MasterChef, this one is for you!
MasterChef is a cookery competition that started in 1990 in the UK. It has evolved a few times into the format known and loved today. It is so successful that it has been exported to countries around the world like the USA, Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa and Israel, to mention some. I have watched complete series of at least 5 of the countries above. Yes, I admit it. I am a great fan of this show.
Amateur cooks from all the country come together to compete for the chance of becoming that year’s MasterChef. They are whittled down through a series of elimination challenges, until just 24, 16 or 12 get the chance to enter the MasterChef kitchen. This kitchen is every cook’s ultimate fantasy. It has every gadget you can imagine in it. And a pantry. My word, what a pantry! Imagine a room filled with every ingredient you can think of, and a few more you can’t. The word pantry is an injustice to the splendour of the contents, they hit your eyes in an explosion of colours….I’d love to be locked in there (with a cooker) and forgotten. Onwards. Moving on swiftly.
The select few who get access into the kitchen are put through invention tests and elimination tests, until there is only one cook standing. The prizes differ from country to country and include but are not limited to cash sums, cars, publishing contract for cook books, kitchen equipment etc.
The judges are respected chefs or food critics in their own right. Some of them have restaurants, all of them have been in the industry for ages. In the UK, there are only two, Gregg Wallace and John Torode. In other countries, three judges seem to be the norm…Gordon Ramsay, George Calombaris, Vikas Khanna, Benny Masekwameng in different countries….and yes, I am unabashedly name-dropping.
So now you have an idea of what the show is all about, come with me as I share with you a few things I wish I could tell the contestants (and the judges).
- Being a vegetarian is all well and good, but you might have to eat meat. And fish. And other animal protein sources. Because there are challenges called Taste Tests. Like the name implies, you’ll have to taste a dish to analyse and name its contents, whatever their origin. Some challenges involve cooking meat…if you don’t eat it, how will you taste it?
- Check your cake. It looks lovely, it has risen and is a golden brown colour. Great, but stick a skewer in before you bring it out of the oven. Make sure it is cooked! There’s nothing more pleasing to your fellow contestants’ eyes than seeing your cake lose its oomph and sink in the middle.
- Play to your strengths. When it’s your turn to choose an ingredient for others to cook with, make sure it is something you can cook with too. Don’t be so busy trying to pick an ingredient that will stump your fellow contestants that you forget you don’t have any clue as to how to cook it either. Imagine their delight as they see you hoisted by your own petard.
- The chocolate fondant or chocolate lava cake has sounded the death knell for many a contestant’s culinary dreams. Don’t try to be a hero. Steer clear.
- It is an elimination challenge. You are cooking a dish made famous by its creator. The celebrity chef spent hours honing this dish before releasing it into the world. Follow the recipe! If you were that brilliant a cook, someone else would be trying to recreate your dish. You are not, and they aren’t. This is not the time to be trying to reinvent the wheel. Stifle your creativity, and switch into zombie mode. Follow the recipe, and you’ll be fine.
- When asked to name that bird, or that pasta or that herb….don’t be clever. Go for the obvious ones first. Why on earth would you try to name fiori when there is macaroni staring you right in the face? Or attempt to name a mutton bird, a creature you are seeing for the first time ever, when there is a perfectly recognisable chicken next to it? Restrain your innate desire to show off till it is time to dazzle the judges with your culinary creation.
- You get x number of minutes to spend in the pantry. You intend to make a Beef Wellington. Please remember to get the beef too. The number of times I have seen contestants stumped by not having the main ingredient of their planned dish…..
- Learn to count. You are allowed 10 ingredients? Do not get 13. The judges will remove the three that give meaning to your dish, and leave you stuffed. Literally.
- And finally, cook from your heart.
I said I wish I could tell the judges something didn’t I? Well here it is. I wish I had your job. No, I don’t want to be on air. I just want to be able to taste other people’s cooking for a living. Imagine eating plateful after plateful of yummy food all day every day. *snaps out of daydream*
Anyhow, so there it is. Masterchef is one of the best reality television shows out there today. I have laughed with contestants on MasterChef India. Their mannerisms, their expressions, the way they celebrate victories remind me so much of Nigeria….it is an absolute delight to watch. MasterChef South Africa has amazed me as I have seen how much culinary diversity there is even in one African country….and some of their food is to live for. I kid you not. MasterChef USA demonstrates that physical disability is no barrier to success so long as you are determined and hungry enough to pursue your dream. I saw a blind contestant cooking alongside sighted ones, and realised impossible is nothing.
Thank you as always, for stopping by .