I feel, as someone who comments on food and all things cookery, that it’s not outside of my realm to comment on the new look Masterchef.
The Masterchef of my childhood Sunday afternoons was in a studio that lacked pizazz but was centred around the easiest way to film three people cook interesting food. The contestants were generally chintz-wearing, alice band-sporting gels from the home counties and men who looked like they’d eaten too many of their creme brulees. People whipped up duck a l’orange or whatever Delia or Gary Rhodes said was good at the time. Halloumi, rack of lamb and vichysoisse soup ruled supreme. Loyd Grossman wandered out the place drawling in his wondrous Anglo-American accent and people like Prue Leith made sensible, and notably quick, decisions about the basics of the contestant’s cooking. But this was back in the 90s and this was before X factor launched itself into our entire nation’s sensibilities.
The new Masterchef is less about cooking than hearing sob stories and seeing how long it takes people to fall apart. The Australian version of Masterchef, available to watch on reliable Sky channels, has always been a meaner and more vicious version but then they do speak their minds much more than we do here in England and they are also notably more wild in their cooking than we are, as a rule. The kitchen has turned into a stainless steel abatoir, a corner of the studio is now inhabited by tearful family and the length of time taken by Gregg Wallace and John Torode to announce anything has extended by a good 10 seconds.
Once upon a time, people used to cook a nice piece of meat and a couple of bits of veg followed by something that the WI would have been proud to call baking. Nowadays, every contestant thinks they’re the next Heston Blumenthal and produces a plate of something watery that looks like a snail’s trail and offal. They mix custard with oyster sauce and finish everything with pointless wisps of salad leaves that have been bred to be small and artistic but rarely do they show that they actually like cooking nice food. They are constantly praised for their excellent palates and their way of putting flavours together but surely it’s equally important to be able to poach an egg, cook a loin of venison and make your own pastry.
Saying all of this, I shall still watch it and I do love it but if only everything weren’t so hyped and emotional. Apparently Loyd Grossman has declared it to be ‘moronic’ and is grateful to have nothing more to do with it. Which is sad. People credit the original with creating the Jamie Olivers and Nigella Lawsons gracing our screens these days but once it was really something to be crowned a Masterchef. I may sound bitter and discouraging but I’ve applied for Masterchef 2012. I don’t imagine for a second that I’ll be interesting enough or have a successful enough story of grief or horror to be seen on screen but should I manage to scrape through then it would be great to see how it’s made. The entry form was pages and pages of questions about your life, shouldn’t it have more to do with cooking, so perhaps this is where the X factor style auditioning begins..