'MasterChef's Ben Trobbiani Plans To Fuse Mexican Cuisine With Aussie Ingredients
Pairing traditional Mexican cooking techniques with native Australian ingredients may sound like a strange match, or for one 'MasterChef' alum, it makes total sense.
His penchant for party shirts made him an unforgettable addition to the roster of 'MasterChef Australia's 11th season, and since leaving the show Ben Trobbiani has continued with his love of food, combining it with a desire to help others.
"If you've got a profile, you should try to do your best to help other people," he told 10 daily.
Headed up by Daniella Guevara, La Popular Taqueria has aimed to bring authentic Mexican cuisine to South Australia, and now Ben wants to bring his passion for native Australian ingredients to the table.
Working with Daniella, Ben the pair have put together a seven-course dinner that features native Australian ingredients, prepared with traditional Mexican techniques.
Ben -- whose background was in pharmacy -- had been working in the food space for a while since his time on the show, pitched the idea of a collaborative dinner to the owner of La Popular Taqueria.
"Daniella also doesn't come from a hospitality background," Ben said. "She's a marine biologist. So she was open to the idea because she knows the boundaries and what it takes to get a restaurant up and running."
For Ben, the opportunity was to not only come up with a fusion of ingredients and techniques but to reintroduce diners to two cuisines he said are often misunderstood.
"I think it's ingrained into the average person that Mexican food is shredded cheese and fried beef with iceberg lettuce in a flour tortilla," he said. "It's not like that at all.
"I'm sure people now understand with a lot of Asian and Indian cuisine, it can be elevated to high levels. That hasn't happened with Mexican food in Australia," Ben added.
Combining Daniella's traditional Mexican techniques with his love of native flavours, Ben said it also gave him the opportunity to demystify some ingredients that are often overlooked.
"People view [Australian cuisine] as a super exotic out-there idea, but as an Australian I'm proud -- and a lot of the history of our First Nation people is something we should be proud of," he said.
"A lot of that food culture has been lost and that's really unfortunate. Everyone needs to do their bit to understand that and use ingredients native to Australia. People bang on about seasonal produce, but use ingredients that are grown here naturally, they're delicious!"
Ben added that the availability of some of these ingredients needs to be improved, "Why can't we have [ingredients] supporting Indigenous people and businesses, that have been growing in Australia for years, rather than stocking things just because they're considered 'easy to use'?"
While availability can sometimes be restricted, Ben said it has definitely improved, especially in local markets. "In Adelaide, the central markets, you can buy a huge range of different proteins, vegetables and herbs that have been used for hundreds of years," he added.
When he approached Daniella, Ben said she only had one request: "She said everything on the menu has to definitely be Mexican, that it should feel at home in any Mexican restaurant."
"She was very strong with that, which is fantastic. It's very much showing and highlighting Australian ingredients with Mexican cooking. I cook a lot of Mexican food, and I cook a lot with Aussie ingredients, so I knew it would work," he added.
As for the menu, Ben wasn't giving away too much.
"There will be ants on the menu," he revealed. "They taste like lime juice but with no bitterness. They have a different acidity!"
Featured image: Instagram @bentrobbiani / @lapopulartaqueria.