>Poh’s Kitchen – Series 1, Ep. 1


I managed to catch the premiere episode of Poh’s Kitchen last night (Official ABC website for the show: Poh’s Kitchen). It wasn’t a planned viewing as I only vaguely knew about Poh getting her own show. We became die-hard Masterchef watchers near the tail end of that first series, and I thought Poh was erratic and watchable. The good news is that the series appears to capture the best ways in which she’s erratic, and her ‘watchability’ has certainly not diminished (if one must criticise, I think she could be a bit lighter with the rouge…). The series takes place in a swanky (studio) kitchen, with shots of her own home and artwork interspersed. Poh is paired with a celebrity/high-profile chef for each episode. The first one was pasty-chef Emmanuel Mollois (who I haven’t heard of, I must admit; however, the number of chefs I haven’t heard of would fill volume upon volume so…yeah). Mollois was a great person to watch on the show, particularly while he made his almond croissants. For a start, making croissants is a masochistic art, and spectating their creation by a master was fabulous. He also tsk-tsked Poh on her use of a whisk rather than a spatula when she was making her ganache, being ironic about ‘tradition’ while demonstrating why some methods are worth following.

The Herald Sun loved the show (and her), and I was surprised to find out that last night was the first of a 40-part series. FORTY parts?! Who would’ve thought? I guessed first-run series would be commissioned at about 20 eps at the most.

I liked the show for its visuals and pacing. The food that was being done by Poh? Not so much. The thing I love best about chiffon cakes is their simplicity; they’re one of my mother’s specialties and we’ve had them in pandan, coffee, orange, and lemon flavours. Poh split her orange chiffon into three and layered it with chantilly cream + crushed hazelnuts + covered the whole thing in chocolate ganache. She turned it into a cafe-style gateaux. I guess this is a twist on the standard chiffon cake, but I couldn’t help thinking it went against what I liked best about them: the incredibly light, aromatic texture.

Next week, she’s fronting the camera with David “Thai Food” Thompson. Looking forward to seeing the roti. I’m always up for watching roti being made, eating roti, smelling roti…actually, all things roti are a general good. I’d also like to see someone making murtabak on Australian TV; it’s heart-attack food at its best.

While watching Poh, I didn’t get the heebies the way I do when I watch Kylie Kwong. I don’t know what it is about Kylie, but I’ve never enjoyed her TV shows. The way she calls on, and performs, her ‘Chinese-ness’ makes me uneasy. Poh always dips into the Malaysian background, but for some reason the way she does it doesn’t bother me. I’ll have to think more about this because my dislike of Kyles was instant and is long-standing. The dislike increased when I saw bits of her China series. She seemed very much the Occidental intruder in the locals’ kitchens, no matter how much (or maybe because?) she was talking up her heritage and ‘homecoming-ness’ so much. There’s one episode I’m thinking of in particular where she went to a Hakka ‘compound’ and wandered into someone’s kitchen, extolling the virtues of the high-density accommodation and history of the home-cooking spaces within…then boots out the guy whose kitchen she commandeers. It just seemed like he was so much background to the real point of the show, which was showing Kyles cooking something Kyles’ way with only minimal reference to the setting in which she was immersed.

I’m immediately skeptical of anyone who does an all-embracing homecoming schtick. I guess I work on the assumption that anyone who doesn’t see a bit of tension/contradiction in their feelings must be emotionally thick. I do understand the strange relief of finding oneself anonymous and part of a crowd when visiting a majority Asian country (or very racially diverse places), but the immediate tapping into one’s ‘homeland’ culture? I just don’t buy it.


7 thoughts on “>Poh’s Kitchen – Series 1, Ep. 1

  1. e 12/02/2010 / 12:42 am

    >damn you crappy internet connection!i had written a defense of poor kyles…lost it grrrr

  2. Book Boy 17/02/2010 / 8:30 am

    >Totally agree – Kylie K so overdoes the whole 'ethnic' dress. And really she is just a little bit tooo sydney for me liking too;-) Tho I was a bit worried for Poh cos she was in 'traditional' dress on the latest cover of Green Guide. But sigh of relief when watched the first episode and she is in normal street clothes.

  3. tseen 17/02/2010 / 8:42 am

    >@ e – Would love to hear a defence of Kyles. My gut-reaction to her is negative, and I think it's mostly because of the way she showcases her ethnicity. If I think more about it, most of us do 'showcase' our ethnicity, just in very different ways…so, yes, I'm still teasing out why my reaction to her is so strong so do rally for her!@ BB – "Tooo Sydney"?! You're soooo Melbourne… 😉 I think Kyles doing the chinese garb thang in China was kind of odd. In some ways, I guess it's consistent, seeing as she does it on Oz TV? I think Poh's got more panache so she carries off 'ethnic' gear better. Maybe I'm down on Kyles because she ain't got style?! Oh, am I that shallow…

  4. e 19/02/2010 / 5:43 am

    >damnit. someone really does not want me to defend poor Kyles.I typed in a lengthy comment and then my new ISP decided at the moment to transfer my account.:(Gist of it is – Kyles came about at a v. diff time, P already proved herself on commercial tv that she did have "ethnic options"and thus changing viewer expectations, Kyles also from diff. background and she does romanticize her heritage more because of more distance. hmmm what else…oh and then at the end of the day, Kyles is a cook whereas P has actually explored issues of representation in her art, so prob. has more self-awareness. K has pressure to perform her ethnicity more, and prob doesn't know what this means. (Of course I could be completely patronizing here).Also, P was also in make-up/styling whereas K prob relied on ABC wardrobe and her own ideas which are orientalist because she's grown up in an era where there were more fixed ideas about the old country. so she's in a way like the whitey authors of the genre Asian novels i'm looking at. Poor Kyles. She probably also grew up at a time of intolerance, and thus her ideas of being Chinese are based on the stereotypes she had to put up with, and her only other option were the ones she inherited from family who left China a long time ago. ie. maybe when those clothes were popular. Or maybe you are being shallow and it's more about how she wears it… ;P

  5. Eurasian Sensation 26/02/2010 / 12:06 am

    >I liked Poh's show. It's interesting that she the approach that she does. There were many folks who believed she did not deserve her spot in the final of Masterchef, and they will point to her seemingly unprofessional approach to her own show as proof.Of course, it's important to view her as an enthusiastic facilitator, rather than a TV chef. (Kind of like Maeve O'Mara but who cooks as well.) Through that lens, it is easier to appreciate her and the show.I also am less than enthusiastic about Kylie Kwong. Partly it's because she lacks Poh's charisma, but there is something about the way she seems to be saying "Look! I'm Chinese" at every opportunity that bugs me.

  6. tseen 27/02/2010 / 10:00 am

    >@ e – belated response to your thoughtful comment! Yes, I'd agree that KK's show and KK herself come from rather different cultural times (though I suspect KK's growing up Asian experiences in Oz reflect mine to a great extent). Her China series also walks straight into a hornets' nest of essentialist/representational issues that, unfortunately, I don't think Kyles has enough savvy or panache to overcome. And I'd totally believe that I'm shallow enough to be swayed by how she wears that brocade! My sis calls her a 'professional Asian,' and wants me to write an article about it (so do others…hmmm). @ ES – I think the approach is nice and different from the bazillion other cooking shows out there at the moment. I quite liked "The Cook and the Chef" because of the refreshing set-up. There's definitely a charisma vacuum on the KK front; sad to say, but there it is. And, yes, it's that determined self-showcasing as a Chinese specimen that gets up a lot of people's goats (gotta love Kath and Kim). Dammit. I need to write that article.

  7. e 03/03/2010 / 2:32 am

    >Damn you net connection….http://www.smh.com.au/news/entertainment/tv–radio/tv-reviews/wednesday-tv-pohs-kitchen/2010/02/27/1266687177106.html?page=2had written something questioningwhether k has any option but to be a pa. maxing hk’s i/v re: how est of aa/ethn studies dept educated ppl so reviewers less likely 2 reinforce ethno-centr. Reading posns. Maybe k’s prod or k herself might have gotten her out of that brocade if they had awareness, thus challenging av. Viewers expectation. Maybe they made her wear it to enhance ethnicity 2 point out she is the authentic guide, not just audience surrogate.something about chinabeat article re: young chiNESE GUY lookin 4ward 2 olympics as hoped for challenge to existi. stereotype of c/ as ppl who live in silk robes 😉 1 hand typing. Would be so much easier to discuss over coffee 🙂

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