entertainment

'Why I'm breaking up with MasterChef.'

‘MasterChef, I’m sorry, but I think it’s time for us to take a break.’

I know it sounds a bit funny, but I think about cooking in one way or another from the moment I wake up to when I fall asleep. It’s no big surprise then that like millions of other eager home cooks, the show that had me dough-hooked from the start was a little gem called MasterChef Australia. You might have heard of it? Now at the pointy end of its seventh series – and dominating primetime – I can’t shake the feeling that we’ve grown apart.

MasterChef, I’m sorry, but I think it’s time for us to take a break. It’s not you; it’s me. Well, ok, it is you. While I still love cooking, this season’s “ordinary cooks cooking extraordinary food” are just a bit too virtuosic to relate to.

masterchef top 10 resize
This year’s top 10 are a little TOO good. Image via Facebook.

I know, I know. That my passion has waned could just be a case of the Seven Year Itch, a common phase in a long-term relationship. But in every other season when my partner would ask me what I’d do in the challenges I could imagine that I’d have had a pretty good bash at them (at least when it came to savory dishes; I’m rubbish at desserts).

Taste that horrible Bolognese and fix what’s wrong with it in half an hour. Done!

Reinvent a dish from your childhood. Are you kidding? Mum’s fish dish for sure!

Cook the perfect poached egg in five minutes. Give me three!

So what happened to us? I still remember all the reasons for falling in love in the first place, and most of those have only strengthened over time.

The first thing that caught my eye, and is the reason for our longevity, was the bromance between judges, Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston: a perfect recipe from the start (once they’d booted off Sarah Wilson as host after the first series). The judges’ obvious genuine affection and respect for each other rubs off on the contestants too, making it a reality show with an unusually warm and fuzzy vibe.

ADVERTISEMENT
The judges.
It’s not you guys, it’s me (and a little bit you).

Unlike Channel 7’s wildly popular My Kitchen Rules, which, frankly, makes me want to microplane my fingertips, MasterChef isn’t interested in shaping contestants’ personalities into easily recognisable archetypes – villains and victims, say – to be played out in storylines over the season.

Sure, we might not like all MasterChef’s contestants, but their personalities aren’t as important as the food they cook. While in My Kitchen Rules, the contestants don’t shut up long enough – constantly narrating the bleeding obvious – for us to notice their cooking. But as Gary, George and Matt keep reminding us, “it’s about who puts up the best dish.”

Some of the culinary highlights from the latest season (post continues after gallery):

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Most of all, though, why I – and I suspect many other lovers of cooking – swooned hard for MasterChef was that it took talented, rough-diamond home cooks and polished them into something resembling a chef.

This is key: we followed their “journeys”, watched every MasterClass (no longer a stand-alone episode and mostly online) and felt as if we’d been polished along with them. So, in the end, it wasn’t too difficult to imagine that given the same chances we too could become “extraordinary” home cooks.

Ugh. Stop showing off, MasterChef.

Blooming marvellous @darrenpurchese! #MasterChefAU #blackaprons #bestdishever #kitchenmagic

A video posted by MasterChef Australia (@masterchefau) on

ADVERTISEMENT

The standard of cooking and pressure tests in this series though have become so extreme (think Guillaume Brahimi’s Jewel of the Sea or Anna Polyviou’s Carrot Cake) they require skills and prior knowledge from contestants that are anything but “ordinary.”

Who can forget Julie Goodwin, the winner of the first series and pin-up girl of budget-friendly cooking for a family? She beat out Poh Ling Yeow in the first season’s finale with, among other things, a sage and garlic chicken dish. No doubt yummy, it sounds pretty pedestrian compared to this season’s family man, Matt Hokinson’s “restrained” reinvention of the Sunday roast: macadamia stuffed chicken roulade with pommes dauphine and pumpkin purée.

Undoubtedly our knowledge of cooking has grown along with the show, but this season’s contestants arrived a little too pre-polished – already a good way along their food “journey.” So even as a very eager home cook, it’s now impossible for me to imagine myself up there.

MacaronTowerMasterchefFEATURE
Po, Zumbo and the Macaron Tower.

This season makes Adriana Zumbo’s macaron tower from season two look like, well, a piece of cake.

Needless to say, my partner has asked me very few times this series what I would do in the challenges. We both know I’d be a stunned mess in the pantry, probably crying.

MasterChef, I’ll always have a place for you in my heart, but if cooking for you requires having a spray booth, this just isn’t going to work.

Kate Harper is a freelance writer based in Melbourne. She has been a regular film reviewer for ABC Radio, and film and tv columnist for Killing Your Darlings.

Have you been watching MasterChef this season? Is it out of control?

For more on Australian TV, take a look here:

It’s a MasterChef scandal. Alert the authorities!

The 7 best moments from the night women took over Q&A.

MastChef fans are mad because one contestant cooks too damn well.

Why one Home and Away star felt the need to explain her body size.

FROM OUR NETWORK
00:00 / ???