what we don’t see is what we don’t get

17 Mar

had an interesting twitter discussion afer the MC final on thurs, with BDGTtT commenter @zone_styx, about the issue of all the hidden elements in masterchef:

zs: curious about the timeframes with Masterchef generally – competitors sometimes seem to improve by magic mastering super technical skills they haven’t been exposed to; dramatically more complex palettes out of nowhere do they get intensive research/brainstorming periods? help from series researchers?

self: working as sou-chef under the “mentors” = intensive research/techniquestorming surely? the winners are v fast at picking stuff, and the palate doesn’t come out of “nowhere”; the confidence under pressure is the real (showmanship) element. These three [eg the winners] all every evidently had better latent palate and skills from early on; just unfocused and (in koj’s case) anxious

zs: it’s prob just the compression of editing & missed a lot of this series, BUT am often surprised at disparity btwn hopeless task performances etc, then sudden rabbit-out-of-hat elimination dishes. would have to go back and find you examples really — maybe the schedule leaves them time to ‘woodshed’ in american phrase in between eps.

self: one of the things i find interesting is that you VERY rarely get a shot of anyone working from notes, yet clearly they can’t all be working purely from memory and improvisation.

zs: yes! one shot of *very* long itemized to do list tonight: several A4 pages! (Andrew’s).

self: aki tweeted that one big difference between what we see and the actual kitchen is NO MUSIC: it’s very quiet. my guess is also that in the “task” sections, they actually get a lot more coaching and advice, from professionals, than we see. now it’s over may actually quiz some of the contestants on twitter about such production details for the food-on-telly blog

in the interests of dialectic i am perhaps repping somewhat over-strongly here for the programme’s “integrity” as a genuine competition, but i entirely agree that the intensity of the demands of watchable (hour-long) drama over 12 weeks leaves a lot of mysteries, when you step back and think about it. Obviously you can’t go from untried amateur to in-reach-of-a-michelin-star in half a day: so how long does it take to shoot? How much off-camera time do they have? People reading is dull TV: it’s only fair to let people practice (which to start with means fail) off-camera. But is there a lot of talking — teaching basically — that we don’t get to see?


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5 responses to “what we don’t see is what we don’t get

  1. chef de cuisine

    March 18, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    I don’t know exactly the timescale for this but it’s certainly drawn out a bit. I don’t have any problem with the editing or that they’re hiding anything. I don’t assume that they’re doing a lunch service in a restaurant then straight in the taxi to the MC kitchen to cook 2 courses. Maybe they actually do, but if it’s done over 2 days, that’s fine. You can’t have enough cameras to film each person all the time and they’ve got to condense 90 min of cooking time into 10 min. I’ve definitely seen them working from notes & seen their drawings of the finished plate.

    I imaging the time spent in Bath or Thailand was more than one day for example and this isn’t Top Chef or MC OZ where they live in a big house – they all go home after each round (I reckon when it gets right down to the last few they have to stay in London, I think Eamonn was talking about missing his family). I’m also pretty sure previous finalists have spoken about the time off before the Final Three (a week or 2, maybe more) to perfect their recipes etc. So when they improve greatly over 5 episodes it’s actually a month – if I’d been chopping onions or cooking pheasant everyday for a month, I’d be bloody awesome!

    Also, when they’re presented with a dish to replicate in a restaurant they can’t be asked to look, taste then off they go – I know there’s a lot of work required by the viewer but I’m ok with that.

    People also seem to quit their job in the run up to the final few rounds (Shellina worked with someone I know & she left at some point recently) so they can concentrate on food, food, food. I believe them when they say “I thought I liked food when I started but now I OBSESSED & can’t think of anything else!” Something I didn’t know was that Shellina works in a pub now so when not competing must’ve been cooking for paying customers. Maybe others have done the odd shift somewhere with chefs they’ve impressed along the way? That’s happened on MC OZ.

    I haven’t read it for a couple of seasons but the Digital Spy Masterchef forum can be a great way to hear how things work – every now & then a contestant pops up to say a couple of things (they always keep their identity secret with everyone trying to guess who it is). The sad part was learning that when a cook gets the boot, that’s exactly how it is!! They might hug their fellow contestant, say thanks to J & G then hang up the apron, sit on the coach with their head in their hands & walk out the door.

  2. syllabubdobdee

    March 18, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    in which @akicooks very kindly responds to my two questions

    shooting time is around four months; and the mentors tend to ignore actual questions but give a lot of unsolicited advice 🙂

    • chef de cuisine

      March 23, 2012 at 2:13 pm

      I’ve been wondering if there’s a proper dialogue between J&G and the contestants when eating the food – do they just give them the sound bites or can the cooks ask “but what do you think of the truffle with the parnsip?” etc.

  3. takotsubo

    March 19, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    I don’t know if this is old news but I was trying to work out how they put the endgame together. Each contestant had overhead rostrum shots of their three whole, unnibbled and plated dishes with a lot of detailed pans and closeups and the like. This must have taken a while to shoot, and the food was clearly cold (the dulled surfaces where gleaming fat should be). But our two favourite burglars can’t have been tasting the food cold and congealed, surely? Even if they all finished at the same time that would give a big advantage to the contestant whose food was tasted first. So I reckon a) the clock on the wall is an illusion, and they stagger their finishing times and b) the plates you see on camera are from a dress rehearsal the day before, and they intercut them with shots of Gregg n’ John eating the actual food prepared in the final.

    Why was this distracting me, anyway? Bah. It was great.

  4. syllabubdobdee

    March 20, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    Yes we discussed this a little in this post and its comments: I can see why they don’t want to muddle the apparent directness of the final by adverting to the timing complexity, but actually I feel it’s a relevant (and unavoidable) obstacle, and would like to see them trying to build the front-facing fact of it into the competition we see (somehow!)


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