It’s been four weeks of tough culinary competition in the quest to find Australia’s Number One Food Family and tonight the Shahrouk sisters of Sydney have claimed the title.
They triumphed in a hard-fought battle against the immensely talented Butler family (EJ, Aleks, Kate and John), taking home the title and the $100,000 prizemoney in Nine’s Family Food Fight.
Sisters Halla, Houda, Rouba and Leeann raised the winners’ shield after their exceptional home cooking was deemed the most impressive by judges Matt Moran, Hayden Quinn, Anna Polyviou and Tom Parker Bowles.
Family Food Fight host, chef and restaurateur Matt Moran, said: “The Shahrouks took out a most deserving win. It was a real pleasure to eat their food, both in the finale and throughout the season. Their flavours, their execution, and knowing how to cook to their strengths meant they were consistently impressive.
“Their passion for food is infectious and I know they have inspired a lot of home cooks out there. And now they can read recipes too!
“I must also congratulate the Butlers. It was a close-run thing and they are a solid family unit of very talented cooks who put up some great meals during the competition. Their finale meal was no exception.”
After a contest which saw six Aussie food families whip up everything from family favourites to pub grub and wedding cakes, from high tea to festive celebration spreads, the Butlers andShahrouks were the last families left to battle it out for supremacy.
Their Grand Finale challenge was to cook a three-course meal for 40 VIP guests and the judges. It was without doubt the most important meal of their lives.
The Butlers planned a modern Australian-style menu of confit ocean trout with roasted beetroot and goats cheese mousse for entrée, beef cheeks in red wine jus with celeriac purée, slow roasted onions and charred sprouts for main, and chocolate fondant with rhubarb ice cream for dessert.
Meanwhile the Shahrouks served up a traditional celebratory Lebanese meal of lahma bi agin (open lamb pastries) with hommous and falafel for entrée, lamb kabsa for main course, consisting of lamb necks with a spiced rice pilaf and tabouli, and znood el siit, “ladies arms”, for dessert, a traditional Lebanese deep-fried pastry filled with clotted cream.
In an emotion-charged cook-off with all previously eliminated families cheering them on, there was a new dynamic in the kitchens when the final VIPs were revealed as the Shahrouk and Butler families, whom they hadn’t seen for weeks.
Neither team’s cook went exactly to plan, but all plates made it out to the tables on time. After both entrées were a hit it was neck-and-neck. Their mains were both well received, though the Shahrouks shone brighter, with Tom Parker Bowles adding that this meal was their greatest dish yet, the pinnacle of their cooking.
The Butlers had ground to make up in dessert, and while their chocolate fondant was delicious it was slightly overcooked, lacking the chocolaty ooze the judges were looking for. The Shahrouk dessert was delicious enough to seal the win, with the judges confirming that they had made the most impressive meal overall.
Speaking on behalf of her sisters, Houda from the Shahrouk family said:
“What an incredible experience this has been for the Shahrouk sisters. From taking that first leap to apply, right through to lifting up the winners’ shield, we’ve loved every minute. We are thrilled to be Australia’s Number One Food Family and want to thank the Butlers for making it such a great final battle.
"We’d like to thank the judges too, it was an honour to learn from all four of them. The support we have received from our families, local communities and the wider diverse community of Australia has been nothing short of amazing. We’ve seen food bring people together, seen the show create family bonding time and helped break down barriers, regardless of what we all believe in."
"The Shahrouk sisters are now ready to serve Australia and are excited at what the future may hold - we’re cooking up ideas for demos, classes, event catering, cookbooks and maybe even a food truck. Stay tuned!”
Gracious in defeat, EJ from the Butler family said:
“Family Food Fight has been one of the most spectacular experiences we've ever had, and we're so lucky to have done it together as a family. We couldn’t be happier with our performance as a team and, while we're disappointed we didn't win, we couldn't be more delighted for the Shahrouk sisters."
"During this process we made 20 new friends in the other families, whom we now consider our extended family. Their support helped make it an opportunity we'll never forget. Doing this has brought our family closer together and it’s only the beginning of our foodie adventures. We can’t wait to explore more seasonal and sustainable food projects. We hope the show encourages all families to cook and eat together with the passion we do.”
It was quite a road for the Shahrouks to win Family Food Fight. They brought their own brand of chaos to the kitchen, four strong women cooking with passion, lots of love and family history. Resolved to always be themselves and showcase the flavours of their Lebanese heritage, the Shahrouks won Australia over as they cried, screamed, yelled and cooked their way through the competition. Already tight-knit, the Family Food Fight experience has brought these sisters even closer together, with an extra special bond.
Though they won eight challenges during the competition (the most of any family), the Shahrouks experienced some low points too, finding themselves in the first two eliminations and battling to stay in the running.
They are now much-improved when it comes to recipe reading, after struggling with a recipe that landed them in elimination before nailing Kylie Kwong’s recipe-relay Chinese feast. In addition to winning two of the four “Game Changers”, the Shahrouks racked up quite a few firsts, including cooking with rhubarb and Jerusalem artichokes for the first time, discovering truffles, doing their first high tea and pub lunch, and cooking with crab for the first time too.