Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Chatter 36 Masterchef

Masterchef is a TV program in it's third year that runs six nights a week at prime time in Australia. Starting with 50 aspiring cooks, who have met the pre program selection criteria, it pits contestants against each other, sometimes individually and sometimes in teams, in challenges resulting in the elimination of one or two contestants each week. On Fridays two of the judges, well known chefs, demonstrate how to cook several dishes and on Tuesday each week the contestant who cooked the best meal on Monday competes head to head with a leading chef, or rarely an apprentice. If the contestant is judged to have the better dish they earn an 'immunity pin' entitling them to avoid an elimination contest if they need to.
It has a huge audience, and is full of surprises. Contestants share a house and are isolated from family and friends until they are eliminated. The winner gets a $100,000 prize and lots of opportunities for endorsements, and book and recipe writing or working in any area of gastronomy that might appeal. This is a massive prize and there is immense pressure on contestants to perform.
There are frequent interruptions to their culinary endeavours for brief interviews about how they are feeling as they struggle with unfamiliar challenges or dishes that are not going well, which don't really fit with what's happening at the kitchen but it's nice to hear their thoughts, though they are invariably predictable and mundane.
Unfortunately there are some very unpleasant aspects of the show. It is intrinsically unfair. Firstly the judging is sometimes left to an extremely untutored public and can even depend on children. Secondly the judges, two or three chefs and a food writer often with a guest chef, are forced to pick between dishes which have minor faults and cannot, in my view, be fairly separated. Thirdly the team challenges sometimes have the teams preparing totally different meals. Apples cannot be fairly compared to pears.
The nastiest part of the show comes moments before a contestant is to be eliminated. Knowing he was about to send her packing George Colombaris asked what this competition meant to a contestant. She bared her heart explaining how deeply committed she to it, and how very much it meant to her, they often break into tears at this point, whereupon George announced I'm sorry but your time in the Masterchef kitchen is over, or words to that effect.
For those who watch the show my guess as to the last four contestants Haydon, Billy, Kate and Michael and the winner Haydon.


Johanna Anning said...

I watch Masterchef and find it entertaining. I do however think that the theory of the show and all serious competition and high stress goes against what cooking should be all about... I'm sure cooking magnates like Margaret Fulton think so. But I suppose cooking these days has a 2-speed purpose to it. It can be for those who cook to relax and find it very theraputic and creative (like myselft) or then there's the other side where cooking is highly competive and 'cut-throat' in the restaurant/competition arenas. Do all the simple things in life need to be commercialized?

Elliot and Sandra said...

Hi Johanna,
I also find Masterchef entertaining, from my lounge chair but I think it is a brutal program, emotionally draining and intrinsically unfair. I feel very very sorry for contestants as they are eliminated.
Of course every one should realize that, by the end of the series every contestant but one will have to be 'eliminated' as they so crudely put it.

Niels said...

I think it's a tired template, but I'd rather watch this with my brain in relative slumber mode over some American crime drama any day.

I do wish though that they did not take a page from said drama to spent 30% of the show giving teasers before the ad-break and then recapping afterwards. Our memory spans are more capable than that. If you don't have the content, then halve the viewing time.

Elliot and Sandra said...

Hi Niels,
This is man expensive show and they need the time for more ads! They certainly drag it out.

Elliot and Sandra said...

Hi All
Haydon and Billy have been eliminated and Kate looks an unlikely winner. Alana is always good but perhaps not good enough. Dani is protected by her immunity pin and is has to get to the last four but I think she will fall before the end. Ellie has been the surprise for me but I now think Michael looks the best chance to take out the title. We'll soon know.

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