Festive season tips from the Final Table’s Mark Best

19 December, 2018

Meet the Australian chef who coasted through new cooking show 'The Final Table' thanks to his calm and collected style. Here, he shares how you too can keep your cool and host a 10/10 event this Christmas.

What dishes define the festive season for you?
* Roast goose – A traditional and celebratory bird, which is rich in flavour and delicious. Personally, I think it’s the perfect statement meat for Christmas.
* Chestnuts and Brussels sprouts – It’s all about texture for me. These flavours complement each other perfectly and pay homage to a traditional Christmas feast.
* Hasselback potatoes – Who doesn’t love a roast potato on Christmas Day? Hasselback potatoes are irresistible.
* Creamed rice – I like to complete the meal with this dish, served either hot or cold. It’s the ideal way to finish the Christmas feast.

How would you interpret the traditional Christmas dishes for summer?
* Seafoods – Fresh prawn and avocado salad with a zingy lemon dressing to cut through the richness of the main ingredients.
* Roasts – Sweet and sour lamb ribs served with wedges of lime, reserved marinade and fresh pomegranate seeds for a fresh take on the classic proteins.
* Sides (salads / vegetables) – Green bean salad with lime butter and almonds - the tangy butter really brings out the flavour of the beans.
* Desserts – In lieu of your Pavlova or trifle, I would make my mango with white chocolate and sheep milk yoghurt ganache with kaffir lime sherbet. This is a very fresh and vibrant summer dessert that combines luxury with exoticism.

How will you be spending the holiday?
I’ve grown up celebrating Christmas Eve with a big dinner, which goes back to my European heritage. I love the tradition of Christmas Eve and the feeling of promise that it brings, as well as the countless memories that are created.

Do you have any timeline tips?
The key is to have everything prepared beforehand so you can spend more time with your guests. Preferably, I like to spread the workload over two days. Have your menu planned early and always write a list because this will allow you to start your shopping as early as possible to avoid the Christmas panic. Ensure that your menu has a combination of salads and hot vegetable dishes. The mixed selection is perfect for our hot climate and means you can prepare a lot of the dishes early in the day.

Is there something important to you when it comes to table setting? 
I love a Christmas cracker!

What albums/songs will you have on rotation for the occasion?
Don’t overlook the power of music. I just hit play on my curated Spotify playlist –anything from Patti Smith to The Smiths to Fleet Foxes. I'm a sucker for great lyrics and melodies. I’ve got 50 hours, so plenty of good vibes for a summer luncheon.

Any entertaining pet peeves or tips for your guests?
Always toast your host! Despite whether they make their own speech once everyone is seated, you should always follow with a toast to them – short and sweet is best!

Any go-to drinks that you keep the fridge/cupboard stocked with for summer?
I love a big jug of martini with watermelon and olives on clear ice – it’s perfect for those lazy summer afternoons and guests can help themselves! For non-drinkers, I would have some homemade kombucha made with Chinese tea and apple juice.

Explore Mark’s cookbooks Best Kitchen Basics and Marque, or head over to AEG Australia to see the range of recipes he’s created especially for the festive season.

Recipes to try

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