I’ve previously written about my friend Ben Starr, a former contestant on Masterchef.(1) Through watching the show, getting in contact with him, and trading ideas back and forth about travel, cooking and life, we’ve developed a kinship in our parallel existences. He has inspired me to further experiment with the aspects of food that I find fascinating, and I’ve been encouraged through meeting and hanging out with him to more actively pursue my goals in the kitchen.
In addition to being a friend of mine, Ben is also a travel writer, one who takes the greatest joy in combining his passions for exploration and food. Following along on his Youtube Channel, I’ve gotten glimpses of myself in what he finds so wonderful about life through his instructional videos on cooking with new ingredients such as Kangaroo Loin, how to quick thaw a turkey, (we’ve all been there), and the delight with which he hunts morel mushrooms and explores caves in Arkansas is infectious. Take a watch:

Ben is the reason why today’s post is titled thusly. Recently, he was shortlisted for a position with Tourism Australia, given the opportunity to compete for six months as Tastemaster of Western Australia, going around the country profiling where to eat and drink, foraging local bounty, and promoting Western Australia through their partnership to showcase the “Best Jobs in the World”.

When I first met Ben, he had come through Chicago on business, still maintaining ties with the cooking and television world. In between gigs, he was all over the map, and texted me from the far Northwest side of town at a pizza joint, in the loop at lunch, and a Brewpub around dinner time. Not letting the busy schedule stop him, nor the fact that he had spent the wee hours of the morning up talking with his friends and hosts, we met in Pilsen at Del Toro for a later dinner.  He showed up with a 30 lb. backpack and a phone almost out of juice. After exchanged hugs and pleasantries, he beelined to the bartender and talked his way into outlet access for a phone charge, just because that’s the type of person he is.

For the next couple of hours, we talked about all the places we’d been, all the experiences we’d had, and things that made us smile about our normal lives. The conversation flowed with ease, and there was never a dull moment, and this was a guy that we’d just met. What better ambassador for adventure than this new person who just walked in the restaurant, knowing neither me nor my lady personally at that point, but leaving the evening as though we were old friends.

A little over a month ago, he put out the feelers to find some great places to eat in New Orleans. I could have just told him what everyone else with no idea would say, “Get a Po’ Boy in the French Quarter, Go to Emeril’s”, etc. I told him to check out the restaurant where my old friend Tony was working. Sure, I hadn’t seen him in a year or two, but I hold Tony in high esteem, so anything he was associated with had to be good.

I got a text around dinner time one night when Ben was supposed to be down there, and through a little bit of wiggling, we found that Tony was indeed working that night. The messages I received from both Tony and Ben over the next couple of days were great. Ben and crew had tried everything on the menu, not wanting to miss a bite of all New Orleans had to offer, saying that Tony played a gracious host, and Tony said that they really enjoyed their meal and time there. It’s all about meeting new people and experiencing new things, from what I can gather.

We’ve kept in contact since then, talking about other endeavors, but this most recent opportunity he has is monumental. From a pool of over 600,000 people, Ben is a step away from getting a dream job, and I want to do something to help, so today I’m writing this and spreading the news. Go to his website, Youtube channel and read or view some of his material, like or comment on it, and if you’re on Twitter, further spread the word by posting something along the lines of “I hope @TheBenStarr wins #bestjobs #TasteMasterWA in @Australia! #Ben4TheWin @WestAustralia”. 

I like it when good people receive good things due to their hard work. Let’s make some dreams come true.