So, the inevitable has happened. Masterchef has found it’s Queen – it was a no-brainer as they say, but Tom gave it a good shot. Now, I have to wake up each morning knowing there will be a Greg Wallace shaped hole in my life. Probably for the best.
One thing to note: going cold turkey on UK MC is a cinch. Once Masterchef Australia gets it’s needle in your veins (or should that be meat thermometer?) there is one hell of a withdrawal.
If you think you’re addicted to Masterchef, you may not be able to handle the Australian version. Believe me. This is culinary crack and goes a little something like this …
MC OZ is essentially a blend of herbs, spices and other reality shows. There’s a pinch of The Apprentice with a dash of America’s Next Top Model. Add a suspicion of X Factor and the dish is ready to serve.
Auditions are held in cities around the country. In groups, the contestants are asked to prepare a dish in a holding area backstage then pop everything on a trolley, come out to meet the judges and finish off/plate up. There’s the obligatory back story, shots of tense, nervous cooks and, if all goes well, they are given a Masterchef apron. The thousands of auditionees are whittled down to a top 50. There are many talking heads interviews with the contestants (in the soon-to-be-familiar shot with a background of hanging colanders) so you would be forgiven for assuming that these are all guaranteed to get to the final 20. Not always! You may get attached to the lawyer from Queensland who’s sacked in the day job to follow their dream of opening a cafe but don’t count on them getting through the tough challenges ahead.
To separate the wheat from the chaff a series of tests are given which don’t rely on recipes or knowledge. These are usually in the form of speed tests – chopping 10 onions with the slowest being eliminated etc. When the best 20 cooks are found, they’re whisked off to Melbourne to live together in one big house for, potentially, 12 weeks. No telephone or internet access, no seeing your family – nothing.
The schedule is grueling – for the viewer, I mean! I’m talking six nights a week for 12 weeks, people. Gotta keep your strength up – it’s an emotional roller coaster and I need commitment. Episodes are one hour long except the master class episode (where Gary & George cook dishes for the contestants and bring in special guests) which is 90 minutes and the once a week challenge episode (also 90 min). The challenges split the cooks into a blue or red team who compete to cook for factory workers on their lunch or feed kids in a shopping mall … One person from the losing team gets the boot if they lose the following elimination challenge. Hmmm, you keeping up?
There has been the odd tweak since season one, notably the part where everyone nominates a fellow contestant to get the heave ho. Yes! They all stand in a line with a paper spike in front of them. Someone walks up to them, puts a piece of paper through the spike and says why they should leave. It didn’t seem to occur to the producers that tactics would come into play and some promising cooks fell by the wayside.
There was much discussion on the recent UK revamp which took on board some of the Australian elements. For me, there wasn’t enough of a change although the auditions didn’t work and were scrapped for this series. This was the right choice – a sob story may be part of the charm for some reality shows but it didn’t wash with the seasoned MC viewers.
As I start on my 12 Steps journey, here are a few of my favourite MC Australianisms:
- Live together as one happy family
- Read nothing but cook books
- Hook up with a fellow contestant
- Run around indoor markets with a shopping trolley looking for macademia nuts
- Look like you’re about to be sick when the now legendary Adriano Zumbo walks through the door
- Utter “Aw, MATE?!”, “Bloody hell!” or “I was PISSED, I can tell you” at regular intervals
Ah, George, Gary and Matt – it’s only been a couple of months but I need my fix NOW! At least Top Chef: Just Desserts has just started. That should give me a sugar rush for the time being …