Masterchef Australia – The Pro’s and Con’s Of Season Three
Masterchef Australia Season Three was not a failure, it was just a flop in relation to the ratings compared to the previous two seasons.
Shine Australia who will be producing the series next year will have to make some changes to regain the viewers trust and respect. In fact in the Daily Telegraph todayMatt Preston and Gary Mehigan admitted changes did need to be made to the format of the show.
“Our job is to listen to that criticism and see what is valid,” Preston said while Mehigan said that he secretly wished Ten would scale back the series to three nights a week.
“Channel 10 would never let that happen (but) I don’t want to kill it by being on air too much,” he said.
The MasterChef studio and kitchen could also use a revamp, Mehigan added.
Matt Preston also said in the hard copy of the paper he would like to see:
No Science Lab: I like things that bear a resemblance to home. I’m not a big fan of the sous vide style of cooking;
Keep It Simple: Give them six minutes to produce a soft-boiled egg and see who’s the best;
Mystery Magic: I’d like to see more mystery boxes because they have an element of play-along-at-home;
Immunity Challenges: We should have made (immunity challenges) harder and harder as it went on.
Here are my views on the positives and negatives of season three:
The celebrity guest chefs/judges and the locations where the contestants were sent were amazing, this was a positive and a negative. At times I felt these actually overshadowed the main point of the show, that is the contestants and the cooking. At times there was a little bit of ego involved by the production company that said we are sooo huge we can get these guys to come on the show. The biggest example of this was the Dalai Lama, which resulted in an episode which was totally sychophantic towards him and was not about the cooking challenge at all. In fact it was dull. Hopefully next year we won’t have Cardinal Pell setting a pressure test for them to make communion wafers.
The special guest chefs like Nigella Lawson, Heston Blummenthal and Anthony Bourdain were amazing coups and certainly very popular with a lot of viewers, however other judges like David Chang, Thomas Keller and Rene Redzepi are really not on anyone one but foodies radars. The resulting fandom that went on when they were introduced each episode was five minutes taken from actually seeing the cooking and dishes;
One guest judge I thought was not treated with the respect she deserved was Christine Mansfield, she had to judge a cake that she had not even made. Why wasn’t one of her amazing dishes from Universal made to be the dish the contestants had to cook in the pressure test?
Next onto the editing – all to often we only saw six or seven dishes so the viewer could easily work out who was the top and bottom three. It made the show predictable and for episodes on end we didn’t see the food from the “middle of the pack” like Craig, Mat, Kumar, and Sun, so it was difficult to assess what their cooking style or standard was. Instead we got lots of talking about how badly they wanted to be on the show.
The same goes for the people who got all the to camera time. Dani, Ellie, Kate, Jay and Hayden were ones that came to mind. Early on it was Alex and Chelsea. In fact Alana barely got a look in, and even now I feel I don’t know her.
There were some great challenges I loved the three hatted restaurant one in finals week, the canteen challenge in the mine, the United Nations catering challenge, and the Nigella Lawson relay cooking one is just a few that come to mind.
The challenges I did not like were the Gingerbread House challenge in finals week, there was little cooking in it. The challenge in New York where they were sent to different boroughs to explore the cuisines was an obvious set up of which restaurants they had to go to so no real exploring. Though the highlight of that challenge was the saucy Eric Ripert smirking at Sun’s cake with the rose in it.
The immunity challenges were inconsistent, I think enough has been said about the Eamon Sullivan challenge where Dani won an immunity pin which put her through to the final’s week, but also how some contestants went up against chefs cooking one of their signature dishes, to going up against an apprentice. I thought the weaker contestants were the ones that managed to score an immunity pin, like Ellie, Dani and Hayden.
Kate was particularly hard done by, and so was Billy Law who went up against the elderly cake baking champion who they were never going to let lose. This episode veered into pantomime with people running down from the peanut gallery.
Which brings me to another point of the over the top acting the three main judges did throughout the season. The huddles, the bad jokes, the fake looks of disgust to try and get the contestant to think it was bad, then cue happy music and a big grin from the judges saying how delicious it was. Guys you are comdiens not chefs. At times only Matt Moran brought any levity to proceedings.
The lack of consistency in the elimination challenges. The first one where Tom was eliminated was a case in point, he did nothing but be team captain in the Sonoma challenge, and he had to go head to head with Kumar who put himself forward, meaning one of the better cooks was going to be eliminated in the first challenge;
The coaching from the peanut gallery in challenges. With them yelling out take it off the stove it is burning, to reminding them to put ingredients in it. Also this could also work the wrong way with people shouting out the wrong advice, I think Dani and Jay were both guilty of this.
The overt and covert favourtism, Ellie slid through the competition because she was a judges favourite, though I will give her props for performing well in pressure tests. However this favouritism was again seen in the final elimination challenge when she was finally gone. She was given far greater time frame to fix a dish that she had stuffed up in the Spanish challenge (stuffed capsicum and caramelised oranges), she ended up cooking Creme Caramel. Whereas Alana had to cook two dishes in a much shorter time frame, what would have she done if she had wanted to change her dishes?
One of the greatest travesties of the competition was cool headed Cleo being eliminated, due to her cooking two dishes, the toffee and the ganache, at the same time. She was told to start again, however at some stage of the challenge her box of ingredients had been removed so she was unable to start the ganache. She should have been able to restart cooking them as there was still time on the clock.
Spoilers – which occurred again this year in the previews of the episodes. I hope Channel Ten have put in their contract with Shine that if there is a spoiler there is some sort of financial penalty. We saw Billy was safe prior to an elimination challenge, and that Dani had won an immunity pin.
This year there was no episode where the contestants had to outline what their cookbook was going to be. Previously this has been a top three challenge, and we heard about what their concepts were for weeks on end in the previous seasons. This year the only one who had an idea was Michael with his garden to kitchen recipe book. Not an original concept however at least he had one. By them not having this challenge mean the producers were not confident in the contestants cooking abilities?
I appear to have dwelt on the negatives, however I will say Masterchef is still one of the best reality TV shows made in Australia. It creates more chatter, main and social media comment then any other show on our screens. Hopefully with some tweaks we will see it back to its best.
What do you think could be done to improve the show next season? What challenges would you like to see? Would you like to see a change in personnel ie the judges? What can Shine do to bring you back into the Masterchef cult?