Mark Olive is back.
Australia’s first Indigenous celebrity chef has returned to television as a judge on a new SBS nightly food series, The Chef’s Line.
And he has another series, On Country Kitchen, coming up on NITV in May.
“How lucky am I?” he says. “After deciding to have a break last year, all of this stuff just came out of nowhere. I’ve been very fortunate.”
Olive, a Bundjalung man, shot to prominence about a decade ago with his ground-breaking TV series The Outback Café, which took bush ingredients such as lemon myrtle, bush tomatoes and river mint to viewers around the world.
Just a year ago, he was lamenting that high drama was overshadowing food in the new crop of TV food programs.
But he says that’s not the case with The Chef’s Line, a show that sees home cooks challenge an entire chef’s line from some of the best restaurants around Australia.
Olive will judge alongside executive chef Dan Hong and food writer Melissa Leong.
“The show we do is totally different,” Olive says. “I still feel about the other ones (that) it’s just drama how they drag it out and you get so bored with it.
“I mean My Kitchen Rules still hasn’t finished and it’s been on since January. It’s such a long process.
“What I love about The Chef’s Line and why I got involved is it’s all about the passion for the food, focusing on home cooks who have a real passion for the actual cuisine that they love.
“Each week it’s a different cuisine. You are only dealing with four home cooks, you follow them along, you lose them along the way and the idea of the show is can passion beat profession?
“It’s amazing the quality of knowledge these home cooks bring and sometimes bump off the actual restaurant with their own dishes.
“They are bringing sometimes recipes that have been in the family for decades and you just can’t beat that sort of passion.”
Olive says the show features cuisine from around the world, including Vietnam, Africa, Turkey, Lebanon, China and Thailand.
He said he hopes Indigenous food will feature in the second season.
Olive believes the new show will be well received.
“I think we’re onto a winner,” he says. “The feedback has been fantastic. I think (we’re) putting it out there to the community that, yes, there are a lot of cooking shows, but if you are from a multicultural background, this show is for you.
“Where else on telly can you see an Aboriginal person, a Vietnamese person and a Singaporean woman judging a TV show? Only on SBS.
“We’re telling Australia’s story through multiculturalism and food.”
Olive’s other project, On Country Kitchen, will go to air on NITV on May 29. A premiere will be held in Perth on May 3.
On Country Kitchen will feature Olive and comedian Derek Nannup sourcing and cooking the best of produce from Western Australia’s south-west area.
“It’s a growing food bowl,” Olive says of the region. “Around that whole Margaret River region from Perth down to Denmark and Albany.
“It’s great. I’m going to be on television cooking in one series and judging on the other.”
Olive hopes his television roles will inspire others.
“It gives other Indigenous people an idea that you can be whatever,” he says.
- The Chef’s Line airs at 6pm weeknights on SBS.