Masterchef 2011 – review

Posted on March 7, 2011


Chocolate fondant - Masterchef archnemesis

The road to Masterchef glory is paved with failed chocolate fondants. But is the road to continued Masterchef success being hampered by a strange new format filled with shiny kitchenware, meaningful bequests of aprons and – urgh – emotions?

I have always loved Masterchef. It balances perfectly my need to watch a cookery show and the (secret, every so slightly shameful) desire to watch a game show with some quirky element of realism. I love the passion, I love that Billy the Builder from up the road can turn out Michelin standard delicacies, I love that even the best chefs on there make the stupid kind of cock-ups that I do. I love(d) the simplicity of the show.

So when the new series started with a huge room full of contestants set to a background of teary-eyed family members, I was not all that pleased. I was suddenly whisked back to one dreadful day – the day I discovered Masterchef Australia on my excessively large television package, the excitement that even more Masterchef would ensue, the disappointment of finding that the Australian version was a load of hyped up rubbish and numerous people who’d be more suited to battering KFC chicken than designing fine dining. The new Masterchef seemed contrived, pandering to the masses, too big for its own baking tin.

Several episodes down the line, however, I have to admit I’m a little happier. Most of the contestants have been sifted out. The dramatic presentations of aprons to the lucky 20 have concluded. We’re back to smaller numbers cooking in (slightly) smaller kitchens (although there is still the occasional vacuous room, contestants forced to walk down the centre observed by their peers as they meet their fate). Some of the tasks are looking pretty good – cooking for a load of burley Scots my favourite so far – and they really are getting thrown in at the deep end pretty quick.

What’s this about, though – I’m starting to care. Polly, the cake-baking housewife, unaccountably gets on my wick; Tim amuses and impresses me with his bizarre combos that I’d just love to try; Jackie is so up and down that I worry she might not make it to the end of each episode without bursting into tears. Do I want reality TV levels of intimacy with these people? Do I want to be able to predict what they’ll cook next? Do I want to be devastated when they’re asked to hang their apron up for the final time?

I don’t know. I think that’s what the Beeb wants – make ’em care, then they’ll watch. I’m not sure if it’s for me, but I know I’ll be watching every episode. I can’t not – it’s Masterchef.

Image from avlxyz‘s photostream at Flickr.

Posted in: cuisine