Surfing The Menu with Hayden Quinn and Dan Churchill Food Notes

They are handsome, funny, adventurous, and can whip up a scrumptious meal to boot. What’s not to like?

It’s virtually impossible not to blush in the presence of surfer dudes Hayden Quinn and Dan Churchill. For starters, they are both good-looking – Hayden, 30, cuts a dashing figure with his sandy blonde locks and sparkling blue eyes, while Dan, 27, can easily pass off as a most-liked boyband member with a disarming smile that makes grown women feel like a giddy teen all over again.

Dan Churchill (left) and Hayden Quinn with their beloved Volkswagen Beetle, Gigi. [Photographer: Alun Bartsch]

But above and beyond good looks, these MasterChef alumni have got serious cooking chops, a wicked sense of humour, and are refreshingly down-to-earth. They share not only similar interests in cooking, surfing and travel, but also an amazing chemistry, evidenced by the adorable way they complete each other’s sentences throughout our 20-minute (and too-short) interview.

Incidentally, it was their chemistry that captured the attention of their mutual pal Lance Reynolds, a producer who eventually got Hayden and Dan on board to host Surfing The Menu: The Next Generation, a reboot of the 2003 cooking and lifestyle series simply called Surfing The Menu. In the new series, Dan and Hayden go on an adventure-filled road trip around Australia, trying their hand at various activities including catching mud crabs and swimming with manta rays. Along the way, they also meet indigenous communities with interesting food culture, as well as share their own healthy and delicious recipes that you can easily recreate at home.

Below, they dish out more about the series, a few travel tips, and what they would cook for that special someone. (Sorry, ladies, Hayden is already taken. Dan, on the other hand …)

In the series, you drive around Australia in a Volkswagen Beetle. Tell us more about your car.

Hayden: Gigi is very beautiful, but also very hard to work with..

Dan: It’s like a microwave oven.

Hayden: Yeah, it’s like a tin can in a microwave oven.

Dan: The air-conditioning comes when you roll down the window – that’s how hot it is inside!

Why the name Gigi?

Dan: After we got the car from an old barn in Western Australia, we were working out what we were going to call this lovely, beautiful specimen … and we thought about Gigi Hadid. We really wanted to meet her one day, and we figured if we talked about Gigi enough on radio she’d actually come in contact with us.

Has she?

Dan: Well, she didn’t contact us, but I’ve met her in New York. Hayden hasn’t.

You guys have travelled very extensively. What’s your craziest travel adventure?

Hayden: Running of the bulls in Spain, Pamplona. That was absolutely terrifying and, no, I wouldn’t do it again.

Dan: I’m not a crazy man, really. The only one I can think of is the hectic day I spent travelling from Cinque Terre in Italy to Croatia. I travelled on a bus, train, ferry, and in that time I missed five junctions of connection, so it was a pretty stressful day. It took 23 hours when it should’ve taken eight.

Hayden: So the moral of the story is, do not go travelling with Dan!

Post-mud bath [Photographer: Alun Bartsch]

Post-mud bath [Photographer: Alun Bartsch]

Any tips on how to travel with friends without wanting to kill each other?

Hayden: The most important thing is to remember that even though you’re travelling together, there are moments when you need your own space.

Dan: Yeah. And it’s also important to realise that sometimes, your best travel mate isn’t necessarily your best friend back home. The person you travel best with is someone who respects your privacy as much as you respect theirs. Plus, you need to share similar interests and at the same time be flexible.

Hayden: That’s why it’s good to travel in small groups, too. Otherwise everyone would just want to go here and there and everywhere, and you all end up just wandering around without actually doing anything.

Dan: So you got Gigi, Hayden, and Dan, and that’s enough.

Hayden: That’s all you need.

How do you guys resolve conflict?

Dan: Rock, paper, scissors. There’s always going to be a winner; you can’t run.

Hayden: Best out of three. Okay, well, we just talk through the problem and come up with the most respectable solution. A lot of what we do is about creativity – food is a creative process, shooting is a creative process, and what’s left is just reality. So we always ask ourselves, is this going to work? Is this going to be viable?

Dan: If one person doesn’t agree with it then it can’t work no matter what, because it has to be passionately felt by both people.

So, the two of you are fitness buffs …

Dan: Yeah! Look at Hayden! He’s a great specimen.

Hayden at The Cube Gym [Image: Lyndon Marceau]

Hayden at The Cube Gym [Image: Lyndon Marceau]

How do you find the time to work out?

Hayden: I think everyone asks themselves the same question. Basically, you do so by getting up earlier or staying up later. Simple as that. You gotta make time.

Dan: Exactly. And when I only have a short amount of time, I do Tabata efforts, which is interval training of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off. You do exercises like sprints or resistance training for a certain amount of time.

Hayden: You literally need only 10 or 20 minutes, and you can do it in your hotel room as well. There are so much we do in our hotel room – push-ups, burpees, sit-ups, skipping …

Dan: Backflips.

Hayden: It’s about making the most of your surroundings. You don’t need a gym membership to be active and healthy. Last night we saw so many people running around the bay here. You can go to any park bench and use it to do tricep dips. Or use a tree branch to do chin-ups.

Dan: Or do a human flag!

Hayden: Yeah, a human flag, that’s an advancement!

Okay, you work out and eat clean. Do you have any vices at all?

Dan: People are gonna get annoyed when I say this, but my vice is roasted cashews. I love cashews.

But cashews are healthy!

Dan: Yeah, but too many of them is not a good thing! I can easily smash a whole bag of roasted cashews in one sitting. I wouldn’t, though.

Hayden: It’s Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for me. Or any ice cream, really, as long as it’s got chocolate in it. Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream is amazing. Oh, chocolate brownie with that ice cream on top, and maybe some M&M’s. Mmm.

Dan: I like Max Brenner.  

Hayden: I only had it once before. That’s where you take all the young girls to date when you’re, like, 16! I love Doritos as well.

Dan: Yup, he loves his Doritos.  

Hayden: Doritos with red wine. Ahh … Anyway, we’re getting carried away.

What’s your style of cooking?

Dan: Mine’s definitely very health-orientated. I stick to unrefined ingredients, minimalistic processes, very much like going straight from the barn to the market to my hands.

Hayden: Mine’s similar but I sort put a few different spins on different things. For me it’s all about packed full of flavour, easily accessible stuff you can do at home.

Scenario: You’re preparing a romantic candlelit dinner for your girlfriend. What would you prepare?

Hayden: That’s a tricky one. My girlfriend loves cooking, so what would i make her? [long pause] Something with chicken, cos she loves chicken. I think when you’re doing a romantic dinner, it’s all about keeping things simple and light. I’d have oysters to start with, and champagne of course. Best combo over. My girlfriend really loves Moroccan-style tagine, so I’d prepare spicy chicken tagine with some nuts, dried fruit, and a bit of rice. For dessert, chocolate brownie. With Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Wow, talk about keeping things simple and light!

Dan: I’d prepare spaghetti bolognese because that’s the best way to test a girl’s tolerance to messy foods! Otherwise, I’d probably do a hummus dip for starters. For mains, I’d do roast chicken, coat it with basil rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper … make a sweet potato puree, and combine that with a grain salad of barley and cashew nuts. My dessert would be blueberry one-pan crumble.

Tell us why we should watch Surfing The Menu: The Next Generation.

Dan: Cos you’ve got the amazing, ever handsome, sexy Hayden Quinn for half an hour every week!

Hayden: The beauty of Surfing The Menu is that it’s not just a food show. It’s about how the food gets to the table, stories around the food, the adventure we have to get to the food.

Dan: And we’re not boring, we can say that much. So if you’re looking for some exciting times, a brand new way to get to know Australia, and tasty recipes you can prepare for your family and friends …

Hayden: You know, there were some episodes where we were quite funny. It was surprising because we’re not actually very funny.

Dan: [laughs] That’s a good one, mate!


Catch Surfing The Menu: The Next Generation every Monday, 9pm, on TLC (StarHub Ch 427 / Singtel Ch 254).

With wanderlust flowing in her veins, Lili has always had grand dreams of travelling the world, escaping to exotic locales and experiencing different cultures. Whenever Life gets too much for her, she reaches straight for her earphones to tune out the world. More than just a temporary distraction, music has a profound way of taking her to places that stir the soul.

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