Celebrity chef Alastair McLeod, who has became a household name over the past decade thanks to his successful stint on Ready Steady Cook, has opened up about his friend and workmate Matt Golinski after the star gave an emotional TV interview about the tragic deaths of his wife and children in a house fire.
On Christmas night in 2011, Matt’s wife Rachael and three daughters were tragically killed when their home was engulfed in flames in the early hours of the morning. Matt heroically attempted to rescue them, but sadly succumbed to the smoke and flames – barely surviving himself.
The much-loved chef and star of Ready Steady Cook didn’t discover his family had died until eight weeks later, when he woke from his coma in hospital. He revealed in a segment for ABC’s Australian Story on Monday night: “I’m not a suicidal sort of person, but I just sort of went ‘God you have spent eight weeks keeping me alive, why would you bother? What makes you think that I want to be alive still’?”
Speaking in an exclusive chat with Starts at 60, Alastair shared his support for his former colleague and recalled a message he received from Matt’s former workmate Gary Mehigan this week, after they both watched the deeply emotional TV segment.
“He wanted to call me to say ‘we all need to be reminded what a strong man Matt is and we should all hug our kids’,” he said.
Alastair, Gary and Matt all met on the set of Channel 10’s Ready Steady Cook about 10 years ago, alongside Manu Feildel and George Calombaris. The show, which ran from 2005 until 2013, featured two teams (called capsicum and tomato), each consisting of a professional chef and an audience member, with both competing against each other to create the best entrée, meal and dessert in a 20-minute time limit.
“It was a wonderful experience. [I] met a lot of good friends from that show,” Alastair said.
And it seems, some friendships go above and beyond – one year following the fire, Alastair, Gary and Manu, including other well-known Aussie chefs, launched ‘Plates for Mates’, a fundraising campaign towards Matt’s recovery and burns research.
“Look, the outpour from the hospitality community was extraordinary,” Alastair said. “The way the hospitality businesses opened their arms and said ‘how can we help’ was extraordinary.”
Matt actually went on to donate much of it to charities, Alastair said, adding: “And he continues to be very close to people who’ve been in perhaps a similar situation, to give them hope… to [not] give up and there is a light at the end of tunnel it might not be the answer you exactly want, [but] there are reasons to keep going.”
The Ireland-born chef has made a name for himself as a talented cook, turning his Ready Steady Cook stint into a hugely successful career. He has launched Al’FreshCo, his own business that provides catering, markets and his own product line. The new venture is in keeping with Alastair’s passion for all things local.