A reality television competition without a prize, imagine that? No Million pound recording contract, no guarantee that you will break the top 40 or have the Christmas #1. No leaving a house full of strangers with the chance of £100,000 or spending a week cooking food for a bunch of weirdos for £1000. Well MasterChef is exactly such a show and that is part of what makes it such an amazing draw. A show for the love of cooking and little else.
I’m not going to pretend that I have been watching as an avid fan since the show relaunched in 2005 because I haven’t. In fact it didn’t appear on my radar until 2010 when my friend Rob Carmen suggested it to me. Since then I have been hooked. Reality TV is such a bore these days that viewers are flocking in droves. It seems that every week the entertainment news is filled with stories about Simon Cowell holding crisis talks in order to bring back views or how The Voice will be changing to keep viewers’ interest after the chairs stop swirling. Let’s not even mention Big Brother, after all no one else seems to since its exodus to Channel 5.
But MasterChef is going in the opposite direction, growing from strength to strength and I think I know why. Where as everything else on television that features real people feels so exceptionally fake, MasterChef is all about celebrating talent. Because no matter how pretty you are or how well you endear yourself to the viewing public, there is only one thing that will keep you going: a good plate of food. It’s as simple as that, one bad plate could see you going home.
It can be heartbreaking to watch at times because you can’t help but invest in the competitors. When they bring out a plate that looks like your home cooking on its best day you get a sinking feeling in your gut that immediately tells you they aren’t going to be back next week. At the same time it’s exhilarating when they serve something amazing and that is what brings you back week after week.
For those uninitiated I will run down how this year’s show will work. The contestants are all amateur chefs who have already been selected by the producers on merit alone, not because it would make good TV to watch them fail. Next comes the heats, three nights a week for three weeks. Each heat begins with five chefs who will cook a meal for the judges as the first round. Even at this early stage you can begin to get a feel for who isn’t going to make it. Next comes a challenge. In the past these have included a taste test, cooking a disk by taste or sight alone and identifying ingredients blind folded.
At the end of this two people will be sent home and three will do a shift in a professional kitchen. Finally they have an hour to cook two amazing dishes, this can be the tense point because here they are under the watchful eye of Gregg and John, the judges. Finally in a nail biting line up someone is going home and two make it through to the semi-finals. The first episode of this series has already got me going against my basic instincts and I’m already rooting for Emily. Cooking doesn’t get harder than this.
And that’s as much as I can tell you about the way the show will work as every year it’s different, but past challenges have included cooking for Taiwan’s royal family, serving the entire cast and crew of Merlin and cooking crocodile in the Australian afternoon heat. The food is amazing and the talent is all there but the show has more than that to offer. Gregg and John provide the shows constant. Gregg’s love of all things sweet, and championing of the buttery biscuit base is set off against John’s stoic expressions as he swallows something awful. It’s a major part of the show’s charm.
I love it and I love every minute of it. For a whole year myself and two friends did MasterChef night, and if we all still lived in the centre of Leeds I’d like to think that we would still be doing it now. I think that’s another reason why MasterChef still holds such an amazing place in my heart. So come on Shane William Germany and Flora Renz, move back to the centre of Leeds?