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Masterchef – There will be cooking

I hope Raver’s enjoying her holiday! I’m happy to be here and hope I can hold the fort against the onslaught of reality TV on our screens at the moment.

I’m already relying on recorded viewing of Masterchef – it jumped the shark for the other TV viewer in the Injera household very early on. Poor timekeeping by the commercial stations had me missing the last few minutes of HomeMADE (more on that, later), as well as the first snippet of Masterchef. Given this show’s propensity for endless recaps, I’m sure I’ll catch up on whatever I’ve missed.

In interviews, Lucas starts the week happy and Trevor’s made close friends. They both talk about missing their families and this is clearly the set-up for the much-spoiled departure of Nic. Kate tells us there’s a lot of nervous energy in the house, but she is clearly more distracted by the presence of Josh, wrapped in a towel. She voices over that Nic was “acting a bit odd” as they walked into the Masterchef kitchen, and if it wasn’t for all the spoilers and the heavy-handed editing to this point I’d be worried about the ready availability of sharp knives. Nic heads straight to the judges, which shows that he really hasn’t cottoned on to the drag-it-out nature of this show to date. George and Matt show no interest in the chat, so it’s Gary who “steps up” to the counselling plate. Nic says his goodbyes, people cry, but it is (relatively) mercifully short.

In tonight’s show, the contestants will actually cook! The first contest takes the form of a mystery box challenge. The winner will get “exclusive access to the pantry for the next challenge” and will pick the “core ingredient” for the “invention test”. Julie apparently has somebody who breaks into her house and stocks her kitchen, as she thinks of her fridge as a mystery box. My fridge is a challenge, but only in that I’m all too aware of what’s in there, and it’s never much.

According to Matt, this is “undoubtedly the most important” challenge the hopefuls have faced so far. I’m sure Melissa would beg to differ.

The mystery box contains: tomatoes, eggs, smoky bacon and bread. The contestants have 30 minutes and the judges are only going to taste dishes that they think are “worthy of tasting”. Contestants are told to “think outside the box” (boom-tish!). Poh’s making eggy bread. I’m so sick of eggy bread! Linda pre-emptively makes an excuse for whatever mess her dish will turn out to be: she says she’s been thrown by Nic’s departure.

As the time ticks down, Gary completes his walk-around of the chefs and is “disappointed” that nobody’s doing a classic breakfast: eggs, bacon, tomatoes, toast. Well, Gary, perhaps they listened to Matt, who was emphatic about them thinking “outside the box”.

Just before judging, Sarah reminds us what they’re playing for: the winner will get the first crack at the pantry. Hmm, I’m sure she said “exclusive” the first time. Ten, ask your writers to stop being ambiguous.

The three “winners” are Chris, with his “Egg in Hell”, Trevor, with his bacon/egg/French toast wrap, and Poh, with her version of eggy bread and an egg poached in a tomato. What I learn from the judging is:

  • George makes it difficult for contestants to consider his palate. He’s previously outed himself as a chilli wuss, but here he complains that Chris’ “hell” is not as hot as he was expecting.

  • NASA does research on the crunch factor of food.Perhaps all the space exploration is just a front for nerd foodies – Tang, anybody?
  • Trevor is criticised for not including cheese with his wrap, but I didn’t see cheese in the box. Did I miss it?

Chris wins the right to screw other contestants over with his core ingredient choice for the Italian-themed “Invention Test”, although it’s not the unfettered free-for-all I was expecting: he can choose octopus, chocolate or rabbit. He chooses rabbit and has five minutes to select his ten pantry items. This is a massive bonus for Chris, as the other contestants have only one minute each. I still don’t understand how they choose the order people go in – it seems to be a huge advantage for the person who goes in last as they’ve had loads of time to think about what they need. The judges seem to be a bit lax on the time-keeping – Jenny pushes her luck. Aaron blah-blahs about “the renaissance period”, chooses a couple of ingredients, and doesn’t use his full minute, which seems very cocky. Julie panics, ending up with none of the core ingredients she needed.

The hour starts now. Josh believes that his massive advantage is that he has an Italian background and knows how to cut up a bunny. Sam, on the other hand, cops to never having cooked rabbit before. Brent’s missing Nic a lot – he’s doing it for Nic! Bless. I want to see a domino theory in action, with Brent leaving “˜cos he’s missing Nic who left “˜cos he missed his wife.

Aaron, inexplicably, is only going to use the front legs of the rabbit, which is kind of like choosing the chicken wings over the drumsticks. Linda is a literal woman, who has interpreted “invention test” to mean you have to invent something you’ve never done before. Her tomato “foam” looks anaemic. She’s pureeing bunny bits to make a terrine. Gary and George look unconvinced. Julie’s trying to do Italian rabbit without garlic. Jenny’s looks hearty and delicious, as does Brent’s. Chris’ looks fancy, but the judges are concerned that it will be overcooked. Julie’s panicking (I might need a macro for that). Lucas is filled with doubt. Hopefully he can bring some of those mad pro golfing pressure skillz and get through. Sam’s bunny looks nice and pink. He thinks it’s ok but could have been better.

Time’s up!

Sarah recaps pointlessly – as though the contestants had somehow remained oblivious to the fact that they had an hour to cook an Italian-style dish, with a rabbit.

Judging highlights (as opposed to culinary highlights) are:

  • Aaron, who initially attempts some revisionist history in his voiceover with “I was in the bottom three on the chicken challenge” but then “˜fesses up “in fact, I lost the chicken challenge”. Of his rabbit, Gary says “A five year old could cook better than that”.
  • Julie, whose rabbit tasting plate “doesn’t look particularly appetising”, according to Matt.
  • Learning, from Matt, that making savoury courses look like dessert is so hot in Europe right now. And hearing Gary’s verdict on Linda’s dish: “That is horrible”.

Judges retire to consider their verdict and return to call the following names: Brent, Aaron, Julie, Tom, Jenny, Linda. I cross Project Runway off the list of reality shows Masterchef Australia has shamelessly ripped off, when Sarah mimics Heidi with her “you are the best, and the worst” schtick.

Brent, Tom and Jenny are top three. Brent’s wins. Generosity and simplicity. Shut up about Nic, though, Brent.

Aaron’s dish had no heart. Linda’s was abysmal, not acceptable. Julie acknowledges that she should be there and apologises to the judges. We have to wait until… tomorrow, when the bottom three have a chance to “redeem” themselves in the Pressure Test. “It doesn’t get any more important than this” says Gary. John Torode thinks his catchphrase is a lot better.

I still have some problems with Masterchef:

  • I find the “drip feed” of information unnecessary – tell us up front what the challenge is and how it will work. Tonight, there was conflicting information about pantry access (ok, so I’m a pedant, but “exclusive” does not mean “first”) and the time restrictions/theme restrictions just seemed to come out willy nilly.
  • There are still contestants I feel I haven’t really seen. I’m worried that a “Justine” will go right through and I won’t have seen the results of any of her cooking.
  • Sarah says “we” when she talks about the judging to come. Is she part of the judging panel? The viewer doesn’t see her tasting any food, but then we don’t see all the judges tasting all the food, anyway.
  • Re-reading The Australian‘s preview of Masterchef makes me wonder why I was so surprised at how different this version is to the (in my opinion, far superior) British version. I am still, however, bemused by this particular passage:

The structure of the localised MasterChef, he suggests, is carefully designed for maximum drama, more so than the British original (still dominating the local LifeStyle Food channel), which has a tendency to meander: too many interminable dramatic pauses before the good or bad news is delivered by the boisterous, red-faced blokey duo of restaurateur John Torode and so-called “ingredients expert” Gregg Wallace.

When it comes to annoying lengthy pauses, the local version wins hands down.

    • Will I go to my grave knowing nothing more about Tom and the beef? I fear so.

    1 comment

    1 Jane { 06.07.09 at 6:13 pm }

    Yep!

    “When it comes to annoying lengthy pauses, the local version wins hands down”

    It’s been driving me nuts!