Let's not kid ourselves: Masterchef is in no form a reality television show.

Last night my dinner consisted of chicken and rice leftovers I’d made from a Jamie Oliver recipe the night before that. It cost around $12 to make, tasted excellent with some coriander and a green salad, and its final remnants are probably what I’ll eat for dinner again tonight.

From the information above, it’s clear that I’m not about to be inducted into the “Australia’s best home cooks” hall of fame any time soon. But I also don’t think I’m bad cook either. I understand seasonal eating, know the difference between a consommé and a jus, and I even won two blue ribbons for my baking efforts at a local show as a kid.

But even with all of that under my young professional belt, I still found myself watching Masterchef over the past few nights and wanting to know how what I’m seeing on screen is in any way a realistic representation of modern home cooking.

The entry dish of lobster, Asian broth and sambal by contestant Harry Foster. Source: Masterchef 2016 / Channel 10.

For starters, the ingredients used do not resemble the average budget or pantry.

Grilled lobster served with an Asian chicken broth and coriander sambal (broth made from scratch, obviously).

Organic duck breast and wild mushroom risotto.

Rosemary skewered lamb back strap with roasted beetroot, tomato, figs, feta and a merlot reduction.


Chocolate pave, popcorn ice-cream, salted caramel and peanut.

Pardon my language, but what the fuck is a pave?

Behold: contestant Karmen Lu's chocolate pave. Source: Masterchef 2016 / Channel 10

Who has ever found themselves thinking, "oh, my friend Helen is coming over for a coffee, I might whip up a dessert treat" and produced something as elaborate as fallen ice cream cones for said visit.

And no, for the record a fallen ice cream is not a scoop of Neapolitan you've rescued from the kitchen linoleum and deemed still good, it's a dish with seven components and 25 ingredients to it that's artfully spilled across a plate.

And before you go telling me I'm some basic bitch who clearly doesn't know as much as she thinks she does, remember that these were entry dishes. Not final week competition creations, but food contestants made just to secure a place on the show.

If this was being made at home you'd never eat before midnight and would be dirt poor within a week.


The entry dish titled  "A Walk In My Japanese Garden" by contestant Jimmy Wong. Source: Masterchef 2016 / Channel 10

The entry level knowledge seems so vast there's almost no point in watching. Contestants know how to chop, how to plate, how to master the hardest of cooking techniques.

But on the rare occasion their near-expert knowledge slips, boy oh boy do we find out about it.

On Monday night one hopeful contestant was roasted by judges Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris for being so naive as to use pre-made vegetable stock.

"What do we make stock from?" Mehigan asked the man angrily.

"We make stock from chicken," he responded meekly before collapsing into a hyperventilating mess.

While the shock of their refined palettes being subjected to such a lowly pre-packaged liquid may be justified among chef circles, they're not eating food from chefs. They're eating food from cooks. Home cooks.


Following "the journey" as it's referred to in reality TV loving circles, used to be the fun part.

You could compare a contestant's first dish to their final and see a clear progression, but now it just feels contrived and tired, with contestants coming across as having dedicated months to simply mimicking the dishes of their food heroes rather than really wanting to create something themselves.


The entry dish of Buffalo rump with beetroot and horseradish cream by contestant Anastasia Zolotarev. Source: Masterchef 2016 / Channel 10.

And really, when it comes down to it, all of this is about the undercurrent of exclusion that now runs through the show, masked by the cover of one word: "reality".

So in reality, does anyone actually think that Julie Goodwin or Adam Liaw would get on this season if they applied?

While I appreciate that because of shows like Masterchef the average of home cooking in the country has improved, it did so through people like Goodwin and Liaw, who would likely now be cast aside by the show that they helped make it what it is in the first place.

Left: Season 1 winner Julie Goodwin. Right: Season 2 winner Adam Liaw. Source: Facebook.

Food is now playing a huge part of Australia's evolving cultural identity, and that it's truly a great thing. We produce some of the world's best food and that should be celebrated on our tables every night. But don't call people who dedicate obscene portions of their lives to being the best the representative of all of us sitting at home watching.

They're not and the formula is going cold.