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Guest Post: Masterchef Australia – More Strategy Thoughts From Matt

Matt is on fire this week with his strategy blog posts here is another installment:

The strategic inflection point in tonight’s Masterchef was pretty clear – to fish or not to fish?

It seemed like a pretty basic choice. Gary tried to frame it as a choice for the risk takers, but this was as risk-free as it came.

Not only did you know exactly what you were cooking – fish or vegetarian – you had two hours to plan your recipes.

Rule two of my strategic rules for Masterchef states it’s not winning that’s important, it’s not losing. Given only four of the 10 were going home, playing safe and eliminating as much risk as you can is important. You started the day with a 40 per cent chance of going home. It’s a telling stat that of those who fished, one in four went home – 25 per cent. From those who chose the mystery cloche, three from six – 50 per cent.

Taking the mystery cloche was an insane risk. If the ingredient was tripe, as many thought it was, you’re pretty much stuffed.

Crocodile was a bit of a cop-out from the producers. Given the great game on sale at top butchers these days I’m surprised no one had cooked it before.

Which brings us to a minor strategic point – it looked like they’d given the contestants the entire tail from the monster salty in Rogue, so there was plenty to work with. The smart ones like Alex tested a few pieces first. Not that it seemed to add much to his cooking, but the thinking was correct.

As an aside, Alex appears to be the new Jono here, the next Eliminator. But while getting in front of the judges to show off your skills isn’t all bad, it’s much smarter to do it when your spot isn’t on the line. but looking at those earrings, I’m thinking “smart” isn’t a word that gets used around Alex that often.

Third minor strategic point – remember Rule One: KNOW HOW TO COOK! FFS Jess, if you’ve never poached fish before, an elimination challenge is probably not the best place to start. And asking contestants on the side? Luckily you struck one who hasn’t read Rule Six (WWERD, Or What Would Evil Russell Do). Or maybe he had, trying to keep a weaker competitor in the comp…

Best strategic move: Going fishing.

Worst: Choosing the mystery cloche THEN not test cooking the croc.

Dishonourable mention: Jess’s culinary cluelessness depriving the competition of some Velma from Scooby Doo hotness.



1 Chunks { 05.05.11 at 1:09 pm }

God knows why anyone would ever eat crocodile. It’s up there with emu and ostrich in the “yeah you could but why WOULD you” stakes. At its best it’s barely edible. Brilliant strategising Matt, it’s just that I don’t think the majority of contestants get that winning is about game strategy as much as it is cooking.

2 Matt { 05.05.11 at 1:34 pm }

Chunks – The few times I’ve had croc it wasn’t too bad. Maybe Alex cooked yours.

As for how much they understand game theory and it’s application to Masterchef – well, we’re at the culling of the weak at the moment. But they’re still being forced to use strategy, whether they like it or not. I think the ones who chose fishing certainly did it because they bought it was the best strategy – whether they followed my reasoning or not.

Once we get into challenges that require team picks the contestants wont have any choice about strategy – it becomes a fairly integral part of the competition. Everyone will try to get pick teams with good cooks etc. And don’t forget last season – in one of the first final 24 challenges Jono picked Joanne as the opposing team captain, knowing she was divisive.

So some contestants understand, I believe.

3 Chunks { 05.05.11 at 2:11 pm }

Sorry Matt but “wasn’t too bad” is hardly a ringing endorsement! LOL. Can you imagine saying that about marron or barra or mud crab or wagyu… Nah, I just think it’s one of those things wasn’t meant to be eaten. Like sheeps testicles. Or duck embryo. Or brussels spouts. Compleyely agree about Jono.

4 Culinary Boner { 05.05.11 at 2:25 pm }

“Taking the mystery cloche was an insane risk. If the ingredient was tripe, as many thought it was, you’re pretty much stuffed.”

Agree with the first statement but definitely not with the second if this show is truly aiming to be truly about uncovering the best amata cook. Tripe is pretty easy to cook compared to croc as it braises beautifully to take on flavours (you could consider it the tofu of the offal world) and can also be nice fried and presented as a salad ingredient. I wouldn’t rate anyone who has not cooked tripe, liver and kidneys as in anyway a “real” contender for MCA in just the same way that the contestants should be able to make mayonnaise by hand, bake decent scones and prepare fresh pasta. Novelty ingredients like croc, emu, possum, ostrich, camel, monkey, scorpians, locusts and dog are best left for reality TV producers to get excited about. Maybe they need to arrange a session at the Beijing Penis Restaurant – – if they want a true novelty ingredient.

5 Matt { 05.05.11 at 2:44 pm }

Boner – I agree with you – see Rule One “Know how to cook”.

Gotta admit, I’d eat croc over tripe any day though.

And how awesome would it be to have a “forbidden” episode of Masterchef.

Dog, whale – it’d be like the Indian feast in Temple of Doom.

6 Culinary Boner { 05.05.11 at 2:54 pm }

Do I hear braindeaddave prepping up a beached whale pun?

7 Jeb { 05.05.11 at 3:10 pm }

“Velma from Scooby Doo hotness” …so true, haha. Wondered who she reminded me of!

8 KC { 05.06.11 at 12:06 am }

I love tripe and I’d pick that over Croc ANYDAY. But I have to say I am Chinese and have grown up eating tripe. You can get it at yumcha you guys should all try it its really good :)