and drift different directions, but after a plate of food and a glass of wine, we are right back together, talking and laughing as we always have.
Food is a powerful tool. It has the ability to unite different people, spark conversation and create cherished memories. The reward for preparing food is to see the enjoyment of the people you are sharing it with. It is not just sustenance to live; it is a celebration of life, and a meal at Eat Life Up! is a rewarding experience for everyone involved.
Eat Life Up! Pop-Up Alfresco Events with cooking demonstrations by celebrity chef Miguel Maestre (free entry)
Tuesday June 16 -The Village Green, Darling Quarter, Sydney NSW, 11.30am – 3:30pm
Saturday June 27 – Centenary Square, 195 Church Street, Parramatta NSW, 12:30pm – 4:30pm
For more information, go to worldofmoro.com.au/events