As the humble Adelaide A-list goes, you can’t get a much bigger food personality than Callum Hann, unless your last name is Beer. He is remembered for his awkward charm, the Michael Cera of MasterChef alumni, and encompasses the essence of Adelaide’s community character. Everyone might not quite know everyone in Adelaide, but everyone knows Callum ‘from MasterChef’ Hann.
You could be forgiven for thinking that his last name was ‘from MasterChef’, but Callum Hann has used the skills and prominence from being on the series very much to his advantage. “It’s a very satisfying line of work when you know that you actually have an impact on the way that someone eats or the way that they cook at home," he says.
“Oh I saw him at Jive the other week,” says my childhood best friend.
“I play volleyball against him,” says my friend’s boyfriend.
It seems that you know you are a true Adelaidean if you have a Callum Hann story, so here’s mine.
I pull up to the On the Run on Sir Donald Bradman Drive, the closest parking spot I can find to Sprout; the cooking school, catering company and offices that Callum calls his professional home. Walking past the epitome of fast food and convenience, over priced and over saturated, towards the unassuming grey building decorated with coloured circles and Sprout’s logo, I cannot help but think that Adelaide’s abundance of On the Runs seems to be exactly the kind of lifestyle that Callum and Sprout are hoping to change.
“A lot of people think that eating healthy is expensive, which is a real shame, it’s this strange perception,” he says, looking genuinely concerned. “…the other thing is convenience, people go ‘it’s easier for me to dial up a pizza than it is to cook something at home’ but I think that a) obviously that’s a little bit lazy but also you do have to prioritise, you have to put cooking as an important thing in your life and I think that the easiest way to do that is to make it fun and that’s what we try and do at Sprout.”
Walking into their cooking school kitchen it could easily be mistaken for a MasterChef set. The long benches, work stations, and impeccable interior design, have me searching for cravats. However, unlike the competitive environment of the show, Sprout is focused on teaching people to cook a meal from start to finish in a way that is healthy and enjoyable.
“So we try and show people that cooking can be fun. It doesn’t have to be difficult, it doesn’t have to make heaps of dishes, and whether that’s fun from a social point of view or just enjoying the cooking itself, I think that it’s a great way to actually save money by cooking at home. I think that a lot of people have their little repertoire of seven or eight dishes that they kind of cook again and again and again, and it can get a little bit stale. I think that sometimes just learning a new skill, learning a new recipe or just trying something new can get people kind of excited about cooking again,” he says.
After finishing second in the 2010 series of MasterChef, a lot has changed for the 25 year old Adelaide local; he is surprisingly confident and commanding yet has retained his excitable, nervous energy.
“I was studying Mechanical Engineering and Sports Science at Adelaide Uni and I was working at a restaurant… Cooking was my thing to get away from maths and science,” he says.
Since then, Callum has released two cook books The Starter Kitchen and I’d Eat That, worked as a presenter on SA Life since 2013 and taken out the MasterChef All Stars crown. He has built up the Sprout empire with business partner and dietician Themis Chryssidis for the past four years, and is also the ambassador for a range of local good-food initiatives.
“So I guess if I hadn’t been on the show I probably would have continued on with the uni degree, and probably just kept cooking as something I did because I loved it, but not necessarily as a sole source of income.”
Callum and Adelaide go together like lamb and mint, vodka and lime or Farmers Union and frog cakes, so I was interested on his thoughts about Adelaide’s food scene and where it stands at the moment compared to the rest of Australia. “Clearly I’m going to be bias because I love Adelaide but Adelaide is, in my mind, the most exciting food state in Australia right now,” says Callum.
He’s not wrong; in the past two years, Adelaide has seen an influx of exciting and award-winning chefs open up shop. Callum points to factors such as the food truck movement, relaxed liquor licencing laws and pop-up bars and cafes.
“The thing is, if nothing exciting is happening like that then those young exciting people don’t stay in Adelaide, they move to Melbourne or Sydney or wherever; but if people are looking around and going ‘holy crap Adelaide’s an awesome place to live, every weekend there’s a festival on, there’s this little market to go to, there’s this and that’, then why would you want to move away? I think that’s why these little pop up things are doing really well, they are giving people a reason to love living in Adelaide.”
“We have also had some really exciting kind of ‘imported’ chefs as well, whether that’s Magill Estate, Africola, Sean’s Kitchen, Hill of Grace or Jock Zonfrillo. So all these exciting chefs who have travelled all around the world have chosen Adelaide to be the place to live and to cook in, and that’s no accident.”
Callum still has elements of the student he started off as, donning the hoodie (with Sprout logo), and casual manner. Though as his career and opportunities have grown, so it seems has his passion. It’s no wonder he does his best work teaching people how to cook, injecting them with some of his love for the simple act of a preparing a meal and all that goes with it. There is a strong sense of community that comes with sitting down and eating a meal together, and I think that is the infectious element behind their ideas; collaboration, community and consciousness.
Callum's top Adelaide picks
Cafe: "Just near here, Devour’s coffee is very good. It’s also a very good café, that’s kind of like my ‘work’ café'. But if I’ve got a bit more time, getting round to any of the markets whether it’s the Central Markets or the Showground Farmers Market, are always very good. If I’m driving round as well, I do love A Mother’s Milk and across the road from that just recently has opened Pickle in the Middle which is very good too.
Restaurant: "Well I have just recently spent pretty much a full day at Africola [filming for SA Life], so yeah my two kind of best dining experiences in the past two or three months would be Africola and Orana."
Bar: "I’m definitely a big Clever Little Tailor fan, although I went to a new place only like two nights ago called Hains & Co for the first time and it was great. (A) few little cheese boards, charcuterie boards, good drinks, (and) the service was excellent. So Clever Little Tailor is my go-to, but that’s like my new place that I would want to check out again."