Monday, November 5, 2012


Try if you can to imagine a conversation between two of Sydney’s thirty-something personalities: Bookie-about-town Tom Waterhouse, and tv chef Pete Evans. I’m sure their paths must have crossed at the odd soiree, just as they did in my tweet stream this weekend. Increasingly they seem like two successful, high-profile men capable of boring most people rigid.

Let’s start with Pete. He's the guy with the activated nuts. In a bold move, he made his diet public in one of the Sunday papers, and in a matter of hours, everyone was talking about activated almonds. Why? Probably because almonds are the one item from his bizarre diet that seem familiar and non-threatening.

Pete Evans is Sydney-based chef, a television personality, an online retailer, a Weightwatchers Ambassador, the author of several cookbooks, and a minor celebrity whose name endorses a range of kitchen products bearing brand names like Breville and Baccarat. Pete surprised everyone yesterday by revealing that his daily food intake isn’t all posh, nor is it the trendy ten minute meals that chefs off duty whip up for themselves. Instead, it’s a controversial health food extravaganza includes alkalised water, apple cider vinegar, activated almonds, cultured vegetables, emu meat and herbal teas.

All right, I'll say it. Pete's diet sounds like a cross between old-fashioned mung-bean hippy food, and a joke. It sounds revolting, and if I was a chef, and that's what I ate, I think I'd keep it a secret.

It didn't take long after seeing the now infamous diet for the Twitterverse to squint sideways (over their Sunday morning toasted brioche with rhubarb compote and mascarpone), to wonder if he was taking the p*ss out of himself, his industry, or even Weightwatchers...and Weightwatchers isn't such a far fetched target as you might think. Kasey Edwards' brilliant piece last week reminds us all that weight loss companies rely on the failure of their programmes to ensure repeat customers. That’s their business model, and it works.

I absolutely guarantee if Pete's diet is a Weightwatchers initiative, it will fail. Mornings are tough enough without having to add cider vinegar to my alkalised water and raw organic free-range eggs to my activated almonds.

And when the snickering and googling about activated almonds was done, there was still the cultured vegies to discuss:

@deaong: My Cultured Vegetables are so cultured, they were raised listening to baroque music and attended a Swiss finishing school #MyDayOnAPlate

@PatchouliCowgirl: For dinner this evening I shall use bogan vegetables but the almonds have been lazy on the couch all day very demotivated.

@fatheffalump: Actually cultured vegetables are the ones in the monocle & top hat. #activatedalmonds
In fact, I can't imagine the marketing team at Weightwatchers are thrilled to see this horrifically healthy selection of organic, activated, cultured and alkalised goodness associated with their ambassador, either. Here's Pete, rejecting the Weightwatchers’ brand Berry Flakes Cereal in favour of something that sounds like each mouthful needs to be chewed for 45 minutes prior to swallowing. Unless I'm mistaken, the Weightwatchers brand food is designed to be as much like regular food as possible, but with less kilojoules. Pete's selection is a collection of mismatched, unproven dietary fads, with a couple of staples - fish, vegies - thrown in.
Still, if you are interested in activating your almonds, here's a simple guide to doing it at home.

If you’re like me, and prefer your almonds dead, and covered in rich, therapeutic chocolate, Martha Stewart’s got you covered.

None of that post-hipster health food rubbish for Tom Waterhouse though; just good honest betting on anything that takes your fancy, and that probably includes whether Pete Evans will still have a career in the food industry after revealing what he prefers to eat.

By the way, is anyone still reading? I'd completely understand if you weren't. It’s, and by now, you’ve probably had more than enough of him telling you what he wasn’t born to do. For months now we've had saturation advertising from young Mr Waterhouse, his legitimate businessman suit and bland demeanour all over our plasma screens. He wasn't born to wear this...or do that...or play that other thing. Depending on your perspective, he wasn't born to achieve anything respectable either, or even to try. He was born to tempt the most vulnerable of us to bet on sports events.

Many believe he was born to be an over-exposed upper class twat.

Tim Elliott's profile in the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this year was the first time I'd paid any attention at all to young Mr Waterhouse. I have no interest in horse-racing, and in general, not a fan of gambling, so I tend to ignore the racing elite. When I started noticing the black and white television ads with their teal highlights, I assumed that young Tom was breaking out on his own and starting his own business.

Those who had been paying closer attention would've known that Tom Waterhouse was already one of Australia's most successful bookmakers, playing with millions of dollars daily. He employs about sixty people, lives in a suite at the Crown Casino which costs more per night than I pay in rent per month, enjoys fast cars and slurpees, and has a client list of 80,000, including one secret list of one hundred high-end gamblers.

Am I dirty with him because he's young and rich and overexposed? Or am I dirty because he promotes and enables gambling?

The answer is yes.

That he can be an expert commentator on a handful of sports shows all at once is some brilliantly naïve marketing. To have it peak during Melbourne Cup Week takes a real genius – and has that, with his multi-million dollar marketing budget. Make no mistake, this is a serious operation.

But he knows what he’s doing. He accepts that his career can ruin lives. He told Tim Elliott

Waterhouse was raised in a religious household. "We went to church every Saturday night," he says. "I still pray occasionally, just to reflect on family and loved ones." But the moral dimension of his business doesn't trouble him. "I always say to people who bet with me, 'Anything in excess is bad for you: shopping, eating, gambling.' "
Wise words. Wise, callous words.

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