MasterChef contestant Pia Gava talks to Melinda in an exclusive interview about her Italian Heritage from traditions food and family, MasterChef Australia and her recent publication of her cook book ‘Pia’s Table’.
My families Italian Traditions from Castiglione Italy’s Abruzzo region
“My passion came from my Italian mother at a very young age I’d watch her making pasta creations on our small kitchen step, looking up at the bench. It used to intrigue me how mum would put flour and egg together and come out with the most incredible pasta dishes such as ravioli and gnocchi my absolute favourite. I used to steal small pieces of pasta off the bench before it was even cooked and mum would tell me off”
“Mum would make certain dishes for Easter, Christmas, Birthdays and special celebrations and I’d hang out for those times to arrive throughout the year. At the age of ten all I wanted to do was help and participate in what mum was creating but I still wasn’t allowed to touch a thing. Eventually I got to an age where mum says that’s enough watching it’s time for you to help and for an Italian mother this was huge”
Pia’s Melbourne Home in Prahran
“Everything at home was made fresh, even our wine, marinated foods from our garden that dad would grow including tomatoes, potatoes, chillies and herbs, our backyard was small and half of it was dad’s garden”
MasterChef Australia Season 9 2017
Pia Gava decides to enter MasterChef Australia for the third time in Series 9 2017, after her first and second attempt didn’t make the final cut, just missing out on the top 50 on her second application, it wasn’t until she decided to take a rest and regroup that saw her make the 2017 series.
“I applied the day before the deadline and got through the whole audition process, I think taking a break before reapplying was just what I needed as it made me a lot more relaxed”
Pia loves to create dishes with memories of her families traditions “so a classic risotto I’ll add some of dad’s red wine to bring about tradition and also add my own personal touch”.
Pia’ says MasterChef tested her skills what she already knew and what she didn’t she had to learn quickly. “You need to know the basics before entering the show, how to make simple custard and you need to have yourown signature dishes and how to make them off by heart”. Pia’s backup was always a dish that included Pasta, “I could add anything to a pasta, my first dish I cooked on the show was using a mystery box, I knew I could add all the ingredients to a ravioli so I made a goat cheese lemon myrtle ravioli with burnt butter and a crumble of smoked bacon and macadamia sprinkled over the top of the dish”.
Who’s your favourite Chef/Celebrity on the show?
“Oh they are all amazing, I know with George if you’re freaking out and crying he will end up crying with you. Gary will keep you on track if a bit flustered and Matt comes and tries all the dishes, there is something I really like about Matt, he actually wrote the foreword for my recent cookbook ‘Pia’s Table”
‘Pia’s Table’ her latest Cookbook
Pia has always wanted to create a cookbook that shows her Italian heritage from’ Castiglione a town in the province of Pescara, Italy’s Abruzzo region. This cookbook’ Pia’s Table’ showcases her Italian traditions making sure her families heritage and way of doing things is not lost.
“It’s taken me over a decade to write this cookbook some of the recipes are my versions and some are my mum’s which I needed approval for”
“The first time I travelled to Italy, at the age of 19, I realised different tastes in different regions and I’d notice how fresh everything was, as well as the passion the Italians had for making food”
“I’ve done a lot of travelling with my husband Tony; I like to explore what dishes are specific to that region, including wines, coffees and desserts. I will then come home and recreate it myself with my own adaptation”
Pia says “Melbourne has the best coffee in the world” and our food scene is amazing. Her favourite desserts to cook at home are a baked cheesecake with seasonal berries, prosecco pannacotta, chocolate olive oil tart and her families favourite is her traditional lemon tart.
What’s on Pia’s Christmas Table?
Pia and Tony’s Christmas lunch with the family is traditional with an Italian influence of course! This year the Gava family will be enjoying barbeque garlic butter and/or chilli prawns, traditional turkey with mango chutney, potatoes with olive oil butter and rosemary, carrots in honey with wrapped prosciutto and baby brussels with butter/garlic sprinkled with feta.
The Gava family always have a signature cocktail on Christmas Day which is yet to be decided by their son. Desserts include homemade almond biscuits, cheesecake or pannacotta with fresh berries.
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Written by Melinda Sullivan