Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Masterchef 2011

Would you call Masterchef a reality TV program, or a cooking show? Subconsciously I have classified it as a cooking program, but a discussion with Nellie recently caused me to rethink my assessment, and admit to the fact that it really is a reality program, with food and cooking being incidental to the actual reality show outcomes.

Last weeks New York spectacular was to blame. The whole weeks activities for contestants was farcical. There was absolutely no attempt to disguise the fact that it was not a level playing field for the luckless top eight.

The couples challenge on Wednesday, which consisted of 6 of the contestants pairing up, then locating – in Times Square, arguably the biggest and most highly populated of all public spaces in the world! – one of three New Yorkers wandering aimlessly round Times Square carrying a sandwich board with the Masterchef logo on it. The sandwich board gave whichever pair discovered it, the name of the restaurant they should travel to in order to discover their dish, plus obtain the ingredients for it. The sandwich board person gave them a recipe too, I think.

They hightailed it to wherever their restaurant was, by whichever method they thought appropriate (taxi, subway, running etc), given they only had 3 hours in which to: locate the sandwich board holder, travel (in peak hour NY traffic) to the relevant restaurant; wait for the restaurant owner to have the time to explain the dish to them; sample a serving of said dish; collect ingredients, then rush to the pre-appointed Four Seasons restaurant kitchen to prepare, cook and serve the dish they had been allocated, to the judges, who, coincidentally, happened to be the original creators/restaurant owner of the dish, along with our MC judges.

We watched Hayden and Dani, the first arrivals at Four Seasons, making the entrĂ©e, with Dani (being entrusted with the more lightweight preparation of the dish) having enough time after she’d done her prep to clean up the bench area, then go round to the other couples chatting aimlessly whilst she distracted them!

We sweated it with Kate and Michael as they struggled to get the many elements of their complex main course prepped, cooked and onto the plates. They really did have heaps to do, and I think they did well to present what they did.

The final arrivals, Ellie and Alana, spent eons in Times Square trying to locate their sandwich board guy, then taking the wrong subway train, having to change trains, then taxi-ing and getting let off at the wrong Four Seasons, so having to taxi again to the correct Four Seasons. When they ultimately arrived at their correct destination, they only had an hour to prep their reasonably complex dessert – which they not only succeeded in, but ultimately won the challenge.

To cut to the chase after such a long introduction……it obviously was not a contest about how good an amateur cook you are, a statement of which we seem to hear regularly from each of the 3 judges as they urge their fledgling chefs to higher accomplishments in the contest.

Whatever your opinion of Alana and Ellie and their cooking talents (or not), they were obviously behind the eight-ball, having spent so much time getting to the Four Seasons. They obviously made a bad travel choice, which has nothing to do with cooking, but provided them with a severe disadvantage in the cooking contest.

The midweek elimination pin challenge which involved Ellie cooking an elementary pasta dish (ie make the pasta, cook the matriciana-like sauce) was insulting to previous elimination pin cook-offs which involved, for instance, emulating Adriana Zumbo concotions, and similar extremely complicated dishes. Plus I swear to god Ellie’s opponent, introduced as one of NY’s top pasta chef/restaurant owners, threw the challenge, as his dish was so sloppily plated and presented as to throw off the judges as to who had cooked which dish.

At the UN catering function, each contestant was allocated one hors d’oevre dish to prepare 300 servings of. Poor Billy unfortunately drew the extremely short straw of a sherry glassful of a leek and potato soup – the vichysoisse variety – and not a popular choice in the overall scheme of things universally. Naturally he received the least amount of votes from the 300-odd guests at the function, so he too was eliminated and locked down at their NY hotel till return to Oz time, along with Sun. Once again, nothing to do with his cooking skills, or lack thereof.

I was interested to read a harsh critique of the show in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald by Paul Sheehan. Paul rightly questions the underlying cynicism of the show, and calls on the ethical aspects of the show to be examined by producers. He claims the contestants are coming off looking more honourable than the people running the show. He cites Adam and Tom’s eliminations as examples of the high moral codes of some of the contestants.

I think Masterchef heirachy will be lucky if this brand of reality show juggernaut continues after one more season. As viewers, we aren’t stupid, plus we’re Australian – we respect fairness. This show, much as I am addicted in a perverse way, is unfair to its players. Yes, they are seeking the notoriety and fame associated with participation but does that mean they need to tolerate some of the patently unfair practices inflicted on them in the show? I don’t think so.

Tues 2nd August - POSTSCRIPT - Yay! I have never been more happy than tonight to see that airhead, lightweight cook Dani leave the show! Thank god sanity prevailed!

62 comments:

Mr Helpful said...

a couple of points:
1. Its a reality tv show NOT a cooking show
2. Its a tv show not a moral code on how to live ones life.
3. If you dont like it, dont watch it
4. The fact that the contestants are under an unrelenting pressure to perform-well get used to it, thats life in kitchens everyday
5. Not given enough time to completes tasks? try cooking for a full house when no one books?
6. The all signed on knowingly. No one forced them to participate. It takes a certain kind of person to sign up for what is ulrumately all about being famous

Anonymous said...

Spot on Rita. The inconsistency and inequalities have driven me nuts this year!
Kzee

bri said...

I enjoy watching the show, but would definitely class it as a reality show - except for the Friday night masterclasses, they're cooking shows at least.

This season has been a bit annoying though, too much of the commentary from the contestants - I don't need to listen to someone describe what just happened over and over again. I want to see more cooking, less drama. And yeah, there have beeb a few unfair moments... Despite that, I'll keep watching!

It's easy enough to ignore the product placements.

The calibre of guests has been pretty amazing.

sir grumpy said...

I've been true to my word and never watched a show since the debacle near the end of the first series (bringing back eliminated contestants etc).
I think the whole thing is off.

Victor said...

Have not watched even a single episode of this MC series. So over it.

Esther @ "Keep Calm and Cook More" said...

As someone who has recently been on one of these 'reality cooking' tv shows- it's super clear to me now that they exist simply for entertainment and to keep hold of the viewers.

Certainly some things aren't fair- and of course are totally staged- I can't even begin to tell you how much.

But certainly we knew this going into the show... to a certain extent anyway.

I know from my experience that only people passionate about food and a possible career in food enter these shows- and I strongly disagree with Mr Helpfuls comment that we do it for 'fame'. This couldn't be further from the truth and these sorts of comments that I hear continually really disappoint me.

Everyone has to start somewhere, and if you are incredibly fortunate enough to enjoy the whirlwind of a reality tv show- then lucky you.

It was an incredible experience.

Mr Helpful said...

If you want to start cooking somewhere, try a kitchen like everyone else. Its disingenuous to suggest that fame isnt a main attraction, why else would anyone apply? Its about not doing the hard yards and fast tracking a possible career imo

steve said...

Plainly its just a huge commercial for Coles with a few cooking bits to break it up ha ha!

Agrodolce said...

The whole thing is a pre manufactured set up with the main aims at bulk entertainment. The guest list, whilst impressive, is purely the domain of spin and PR agents working for the "chefs" who star or appear even fleetingly on the show. Even the most uninitiated viewer can see that these apparent super chefs are spending more time preening their egos and self publicising than actually running thier gastrotemples. What would be worthwile is seeing a reality doco on who actually is the brains, work and talent behind these places. But when all is said and done, the contestants will be quickly forgotton about (can anyone remember who won the first Big Brother?)The only really good thing is it has got people thinking about food again. It would have been nice if they had some more emphasis on ideas such as sustainability, provenance, producers, etc. They seem to have taken on a rather Oscar Wilde view - in matters of style and substance, style always wins.

This blog seems to celebrate and endorse food heros, I would propose a name and shame list of Australian cooking identities who seem more interested in image, ego and the almighty $$$ than food and their craft.

In no particular order -

Matt Moran - serial TV pest with slim credentials
Luke Mangan - the tabloid press expert comentator
Guy Grossi - sell my soul for a buck
Margret Fulton - Woolworths WTF (a small part of my soul died when I saw that)
Tobi Puttock - Non GM poster child who spruiks Woolworths?
Shannon Bennett - His hair is like Kylie Minogues bum - it has it's own identity, just greasier
Adrian Richardson - which chef worth their
(poorly flavoured)salt endorses stock cubes?
Pete Evans - enough said
Manu Fiuel - how many reality shows can I be on?
Niel Perry - the everywhere man (at least he can cook exceptional food)
Tetsuya - is he ever at his restaurant?
George and Garry - obviously


There are so many chefs out there who either do not get any recognition or better still, eschew the bright lights and media deals, and just get on with producing good and beautiful food. Even in Tasmania a culture of minor celebrity is emerging - you know who you are and you all read this blog in the hope you get mentioned. Easy to be a big salmon in a small pen I guess.

Anonymous said...

Well said anon 9.30am, could not of put it better myself, but who are the celebrity chefs in Tassie? I have not heard of any.

Anonymous said...

Stuart Prosser
That Greek fallow from masterchef
Matt Evans
Nick Haddow
Ross O Meara

Anonymous said...

what about actual chefs, what about the chef from garagistes, he seems to be the golden child of the chef world of late, with mentions by food tourist (all the time, it seems like he is their love child), 10 page spreads in gourmet traveller and various other articles in other publications. Is he Tasmanians celeb chef in waiting?

Rita said...

I too love Anon 9.30's response! How could I possibly add to such a fabulous list of celeb chefs? Glad you named up Adrian Richardson and the others as being guilty of this shameless prostitution. It seems like they loose all credibility when they start with their product endorsement.

Armed with this knowledge, I now use this as an assessment of how much, or little, attention I pay to them and their pronouncements.

Regarding Gary and George, as you said, enough said. Shameless promotion of their restaurants. I'm all for networking, and capitalising on promotional opportunities for your restaurant but they are way over the top in that.

Mr Helpful said...

So what? They make a few dollars by promoting stuff, who cares? What is the problem exactly? They're putting bread on the table for their families, why begrudge them that? Its so sanctimonious of you to sit there and judge.
They are chefs not saints and who said they have to live by some moral code?
Get off your high horses!

Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with the last comment. I mean aren't they just making a living? What about every other person who endorses something? Every actor, voice over person etc, do we tut tut them for selling a product?

LS said...

Tasmania thankfully does not have any so called celebrity chefs.
However there are a couple of very media savvy chefs here and one springs to mind immediately.
There are also a few very well connected producers types who are regularly courting media fame. One such person, a failed chef and hated restaurant critic has a national profile courtesy of a popular TV program and a few(good) books under his belt. If we were to believe the hype, this person is the only person cooking 'real food' in the state.
We all know differently though

Madge said...

I think it's a hybrid between a reality show and a cooking show (yes, I got me plenty of splinters sitting on the fence). What I don't like is the personal side - the tears, the personal demons or doubts, "I just wanna prove to myself that I can do xyz" etc. I just want to see them cook and how they cook.

As for the prostitution, I reckon there would be very few professions which doesn't have prostitues. From ambulance chasing lawyers through to strippers-turned-landscapers hawking their gadgets - it's just part and parcel of making a buck these days. Again, show me something useful or new, and I'm all ears.

PS I have Gary's comfort food recipe book. I love it just as I love my Snug Auxillary Home recipe book I got for 5 bucks outside Mitre 10.

Great post Rita - always enjoyable.

sir grumpy said...

Whatever happened to Iron Chef Australia? I didn't like it much but it just seemed to disappear.

bri said...

Tall poppy syndrome... gotta love it.

Disgusted of Sandy Bay said...

The whole thing is an absolute disgrace!

Agrodolce said...

Bri - Sorry not tall poppy syndrome. Just stating what those in the trade know. You start doing these things and you loose your integrity, credibility and ultimately the whole reason for cooking as a career.

Mr Helpful - not saying they have to live by a moral code, and I for one can vouch chefs are not saints . But as public figures they should at least try not to be as hypocritical.

Aa far as the local heros go, there have been a few good suggestions but there have been some glaring ommissions.....

Mr Helpful said...

How are chefs being hypocritical if they endorse a product? They make their living preparing and selling a product so whats the difference if they put their name to another one?
Its interesting to me that people impose some sort of misplaced expectations on others just becaue they have some sort of noteriety. I am of the opinion that just because one rises to the top does not mean they have to repent for everyone elses shortcomings.

lemon curd said...

My FAVOURITE segment this MC series which seemed to sum up not only Coles blatent sponsorship of the series (fair enough) but also the selling of ones chef soul was the frozen/packaged foods segement! Hilarious! Especially Gary and George wandering around going "You see guys, it is possible to produce fantastic dishes from canned sweet corn!"

sir grumpy said...

I don't care if chef's want to push a certain product they use and love.
However, like many UK chefs, some just say they like it for the dough!
One chef was in an ad campaigbn for a supermarket and his missus was busily shopping in a rival's, caught by the press.
So who can believe anything?
Trust yourself.

Anonymous said...

Thats a ridiculous arguement. That means everyone who endorses a Hyundai must drive one? Oooh so and so gets paid by Coles bi I saw him in Purity-who cares really?
Sir G, when you used to write for the Mercury, did you read the Advocate, the Age or the Australian?

sir grumpy said...

I care really, Anon, amid a lot of stuff in your reply I barely understand.
A says they use this. B says this is the best.
We know they have been approached by the manufacturer and may never have used the product at all.
We know it happens but does this make it okay? No.
What about truth in advertising?
Will we, like a bunch of naive children, decide to put up with this forever?
Or should we ask hard questions and set up an integrity commission?
I'd rather a person from the company spruik the product.
Even though I may not believe them ot maybe not like the product, having tried it, at least it strips away one layer of deceit.
If you are happy with this situation, fine. I'm not.

Anonymous said...

Its been this way forever-so what? I'm not a child and I know BS when I see it, I just dont bleat about it on a blog.
Oh yes an 'integrity comission', that old chestnut, "rolls eyes heavenward". Do you honestly think that would make an iota of difference for goodness sake, get real!

Anonymous said...

Please someone offer me a shitload of cash to say I use their product, where do i sign?

Anonymous said...

Are you telling me that George Colombaris doesn't shop at Coles?!!! Oh the deceit!

sir grumpy said...

No I was JOKING on the integrity thingo, but used it to illustrate a point.
I probably should have spelled it out a bit more but didn't allow for the animosity-to-strangers- for-no-good-reason factor!
Just because it `'has ``been this way forever'' doesn't make it right.
If you are happy with that, fine.
And you are bleating on a blog, old son (rolls eyes heavenward!).
However, I stopped watching this thing long ago and avoid TV ads when I can. Thank God for PVRs!
Kind regards.

Agrodolce said...

Oh and I forgot the best one I saw recently. Marco PW endorsing continental soups - 'The best thing since me'. Enough said really.

Anonymous said...

Yes can be a whole lot of BS, addictive BS at that!
Loved the cook off in New York, when they were all raving on how wonderfully fresh and amazing the pasta dish was, when it was full high salt, high preservative, high fat meats with tinned tomatoes!
What a load of crock....
Media will have you believe anything!

Christina said...

Darren Simpson broke my heart when he started advertising vegetarian meat products :(

Anonymous said...

Huon Valley, Dave Moyle from PB and Shima Wasabi the Tasmanian big winners from the 2011 Delicious Produce Awards-Go TAS!

Anonymous said...

WTF! Lotus Eaters closes(again) without warning!

Anonymous said...

While I'm on it, everything in the Huon is closed. P Bay, Home Hill, Summer Kitchen, Lotus Eaters...

Anonymous said...

Delicious Prdc Awrds 2011 noticed that the Rare foods rilletes didn't get a medal nor did the BI Cheees co's Raw milk C2?

Just Curious said...

Roger and Sue: Its great that the Stackings has attracted national acclaim, Mr Moyle is a worthy recipient of the regional award and PB under his custodianship has reached its promised potential. What I find questionable is that before Gourmet Traveller (for whom you both contribute) announced that The Stackings was nominated for the their Best Regional restaurant award you scored them at 15/20 yet the day after the Gourmet Traveller nominations were announced you then scored them 16.5/20 but between this time, the restaurant had been closed.
How do you account for this?

Anonymous said...

dear anonymous - the Lotus Eaters is shut for a bit over a week - had a sign on the door telling everyone and had a notice in the classifieds. This is our first break in over a year - and as Alex and I run the business and do all the cooking and paper work pretty much ourselves I think that your "(again)" is insulting and naive. Giselle - The Lotus Eaters

Anonymous said...

As a former staff member at the other cafe in cygnet let me say first hand that we hadve to deal with clients on there days off & were a very unfriendly mob to deal with, made us feel bad & bought a bad energy to the place. They can keep there stuck up people as far as I am concerned

Anonymous said...

learn how to spell

Disgusted of Sandy Bay said...

What's this? Closing up shop without even so much as a polite letter of notification in advance?

It's a disgrace!

I shall take my highly sought after custom elsewhere, thank you very much.

Cygnet Local said...

I live in this town and I can say first hand they close frequently. One year without holidays, what about at the end of the folk festival, does that count? Its enough to annoy us regulars but also the businesses that supply them too. IMO too precious.

Anonymous said...

I don't want regulars like you - Don't tell me about my suppliers you have no idea - and if you think having breaks is no go - simple go somewhere else.There is at least other 3 cafes in town. Giselle - Lotus Eaters

Anonymous said...

Gee Rita, I always suspected their was an unwelcoming attitude at the lotus eaters and this last comment sadly confirms it

Anonymous said...

grammar please
they have the best cafe in the channel if not hobart area.
they work hard..leave them alone

Cygnet Local said...

Just be nice to us customers is all we ask

Anonymous said...

Go Giselle you get em girl.

Gerard & Deb

sir grumpy said...

Sounds like you need a holiday from the madding crowd Giselle.
I have never had anything but polite and nice service here,
even though you forgot my pot of tea last time.
Remember we appreciate you.

Disparate said...

Sir Grumpy - I need your help. Are you able to recommend a reasonable Chinese establishment in the Kingston/Margate area. Missing Dom's.

sir grumpy said...

Hello Disparate, and if Rita will allow, the answer is not really.
I miss Dom's. His quality and range were the finest down our way.
There is a new place opening in Dom's old place at Blackmans Bay shops from Thursday.
Called Yu's (I think) it will be open Tues-Sunday 5-9pm.
The menu is smaller than Dom's but has some Szechuan stuff on it, as well as many old ``favourites''.
The menu was one of dozens in a bag at the restaurant today. I hope it is a ripper and will give it a go on Saturday for a takeaway.
Good luck and good eating. Grumpy.

Anonymous said...

none would cut the mustard as chefs.......not capable of the hard yards even washing dishes .......... should rename the series "Just another cook...sigh"

Anonymous said...

Get who and why What a strange attitude this Gerard and Deb have I thought hospitality meant just that hospitality maybe not in Cygnet

Anonymous said...

This is why I don't comment usually on these blogs - because simple words become complicated. How does having a break become an issue of your quality of hospitality? How does someone defending me, defending myself, affect our quality of hospitality? Giselle

steve said...

Hi Giselle, don't worry about the gutless anonymous comments-they've been getting stuck into me for years now, thats why I have comment moderation on my blog to weed them out. Though no one can stop negative comments on other peoples blogs its best just to ignore them and I've learned never to engage or try to reason with them-over my blogging time people have said stuff to get a rise out of me and then attack me when I've responded-its a viscous cycle and took its toll on me a while back but now I just let it roll off me.
Keep up the good work, thats all that matters.
cheers Steve

Madge said...

It's interesting. Bush Bakery take every January off every year, and although most of their patrons aren't 'happy' at least they recognise that the owners deserve a break. And who can begrudge them a holiday in the sun rather than the depths of a Tasmanian winter? There are other places to grab a coffee in Cygnet. As my grandma says: don't sweat the small stuff. It's no biggie to take a break, it would be far worse if they closed for good.

Winsor Dobbin said...

The service at the Lotus Eaters is always warm and weleoming - can't be faulted on any level. The anonymous poster is plain wrong. There was a note in the window a week before they closed - and they also put a notice in the local paper. Running a small business is tough - and they only took eight days off. Anonymous, you are clearly a moron (and one without the guys to use their own name.

Anonymous said...

What is wrong with some people. If someone wants to close there restaurant and have a couple of weeks off so be it. I am sure you have your 4 weeks holidays and sick leave something that does not happen when your in hospitality. So has some respect you stuck up twat.

Morena Barlow said...

This message is directed to the Anonymous writer, who is clearly too gutless to sign your name at each comment. I challenge you to fess up and reveal your identity, obviously you felt your comments were important enough to post on this blog and yet you are too afraid to expose yourself.
I know people like you, they dont have a life, you sit in your nice little cozy room with your computer, tapping away all day, making comments that aren't factual and getting your rocks off over upsetting people.
Thank god you are a minority, perhaps you would be better off blogging the lonely hearts club or finding some good porn to keep yourself occupied with.

Anonymous said...

What a precious lot-surely there are more important issues to discuss than some anonymous axe grinder getting under the skin of a precious cafe? Rita tell them to take their playground spat somewhere else please!
LS

Anonymous said...

LS , Learn Some more words other than "precious"!
WEARQSDYT

Anonymous said...

Oh !!!!! please tell me to go and have my spat somewhere else Rita ................................