It was 6.50am on Saturday 2nd April at the AT&T Hotel in Austin Texas, and I was jolted out of my slumbers by the room phone. It was Jane King. She was in the lobby and I had slept in. We were due at KXAN to do a live television spot, and I had been up late the night before cooking for 400 people on an open fire at an exotic game ranch outside Austin. My eyes were scratchy, and I had hardly any voice. There was no time for a shower, my shirt stunk of mesquite smoke, and given that everything in America reminds you of a song – in the immortal words of the Five Man Electrical Band, “I put my hair up under my hat”, and Kris Kristofferson,” stumbled down the stairs to meet the day.”
Fortunately the studio was only a couple of minutes away. We were ushered down a hall and into the morning news set. There was a blackened red fish segment before me, so we had a bit of time to get set up.
A couple of minutes later our table was carried into place. I needed a hot wok, they had supplied a kind of frypan with deep sides and a butane stove, so I turned it on and put the wok on it to heat up. I don’t think I had counted on the wok getting so hot. When it came to cook, I tossed the sweet corn in and whoosh, a great pall of smoke rose and filled the studio. I kept talking and stirring, but the smoke triggered an asthma attack with the anchor. She was choking up, but put on a brave face, but had to leave it to me to read the outtake for the segment on the autocue.
As my friend Alan Dean commented when he saw the clip on facebook, “Never work with small children, animals or savvy Australian chefs”.