How good are people? I love interviewing people from all different walks of life and trying to understand what makes them tick. Here is where I’ve shared stories about actors, politicians, scientists, chef and even an astronaut. Most of these stories have been published in Fairfax newspapers, magazines and websites.
After the Columbia disaster in February, many people thought America’s space program was over. But now NASA is planning a new shuttle launch, and Australian Andy Thomas will be aboard. He spoke with Dani Valent.
The Graham Hotel owners Tony and Peter Giannakis and chef Perry Schagen work together to create a festive feast. Ruler of the rotisserie Peter Giannakis beckons his chef. “Come on, Perry, your knife skills are better than mine,” he says. Perry Schagen steps up to the lamb with an impressive blade, pierces the crisp, citrus-scented skin, and eases the meat from the bone onto a platter. He swoons.
All you really need to know about Heston Blumenthal is made abundantly clear in his toasted cheese sandwich. It’s not the edible ingredients – bread, cheese, ham – that perplex; it’s the presence of “new washing-up sponge (without scourer)” on the list of necessities. The questing Blumenthal mind decided the humble, well-loved toastie would be improved if the bread was cooked longer than the filling to create a crisp, golden shell and perfectly melted – not over-melted – insides.
There really is something about Marco Pierre White. I’m in the plush lobby of Melbourne’s Park Hyatt, I’ve spent nearly three hours talking to the famous British chef and I’m simply not myself any more. I’ve entered a vortex, encircled by the 51-year-old’s charisma, trapped by his stories, his slow, quiet sentences, pregnant ellipses and rhetorical questions, which he goes on to answer in a weighty, meaningful way that reels me in tighter. “Honesty is paramount,” he says. “I bare myself.” I somehow doubt it, but I can feel myself nonetheless being charmed by the restaurateur and television star, who is spending three months in Melbourne to film MasterChef: The Professionals.
Warlow waged war, Prior found true love and Quast sought vengeance, but all stood up and took their chance in a production that revolutionised musical theatre. As Les Miserables prepares to celebrate its 25th anniversary in London, the original Australian cast leads tell Dani Valent how the show changed their lives.
There’s a lot more to George Calombaris than MasterChef. Like his plan for “global domination”. He speaks frankly with Dani Valent. George Calombaris has a few things on his mind. Like opening a restaurant in Kew, and one in Sydney, and another in Athens. And maybe a Greek deli, if the numbers stack up. He’s thinking about his role as judge on Celebrity MasterChef, on air in October, followed by a new MasterChef series for the not-yet-famous. And there are meetings with Channel 10 sponsor Coles to develop supermarket meals: a marinade for boil-in-the-bag pork, something with West Australian truffles.
With philanthropic support from an unlikely source, the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia is at the forefront in the search for a cure. Dani Valent meets four of its hopeful young scientists and their benefactor.