I first wrote about the television programme Masterchef in December 2015, just as the professional series was coming to a close (you can read the post here). This was the “year of the blob” in which the one must-have kitchen item every contestant needed in order to produce the best-dressed plate was a squeezy bottle with which to decorate the dish with little blobs of sauce.
When the series started again in March of this year, I came up with the idea of a Masterchef bingo card with which you could play along. The card contained the ingredients, techniques and phrases which I thought would be ubiquitous based on previous series. However, sitting down to watch the programme and to play along with the card, I found there were some episodes when I could barely cross off a word on the card, let alone get a whole line completed. One episode mid-series did not feature a single item on the card and I never managed to complete the entire card over an episode.
So what does this mean? Does it mean the show has become less pretentious and clichéd, and replaced the ‘foams’, ‘airs’ and paint-brushed plates with just good quality, honest cooking in which a sauce is called a sauce and not a jus or a coulis? I suspect that this is not the case, it is just that in food, like in everything, fashions change. The most popular word on the bingo card by far this year was ‘puree’, with it featuring in almost every single episode. Seemingly purees are not just for babies anymore, but a ubiquitous item on a posh plate of nosh. The most popular ingredient was beetroot, with honeycomb – so popular in previous series – barely getting a look-in. And amazingly, gone were the contestants presenting their plates with the single-word order “enjoy” but they actually managed more often than not to say “I hope you enjoy it” or just simply “thank you”. Also, hardly anyone declared themselves to be “gutted” when their dish didn’t turn out as well as expected or when they had to leave the show. The bingo card would have been more successful with the words ‘tuille’, ‘crumb’ and ‘charred’ – the latter being a new craze which seems to have taken over the cooking world with far too much aplomb for my liking.
The series has now finished; I was away for the last week with no access to a television, so have had to catch up online. I won’t give the game away in case anyone else is in the same position, but the final three were all excellent and the winner was a very well-deserved one. But I did feel that the series was far too drawn out again. Although the heats were fairly to the point, once it got down to the finals there were some pretty pointless episodes that just seemed to be padding. Like the week when the final four went to Mexico and cooked street-food, then in a restaurant, then producing a dinner for the British Ambassador and guests. An entire episode was spent on this jaunt, which had nothing to do with the competition as no-one was eliminated and they all just seemed to have a jolly time for jolly’s sake. Likewise, there was an episode in which they produced food for the “Chef’s table”, a dinner at which some chefs came and ate their food but again which had no bearing on the competition. I couldn’t help wondering as well whether these esteemed “Michelin-starred chefs” might have their noses put out of joint ever so slightly – after all, these were rank amateurs producing top quality restaurant food and therefore doing their jobs seemingly easily and without years of training. With all this extraneous cooking the ‘final’ has gone from one hour-long episode, to four hour-long episodes in one week, requiring considerable commitment from the viewer to stick with it to seeing the winner crowned Masterchef champion.
After the last episode it was announced that the ‘celebrity’ version would be stating in the summer. I just wonder whether this programme really does have legs to run and run, or whether it is wilting like a charred lettuce leaf and should be consigned to the food waste compost bin? I’d be interested to know what you think – have you got bored with it too, or will you avidly watch another series?