Celebrity Masterchef Episode 1: A Winning Recipe and Windfall for Channel 10!
A Big Thanks To CG For Blogging On The First Episode Of MasterChef:
WELCOME BACK: It seems the nation was just starting to recover from the marathon of nightly Masterchef episodes we watched throughout the winter and now we are all back together again! The sensationalistic No Idea, Woman’s Day and Sunday Tele stories of dramas, relationship gossip, makeovers and other titbits about the contestants kept us entertained during the hiatus for awhile but it started to get pretty tawdry. Now we have the much-anticipated “Celebrity Masterchef) (lets call it “CMC”) to take use through until the silly season. Thankfully CMC will only be weekly which is much more manageable in terms of work, kids and the occasional physical exercise.
THE MC FRANCHISE: Tonight is the first episode of CMC. CMC is the first spin-off of the uber-successful Masterchef Australia franchise (lets call the original just “MC”) with others apparently in the works, including a show for kids. As 7:30pm draws near I wonder how much of the MC format CMC will use: will they use the same Katy Perry theme song “Hot “˜N Cold” or introduce a new one? We know Sarah Wilson was considered redundant and won’t be there but we assume the three main judges will be back (Matt, Gary and George) but will other guest judges be utilised? Will some of the contestants from the first season of MC make an appearance (surely Julie will show up, but if Poh has signed on for her own show with ABC, can she appear on Ch10 and will sponsors tolerate an appearance by bad boy Chris?). Will the focus be on the B/C/D-list celebrities promoting their next gig or will the “star” be the food? Will there be interesting challenges that take them out of the studio-kitchen or will they keep it simple and just have cook-offs each week?
Questions, questions, questions!!
OK here we go!! But please keep in mind I’m a blogging virgin so lower your expectations and be patient with me!
QUESTIONS ANSWERED: Right off the mark a number of our burning questions are answered: the theme song is the same as MC1 and our three MC judges are there. All of them look at little trimmer than when MC ended a few months ago. Matt is wearing one of his famous cravats but why is wearing heels? He must be trying to take the piss out of vertically-challenged G&G.
The format of CMC is explained and it seems pretty simple, I just hope it doesn’t get boring without the extracurricular challenges. But given the show is weekly, it should be ok. Briefly, each weekly show will feature three “celebrities” and two rounds. In the first round, they will cook their “signature” dish of their choice and using any ingredients they wish. The winner of the first round will then get to choose between two dishes for round two, which is a dreaded “pressure test”. The pressure test will be largely the same format we saw in MC1. The ultimate prize is to be crowned the “first” CMC but more importantly, a cash prize of $50,000 towards the celeb’s chosen charity.
THE CONTESTANTS: Now to the contestants. They do a bit of a rundown of all the “celebrities” who will be competing in this series describing the mix as “elite athletes, rock stars, comedians, authors and a state premier”. There seem to be a lot of defections from other networks. I guess the popularity of MC is so big they can’t pass up the opportunity for exposure.
Now in the interest of full disclosure I have to admit that I have only lived in Australia for a few years (I was born in Canada and lived in a number of countries around the world before marrying an Aussie bloke and landing in Sydney). So I’ll use this as my excuse for recognising only a handful of the “celebrities”. A quick check with Mr. CG confirms that he too only recognises a few of the names. This might be a good thing. There is a broad demographic of genders, ages and provenance and as all are B/C/D-listers, the focus will hopefully be on the food and not ego, image and promoting their next projects. Lets see.
TONIGHT’S COOKS: The three “celebrities” competing in tonight’s cook-off are introduced: Kirk Pengilly, Indira Naidoo and Josh Thomas. Of the three, I admit I only recognise one by name: Indira. Of course I’ve heard of INXS but I didn’t know any band members by name other than Michael Hutchence. Josh Taylor? Sorry, never heard of him. A quick Google reveals that he has his own website wherein he describes himself as “comedian, write and very generous lover”. He reminds me of Sam on MC1 who was also an accomplished “lover” as evidenced by the big love bit he showed up with one day…but I digress.
In the intro they also announce Matt Moran will be appearing as a guest. Hmm, I guess Matt has well and truly severed relations with the sinking ship that is Channel 9. Rumour was he was going to head up a foodie show for them.
As they take their places in the kitchen, Kirk describes his cooking style as “mongrel with an Asian feel”. Hmmm. Josh looks like he is about 13 years old and needs a good feed. His accent is strange to me but another quick Google check confirms he was born in Queensland. What do I know!?
Josh gets off a good line when he says he is nervous and excited to be here and “wants to see Matt Preston eat live”. He must be nervous because he is talking really, really fast and is a little hard to understand.
Last up is Indira Naidoo who is introduced as a journalist, TV presenter and food blog writer (the “Saucy Onion”). She has posted something on her blog about her appearance on CMC but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet as I’m working furiously to get this recap up. See: http://saucyonion.blogspot.com/2009_09_01_archive.html
So does Indira still work as a journalist and presenter? If so, which channel. The last time I saw her was on ABC’s Q&A a few weeks ago where she didn’t mention being a journalist or TV presenter but did speak a lot about climate change and her relationship with and admiration for former-US VP Al Gore. Again, I digress.
Lets get cooking! Thankfully the whole promotion, introduction, explanation bit only takes about ten minutes and they are right into the food which is a good sign! George doesn’t say much in the first few segments but does pipe up to say he is not dropping his standards for celebrities. Ha!
ROUND ONE: Round one is “Signature Dishes”. The contestants have 90 minutes to prepare their signature dish. Kirk is preparing blackened tuna on wasabi-lime celeriac mash with lotus root chips and broad beans. Indira is cooking up Italian meatballs served with polenta batons and pesto oil. Josh will attempt lamb tagine and a saffron-crÃ¨me brulle-type dessert.
As they get into it, Kirk frets about overcooking his tuna, Josh is manic and makes a huge mess at his work station while Indira seems relatively under control. Like in MC1, the judges walk around while the “celebrities” are cooking and offer selective advice while talking in whispers behind their backs about how they think each contestant is gonna screw up. I thought there was going to be a big disaster and lamb on the camera lens when Josh opened up his pressure cooker but all was good!
After the last minute flurry we’ve come to expect, the dishes are ready for tasting. Kirk’s tuna looked great and Gary agreed. Both G&G loved the lotus-root chips and they did look yummy. But Matt thought the dish overall was a little “clumsy” and while each individual item was good, they didn’t “speak to each other”. Indira is up next and gets mixed reviews, Gary loves the meatballs but George thought they were a little “spongy”. Josh gets off another good line as he brings his dish to the front he says: “the last thing you need in life is honest feedback”. Funny. Gary and Matt love Josh’s lamb tagine but his dessert lets him down, it is more like “saffron soup” than crÃ¨me catalene.
And the winner of round one is: Kirk! Josh looked really disappointed. And now Kirk has the advantage of choosing between two dishes for pressure test. Matt says consider playing to your own strengths, or playing to weakness of the other two cooks.
ROUND TWO: Round two is the “Pressure Test”. To kick off the pressure test, in strolls Matt Moran and presents two of his dishes for Kirk to choose from: a vanilla and fig “Bombe Alaska” or a savoury “Rabbit Galantine”. Both look delicious but really, really fiddly.
Kirk picks the dessert dish. This is a bit of a surprise as Kirk says he has no experience with desserts. Kirk reasons he wants a challenge and I think this is going to be really challenging for all them.
Josh is set up to deliver his third great line of the night. Matt says at one stage that it has taken him 20 years to perfect the “Bombe Alaska”. Josh says “I’ve been alive just over 20 years, so I should be fine”. Obviously set up and rehearsed, but still kinda funny.
Each “celebrity” comes forward to taste Matt Moran’s Bombe. All look pretty intimidated and then one of the G’s says they will be given a “lifeline”: each cook can have 90 seconds consultation with Matt (Moran), they can use the lifeline at any time during the challenge but only once.
They are given 1 hour and 40 minutes to make “˜da Bombe. The editing makes it looks like Kirk’s dish is turning in to a disaster (those same sneaky editors must be back!). Kirk is the first to call in Matt Moran. The two are apparently very good friends in “real” life and Matt seems to calm him down (a bit). The next to call for the lifeline is Indira but she seems to be having less serious problems than Kirk. Josh is the last to call on Matt to discuss how to get his meringue “peakier”.
As they plate up, Indira and Josh are struggling with runny meringues. None of the dishes really look like the sample presented by Matt Moran. How will they taste?
The format for tasting the pressure test dishes is the same as MC1. Each “celebrity” takes their dish into the dark and ominous “dining room” and stands there as the three judges (G&G&M) taste their dish. Matt Moran – the creator of the dish – is NOT on the judging panel. Hmm, I guess the producers didn’t get our feedback from MC1.
Indira is first up in front of the judges in this round: George loves her fig ice cream and presentation of her orange segment?! Shades of Poh? I’m waiting for Matt to pick up the segment and stroke it. Nup. Josh is next. The judges are impressed with Josh’s food and cooking knowledge (for his age) but say “this is not a Bombe Alaska”. Kirk is last one to rock up in the dining room. Kirk says he is proud of his dish because he “never” does desserts. Gary proclaims that this is the “first real Bombe Alaska of the night”. Looks like Kirk is gonna win.
Everyone reassembles. It must have been sometime later as everyone looks like they have had their makeup and hair done. Indira is knocked out first. She says a few departing words about how wonderful the experience was, etc., reminds us again that she is a journalist and doesn’t even mention Al Gore! It’s now down to Kirk and Josh and they string it out for a few minutes suggesting Kirk’s dish was the winner but Josh had potential (hmm, where have we heard that before?). I thought for a moment based on Matt’s comments that Josh was gonna be the new Sam but Kirk takes the prize. Kirk will be back as one of six finalists in the semi-finals.
NEXT WEEK: The show is already running about 8 minutes late (I hate that!) but they take the time to preview the contestants for next week: a Hi-5 girl, Michelle Bridges (trainer from Biggest Loser?) and Peter Fitzsimons. I’ll be looking forward to watching former Wallaby Peter Fitzsimons, especially if he has to cook up a dainty little dish in the pressure test.
THE COMMERCIALS: Before I sign off, a word about the commercials. I watched this episode from our holiday place in Queensland and I’m not sure if the commercials are the same in all states. But what I got was lots of McDonalds’ commercials which include some special MC-related promotion. Really disappointing that MC would sell-out to Maccas… money talks! We also had Handee Wipes as the very first commercial and they did a cross-over to Josh’s messy bench from the first round. A bit cheesy and contrived. Myer had a commercial advertising their upcoming share re-listing which is something I’ve never seen before, let alone in primetime! And did y’all catch the mega close-up of the Sunnyland Farm “smiley” eggs when Josh was breaking eggs for his custard. Ha!
THE VERDICT: MC must really be raking in the dosh for Ch10, especially given the new major sponsors (Maccas and Harvey Norman amongst others). I bet G&G&M got big fat raises and poor Sarah missed out on the windfall although tonight’s show proved that the hosting role really was redundant. With the focus on the food and once-a-week format I think CMC will be a winner. The mix of “celebrities” will appeal to a broad demographic and entertain us through the semi-finals, especially with the appearance of some celebrity chefs and (inevitably) some of the contestants from MC1 in all their made-over glory and pushing their cookbooks (just in time for Xmas). Maybe in the semi-finals they can mix it up a little bit in terms of challenges and get them out of the studio. But all up, I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.
Apologies for the length of my recap, I wanted to make sure it was thorough for anyone who might have missed the show.
A big thanks to RR for the chance to be guest blogger on the first epi of CMC. It was fun!