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MUSICIANS KITCHEN BATTLES @ Studio Underground (STCWA) gets 8.5/10

Musicians Kitchen Battles @ Studio Underground (STCWA)

w/ Stella Donnelly, Tangled Thoughts of Leaving
Thursday, January 21, 2021


Heading into the world premiere of Fringe World’s Musicians Kitchen Battles, it was unclear exactly what we were going to get. There were world class musicians on the stage, but would they play any music? There was some acclaimed cooking talent, but would they actually do any cheffing? The answers were yes, and no, respectively.

Stella Donnelly may have been the biggest name on the bill, but luring “The Queen of Flavour” Jessica Arnott (third place on Masterchef, season seven) was the real trump card. Paired with co-host Aarom Wilson – also a former Masterchef contestant and no slouch in the kitchen, but perhaps better currently known as a DJ and RTRFM radio host – the two lit up the room with surprising chemistry for a debut performance.

They kicked off proceedings big upping themselves and their achievements – Arnott always nudging ahead because, let’s face it, her resume speaks for itself. It was fun repartee as the stage played homage to Masterchef in many ways, with an impressive array of ingredients on display, notably from the brassica family (think broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) which was to be the night’s “hero ingredient.” Alas, “staples” there were not; as Stella Donnelly’s team found out when they reached for the non-existent butter.

With Donnelly’s team emerging in green, followed by the hairy men of post-metal giants Tangled Thoughts of Leaving (and Gracie) in red, teams took to their benches, and judges Nick Odell, Ofa Fatu and Matt Aitken were also introduced.

As the 40-minute countdown kicked off, the music challenge – or riff off – began, with Tangled keys man Ron Pollard up against the Stella band’s George Foster. “I now feel enlightened as to what doom-jazz is,” exclaimed Arnott following Pollard’s first synth freak out, something Tangled fans have been enjoying for years. Foster, meanwhile, laid down some kooky surf-jazz noodling before getting the crowd onside riffing along to a lo-fi take on Guns N’ Roses’ Sweet Child O’ Mine. Rounded out by a mint little jam that suggested they should try playing music together again, it was a killer exclusive for Perth music fans.

All of which took the attention off the food temporarily, but this was a night about laughs and warm fuzzies as much as fine dining cuisine. As Jennifer Aslett from Donnelly’s band spearheaded cauliflower three-ways in what proved to be dish of the night, the Tangled team charred up some cabbage but left the judges wondering which was the hero ingredient by adding seared kangaroo.

And of course, with¬†Jessica “the one who put booze in everything” Arnott and Aarom “Perth Nightlife” Wilson putting a spin on things there had to be a cocktail challenge, which had the audience salivating and certainly wishing they were being made in larger batches.

In fact, it was the effortless crowd involvement and unforced warmth throughout that made this such a great show. It’s easy enough to find criticisms with a debut performance and certainly the camera work on the final dishes could have done with some more close ups on the big screen, while the 6pm start time made it tricky for some to make it in time.

But if there was a lack of pre-drinking from the crowd it didn’t show in their enthusiasm and encouragement for the contestants, judges, hosts and a show that all-in-all should be considered one of the must-see experiences at Fringe this year. It was just such a fresh, refreshing and hilarious mix of food, music and comedy, and who doesn’t love mystery box filled with ingredients that good?


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