So said Friedrich Nietzsche. He also uttered the words: “A pair of powerful spectacles has sometimes sufficed to cure a person in love.” This is certainly a more relevant comment for Masterchef Australia’s Alice, a delightfully kooky teacher looking to move into the culinary world.
In an America’s Next Top Model (ANTM) spin, the final ten are flown to a foreign land to forage for local ingredients, work a shift in a restaurant and cook for a legendary chef or two. On a recent episode, their first task was to cook in the grounds of the beautiful Villa Aurelia (O RLY?) for non other than Massimo Bottura from the three Michellin starred Osteria Francescana. Alice, quite frankly, lost it. Not screaming, wobbly-legged nuts as greeted Jamie Oliver but our gal proper lip trembled her way through the introductions, teary eyed at meeting her food hero. “There are heroes you meet and it’s a near religious experience. To meet Massimo … it’s like meeting Nietzche!” Bless.
Alice and Wade did very well with their squid ink gnocchi and artichoke (Massimo: “ah, you’re thinking in monochrome – I LOVE IT!”) but Andy and Kylie fared less well with the coratella (Massimo: “hmmm, it’s not touching my soul”).
This was just one of the many highlights of this Aussie show and I encourage anyone who can to give it a whirl. I was recently frustrated when searching for images using the words ‘professional masterchef’ only to be shown a photo of this year’s Australian, amateur champion. I HATE THE INTERNET. Only once in four years have I had the opportunity to spend three months in blissful ignorance, not knowing who wins the MC crown. SIGH.
Anyway, it’s made me realise how far behind we are in the UK and wonder how each contestant is greeted by the press and public. Are they given as much prominence as reality stars are in our tabloids? I had no idea of the love-rattery going on in season one with my favourite Chris Badenoch and young Julia so I’m not aware of who the popular cooks are or why some are less celebrated. But it’s nice to come to my own conclusions.
I have also come to acknowledge the existence of ‘good’ reality TV and ‘bad’ reality TV. Are we classing the Masterchef brand as a reality show? I think ‘yes’ and I admit to only reaching this conclusion recently. While I certainly watched the creation of Girls Aloud back in the day and saw Will Young crowned Pop Idol, I have never watched X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent. I weened myself off ANTM, Big Brother and I’m a Celeb long ago so I’ve been feeling pretty darned smug about my new, middle class obsession with all things food.
MC OZ brings something new to the kitchen table. It brings extreme emotions and probably for the first time I’m of the impression that this current batch are ‘contestants’ rather than an average Joe who wants a career change or loves to cook. Everyone is so good talking to camera. A flirty glance to the food critic, a silly joke to the judge. Get me in MCK and I will be red faced, grunting answers at John and generally being unphotogenic and a little grumpy. There is also the ‘PICK ME, ME, ME’ that I hate in this genre of telly. Thankfully the BBC removed the passion test from our version as that was a colossal waste of time. “They didn’t really show me enough passion there, do they REALLY want this?” Yeah, maybe? Not sure I want to spend 18 hours a day in a sweaty kitchen being sworn at for minimum wage but a few appearances on Saturday Kitchen wouldn’t go a miss. Of course, winning the whole shebang means you can bypass all of that yuckiness and head straight to the publishers and local architect. While at this weekend’s BBC Good Food Show there were demonstrations from Shelina Permalloo but also cooks who didn’t make it to the final stages.
The Great British Bake Off is very much in this vein. Heightened drama, book deals and the chance to hang out with Mel and Sue. Cooking doesn’t get cooler than this.
Cookery is the new comedy is the new rock n roll.