Saturday, December 01, 2012

Fresh Flavours with Anna Olson in Kuala Lumpur

images by Veronica Ng

You could trust Anna Olson to charmingly disarm the assorted Malaysian media, press and bloggers gathered around the table to “grill” her by turning the tables on them.  Most of us present there were already die-hard fans of her easy going style and down to earth approachability anyway.

After patiently answering a couple of questions, Anna requested for a piece of paper and a pen, and asked conspiratorially us for a list of “must eat” places to visit and food to try. She hit gold with her request as those present scrambled to volunteer their choice of local favorites.
We did manage to gather bits of intel before she tapped into Malaysians’ insatiable hunger for food though, so here are some juicy bits you probably didn’t know about the host and star of “Bake with Anna Olson”, “Sugar” and “Fresh with Anna Olson” on the Asian Food Channel.

Even though she is renowned for her desserts, Anna prefers savory to sweet, and her absolute favorite thing to eat is beef, so she prefers serving beef for Christmas rather than turkey. Christmas dinner is a very peaceful and quiet affair for the Olson family as there are only six to eight people to cook for. It is a nice break from the hectic schedule that is her normal work day.

They have multiple desserts for Christmas and some of her favorites are sticky toffee pudding and Mont Blanc tart with white chocolate cream on top. Also, during Thanksgiving, she would serve seafood instead of turkey! She also loves collecting new and vintage Le Creuset pots and pans and KitchenAid mixers in different colors.

Throughout the demonstration held recently and called “Fresh Flavours with Anna Olson” and subsequent interview, Anna was her usual bubbly and cheerful self, showing no signs of jet lag or the fact that she and husband Chef Michael Olson had just landed in Malaysia merely an hour before the demonstration at the Berjaya University College of Hospitality.

She kept us jaded jounos mesmerized with her anecdotes on cooking, baking, and behind the scenes stories of her various shows. The only downer was our very own ugly Malaysian photographers who hogged the space directly in front of Anna and blocked the rest of the audience from a decent view of the demonstration. Even an appeal by Emcee Will Quah to disperse them went unheeded.

“This is my third visit to Malaysia and there are so many things I want to see, eat and buy for everyone back home,” she said. “I’m looking forward to the spicy flavors in Malaysia such as nasi lemak and local desserts such as kuih lapis.”

She taught us how to make Tourtiere, a French Canadian Beef Pie that is similar to the British steak and kidney pie, and Pumpkin Creme Brulee Tarts for dessert. Each family apparently has a secret ingredient for their own version of Tourtiere.

During her demonstration, Olson shared the hilarious bloopers that happen behind the scenes during the shooting of her TV shows.

There was the time when she was making a lemon tart and she forgot to put in the lemons while talking. Her producer noticed and stopped the shoot.

“Imagine a lemon tart dish without lemons! And that’s the most important ingredient,” laughed Olson. “Also, don’t try to talk while cutting at the same time,” she warned.

What you see on TV is also very different from reality as in truth, filming can take from 12 to 15 hours for a single episode of her show. Another secret is that it could take up to 16 meringue pies to shoot a show about making one single meringue pie!

“Taping an episode is actually the retirement of a recipe because it takes many months to prepare, taste and test the recipe before we film it,” said Olson.

One of her must-haves when she visits Malaysia is coconut. It is the one thing she cannot get fresh back home.

But she gamely confessed that she is no fan of durian when frigglive’s Veronica Ng posed the infamous “D” question. “Durian is ... interesting. I didn’t like it fresh. It was an assault on the senses,” she replied, before saying that for her last trip to Malaysia, she did whip up a durian mayonnaise to be paired with gourmet burger sliders, her most daring adventure ever. She also makes kaya from scratch back home in Canada.

Anna’s die-hard fans would have memorized this by now, but for the newbies out there, here’s the requisite backgrounder:

Anna Olson is a professionally trained pastry chef with over fifteen years of experience in the culinary field. She shares her talents with the world through award-winning cookbooks, opening culinary businesses and starring in television shows such as Bake with Anna Olson, Sugar and Fresh with Anna Olson, all of which air on the Asian Food Channel. Bake with Anna Olson recently premiered on Asian Food Channel.

She began her career as a pastry chef at a premier winery restaurant located in the midst of prime Niagara farm and wine country named, ‘Inn on the Twenty’. It was here where she met her husband, Michael Olson.

Anna has also published several successful cookbooks. Currently, she has six cookbook publications under her belt, with her most recent release titled, Fresh with Anna Olson. Using food as her creative medium, Anna likes to work backwards, starting with ingredients that sound delicious to create components within the recipe body to get a delicious end result.

Chef Anna loves cooking so much that she can work on her TV show for 10 hours in the studio then go home and cook for pleasure. She obviously has a rare passion for food, and it helps to explain her lively and down-to-earth programs.

Bake with Anna Olson airs on Tuesdays at 9pm on the Asian Food Channel, Astro channel 703 in Malaysia.

A big Thank you to AGC, Berjaya Hospitality and Asian Food Channel for the invite and giving us the chance to meet the witty and always charming Anna Olson in person.

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