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Guest Post: Strategic Review of Episode One Of Masterchef Australia

Reality Ravings resident strategist, Matt, is back with his strategic review of the first episode of Masterchef Australia and how they should apply his rules of Masterchef survival.

As usual it mixes sound advice with wit. Enjoy.

Strategic review of Masterchef – the first eliminations 

Good to see that Masterchef is back with a few traditions:

 Idiotic hats – I mean WTF with the red hip hop cap?

  • Overblown and unnecessary expository to camera. MC producers could learn a lot by listening to Ritchie Benaud call cricket. He understands that if the action on screen is obvious, you don’t need to explain it.
  • Donna Hay jokes – when one of the contestants wondered whether Donna was in the box, many images popped into my head;
  • And, of course, strategic muppets.

Some of the contestants could have done a lot better (read “survived”) if they had followed my Eight Strategic Rules for Masterchef contestants. I actually looked at the contestants on the ferry going to Cockatoo Island and remarked “you can already pick who the baby seals are”.

 Let’s see who got clubbed and whether they could have avoided it by following some simple rules.

 Rule One says “be able to cook” – in other words, know the basics. For Earlobes Adam, just “cooking” would work. The only raw food that works with the MC judges is sushi and salad. Otherwise, if you’re not inhaling the smell of burnt animal flesh, you’re doing it wrong.

 Adam also stuffed up the other part of his meal, with a mash. Seriously, if you stuff up doing mash, it shows that (a) You can’t cook, and (b) you have no respect for the show. They had a mash challenge last year for gorrsakes! For that matter, Justin North (bow down to the culinary god, peasants) gave a private masterclass on mash last season. I almost threw my potato ricer (bought after the mash challenge) at the telly when they showed the whole potatoes in the pan.

 The elimination challenge also showed a few strategic missteps.  I’m assuming you know for a couple of months that you’re going on Masterchef, so practice is important. Based on the past two seasons, there are going to be several dessert challenges, and several chocolate challenges. Umm, maybe try cooking with it once or twice?

 Doing things like working out how long to stick puddings in the oven is a basic skill. Even one of the kids on Junior Masterchef could temper chocolate, and we all saw how the judges swooned over that, so you don’t think that’s a skill that could keep you out of the bottom five?

 Rule two says “Winning isn’t everything”. Rachel got this – it’s not about winning, it’s about not losing. Sure, she lost the initial round, but once in the bottom 10 realised all she had to do was produce the fifth-worst dish and she was ok.

 Sun, however, proved two things, First, that ridiculous names aren’t just a symptom of this generation of mothers, and second, if you’re fighting for your life, it’s a good idea to use a weapon you’re familiar with. As soon as she said she’d never made ice-cream, while stuffing the ice-cream maker with custard, I knew she was a goner. Actually I knew she was a goner before that – anyone who’s crying during the pieces to camera (which I’m assuming are filmed after your exit) is usually a sure bet to have just been eliminated.

 Rule three is “Nice judge, niiice judge”. Not fawning, but flattery. No-one in the bottom 10 seemed to grasp this. If Zumbo is a judge, temper your chocolate, or use a technique he has demonstrated (see rules one and two – only if you’ve practiced it!)

 Fawning seemed to be a bit more in evidence, although I reckon it worked with Zumbo (and I loved that he referred to himself in the third person). If he doesn’t have a girlfriend, all he’d have to do is walk through the Masterchef house and he’d have menopausal mums peeling off clothes and offering to hand-feed him brioche.

 Rule four states: “Remember Philip” – ie, market your dish, don’t talk it down. Massive fails. Standing in front of the judges in tears and explaining that your pudding didn’t cook doesn’t just highlight your culinary ineptness, it highlights the fact that you could never sell a cookbook.

 Rule five “don’t let the customers in early and other restaurant blunders” doesn’t apply here. Although I will use a new sub-rule “don’t run in the kitchen”, which would allow me to use the term “cockblock” in cooking show. If I chose. But I won’t, because this is Masterchef, not the Logies.

 Rule six: It’s not Nigella Bites, it’s Kitchen Idol. Rachel, again, got this one. Be a personality. We don’t know much about her cooking personality yet, but responding to Gary’s “is it good enough to get you through?” comment with “Adriano Zumbo liked it” was pure gold.

 Rule seven – WWERD? And What would Evil Russell do? Applying Survivor theory to last night, Rachel helping Sarah up after she fell – at first I thought “idiot, let her suffer, you can write her off and now you only have to worry about beating four others, not five”.

 But like Survivor, the social game is still important. Rachel has set herself up nicely for the endgame here. If she makes it as far as the cookbook interview, she has established herself right from episode one as a sassy-yet-caring mum character.

 Rule eight – cut the red wire. Doesn’t apply, as there were no team picks. But let’s see how the curse of the blue team goes this year. We will be keeping score.

 So, best strategic move? “Adriano Zumbo liked it”.

 Worst? “I’ve never made ice-cream before”.

 Dishonourable mention? Whole potatoes in the water.


1 Miss Piggy (MelbaToast) { 05.02.11 at 1:08 pm }

I’m the worst cook in the world, but even I know to chop my tatters up if I’m wanting them to cook through in under 24 hours. I mean really….!

2 sourkraut { 05.02.11 at 1:10 pm }

Same old same old! Nothing’s changed.
The usual sob-blubbery!
The usual stupid questions from Geo ie “do you really want to be here”? ANSWER “yes it takes my mind off my throbbing piles”

3 sourkraut { 05.02.11 at 1:18 pm }

The usual imbecilic practice of trying to boil elephant balls (read huge potatoes) without slicing and dicing them first, and I guess peeling the buggers is beyond the capabilities of some of these clowns.
Did miss hearing how these clowns are the BEST 50 amacha chefs in the magical land of OZ, if true then no wonder we are becoming a nation of fatties.
Re “the Box” I thought the ghost of Bob Dyer was going to jump out in front of the contestants and in a spooky voice say “the money or the box”
Aahh yes I love raw meatballs!
Disappointed noone cooked a lemon and pertater flummery with a minced meat and onion suflay.
At this stage the 5 worst seemed to have been correctly picked. Some of the offerings should have cum with “warning labels”
Also at this stage , dont know who to like and dislike. Guess I’ll have to wait to see who is bankrupt and barrack for them!

4 AnonyMousse { 05.02.11 at 1:34 pm }

Rachel showed that playing your 4th rule doesn’t necessarily work – let’s not forget that she called her meatballs ‘beef bites’ just to try and make them sound different to all the other meatball dishes being made.

5 ann { 05.02.11 at 1:41 pm }

matt – didn’t sun got through to the next round though?

great post btw!

6 Matt { 05.02.11 at 1:47 pm }

Ann – you’re right. Must have been distracted by the blubbering.

Frankly the contestants are always a bit blurry until we get to about the top 15. That’s no reflection on them, or the producers – it simply takes time to discover who the characters are and build up a reasonable narrative around them.

7 muppy { 05.02.11 at 1:56 pm }

I was a bit disappointed with the episode (except for the lucky cock incident, hehe), it felt as though you started watching part way through a series. A longer show with a little background on all contestants maybe?

8 Injera { 05.02.11 at 2:01 pm }

…“yes it takes my mind off my throbbing piles” Sourkraut, I am still laughing at that!

Maybe Lobes remembered Gary’s mash from masterclass where he baked the potatoes before mashing them. Got his processes all mixed up and, oh, forgot about the time limit.

I think it was a BIT EARLY in the season to have the judges questioning the please-step-forwards. I would add this as a tip for future contestants: They have made their decision. Don’t answer their questions. Nothing you say will alter their decision.

9 ann { 05.02.11 at 2:10 pm }

also that earlobe guy’s name is alex not adam (dunno why that edit post thing didn’t work ergh). he got waaay too much airtime! and yeah looks like the amount of tears is still the same this season

10 Culinary Boner { 05.02.11 at 2:54 pm }

The raw meat question:-
Now no doubt the vanquished-foe-testicle offering stumped up by earlobe boy was inedible – it clearly looked very off putting – but I have a question about the judges’ wussy raw mince aversion in this instance. Harden up Gary, George and Matt. And take note of Anthony Bourdain – ‘I believe that a good quality hamburger—suitable for sale to children and adults—should require neither ammonia nor well done cooking to make it considered “safe.” ‘
So what’s going on here? Whenever in the USA I expect – and always ask for – proper burgers with mince cooked medium rare (pink inside). And you guys (Gary, George) also prepare uncooked mince – posh-style, mind you – as steak tartare (which Matt and other foodies woof down).
So was the mystery box chock full of quality ingredients, or wasn’t it?
Or are we talking dog-food grade mince that needs to be complete incineration to make it safe? Help me out here?

11 Shelsta78 { 05.02.11 at 3:48 pm }

As well as not sucking in order to stay longer, it helps to be one of the ‘types’ they’d like to make a niche cook book for:

Surfer – Red hat douche who I saw from the promo is a lifesaver – close enough
Semi-Hot Mum – don’t want to intimidate their core demographic with anyone too good looking but you must have capacity to look good in after photos for their AWW cover shot.
Asian, Indian and or African – Dai, plus two others we haven’t met yet
Tattooed and or Rockabilly – At least three of these one already eliminated
Ginga – after the rousing success of Claire
Tradie – Alex (although nothing could replace the very special Cementy from Season2)
Goofy Dad – can’t remember his name, but same as the other one I can’t remember who wanted to start his own charity last year?
Indigenous – because after all MC is an equal opportunity employer
Over-achieving Professional type – aka Smugathon
Young Guy / Gal – The bromance that was Matthew+Callum

I’m sure I’ve missed some and look forward to meeting them all as we get down to the top 24

12 littlepetal { 05.02.11 at 4:02 pm }

Sun got a lot of air time. I can’t imagine contestants going into a cooking competition and not familiar with chocolates and ice cream and then want to cook something that ‘ I never make this before’. What a joke !!!

Sun is so stress and teary and she mentioned something like it is too much for her and this is Day 1. Are we going to see her cry every week?

13 Matt { 05.02.11 at 5:28 pm }

Shelsta78 – spot on – see Rule Six.

The last two series (and Junior MC if you think about it) all had identifiable characters.

By the time they reach the final 12 you want to have the public able to identify with hot mum/dickhead in hat/curry cooker/airy frenchy cook otherwise you don’t get the emotional attachment.

14 Sooty { 05.02.11 at 5:31 pm }

If stretchy-earlobe dude goes all the way (or lasts much longer) I will go out of my mind. I feel sick thinking about the state of his ears every time he’s on the screen and can’t stop thinking about what the holes look like, and how bad will it be in ten, twenty, thirty years to have been such a ‘groover’ now?

Him and Sun and Alana and Rachel are high on my annoyance list, so I guess they’ll be the final four. Grrr.

But if Matt the Strat keeps up his posts I will watch, even with stretchy earlobes Alex, for the sake of reading them after.

Does anyone know what those things are called? Look like horrible recycled chinese checkers.

15 sourkraut { 05.02.11 at 5:36 pm }

I believe he is going to use the old coffee grinders as ear rings for the next ep

16 brain dead dave { 05.02.11 at 6:28 pm }

Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying.

Yeah, I ‘ve had enough of the dude with the butt plugs in his ears,too. Raw taters and mince…he’s liivin’ the dream.

17 davsimp { 05.02.11 at 8:22 pm }

Great Piece Matt. I didn’t see any knob in a silly hat though, however, I could be wrong. Will look out for one on tonight’s episode.

Sooty, I dont think the stretchy lobes actually have a name as such but are sometimes referred to as ‘gauging’. Thing is, if he ever removes them he will be left with two gaping holes the size of ten cent pieces.

BDD I dont think butt plug dude will be around for much longer, same goes for Sun. If she is this stressed already what chance has she got?

18 CJ { 05.02.11 at 8:38 pm }

Firstly – Because I am a high school teacher I know they are called stretchers or tapers. Truly horrific, the idea of swinging lobes at age 40 is horrific yet when I point this out to the kids they kindly point out that 40 is so old they will want to be dead anyway.

Secondly – I love that RR is confident enough to hand the blog over to Matt for his point of view – well done!

Thirdly – Love the analysis Matt. Keep ’em coming. Especially later on. I am typing this as I watch the mayo challenge and am still shocked that rule 1 didn’t occur to all of these contestants.

19 davsimp { 05.03.11 at 12:24 am }

Knob in hat spotted, it’s surf life saver dude. He even had it on whilst having tea with his Ma.

20 Sooty { 05.03.11 at 12:28 pm }

Thanks for the ear-ring info everyone. Euuuuuugh.

I saw another hat-dude. He was tall, older, thin, and kind-faced with a stupid hat, though. Plaid?