Oddly Enough, This Strange Surfing-Cooking Show Looks Entertaining
Plenty of people can delight in the toothsomeness of tapsilog and dinuguan, but only a handful can sneak extreme water sports on the same afternoon, hopping out of a plane and going for a swim with manta rays without jangling their nerves. TLC’s Surfing the Menu: Next Generation has MasterChef Australia contestants Hayden Quinn and Dan Churchill wheeling through a breakneck montage of glancing landscapes in Australia with their trusty vintage VW Beetle, GiGi, occasionally stopping on the road to make sweet potato bake with bacon and coconut milk or to embark on some other shenanigans. This year, the trail of their adventurous spirit has led them smack-dab into the hungry heart of Manila.
From riding popsicle blue waters to braving the metropolis traffic right before tucking into a good meal, Hayden and Dan have taken to Filipino feasts as easily as the water, sampling the treats in Maginhawa and trying to squeeze inside a tricycle. It’s this anything-goes, spontaneous jolt of energy that harkens back to the spirit of the original Surfing the Menu, with the same eagerness to chase food and stories. Watching it, Hayden and Dan were surprised at how comedic the entire thing was. But they wanted to prepare meals that a home cook could do, easy enough that they only needed to go down the store and grab ingredients that were accessible. Something vibrant, punchy, cool.
“When I was on MasterChef I couldn’t even imagine what was going to happen next,” Quinn admits. “I just went on there for a bit of an adventure, and I loved cooking, I really enjoyed cooking, I loved sharing food with others. One thing led to the next and here we are.”
These free-swinging, undaunted spirits are young enough to remember kicking it back with their families and watching the first Surfing the Menu, which aired in 2003 with Curtis Stone and Ben O’Donoghue as the original hosts. When asked if they feel a certain responsibility to them, Quinn and Churchill don’t feel much pressure. "It's great to follow in their footsteps," Hayden says. "At the same time, Dan and I always like to say, we're both very much our own people, and we're doing it in a different way. It's such a different world we're living in now." They have a respect for the creative energy of the series, while also acknowledging that the way people consume media has changed very much from that period of time. The food landscape has changed tremendously as well, and getting audiences to watch the show now demands instantaneous engagement.
To the untrained eye, Surfing the Menu: Next Generation almost looks like another regular cooking and lifestyle show, ticking off the checkboxes as if each episode featured a dare, from spelunking to kite surfing. But what Dan and Hayden are really passionate about here is telling stories—and it shows. For every meal they prepare is an interesting character they’ve met along the way, sharing their knowledge about the food’s origins and the diversity of the land. “The biggest thing for us is we love to share culture. We want people to see the world for what it is,” Dan says.
For two guys living on the north beaches of Sydney who describe themselves as once “oblivious to what goes on in the rest of Australia,” they’re deeply invested in raising certain issues, like multicultural diversity and sustainable living, up to the camera to help others see Australia under a different light. In the service of this greater task, the chance to wrestle goats, like they did in an episode where they prepared campfire lamb shank, is a small bonus. Churchill and Quinn are staunch believers in the power of food to gather people together, and if television happened to be the most effective medium to bring their stories to a wider audience, they’re more than happy to entertain us in order for their message to resonate.
Both are heading over to different locations to do their own projects once filming is done. Dan will be traveling to America to continue a restaurant project, then going between there and Australia over the course of next year, while Hayden will be continuing his partnership with a gym. ”I go back to America to continue a restaurant project. I’ve got a show that I’m doing there as well, so I’ll go back and do my projects over there and a lot of digital stuff as well,” says Dan.
But the biggest thing for them—fingers crossed—is that they do the second series of Surfing the Menu for next year. As we await their Manila episode on TLC, here's a preview of what to expect.