Yay! MasterChef is back on our screens. It’s one of the rare occasions when Husband and I will unite in our viewing to judge based on presentation and the facial expressions of Greg Wallace and John Torode as to whether someone is a culinary genius or complete and utter fool. Other criteria for assessment are how good-looking they are and whether they come across as a dick. Which is how I knew Tim Anderson was going to win as soon as he stepped up to the hob in 2011. I loved Tim.
It seems incredible that it’s now in its 10th year. That’s 10 years of Greg and John shouting at each other about how ‘cooking doesn’t get tougher than this!’ still in an uncomfortable, forced way. And the thing is, its standards have got higher and higher. I’ve got a cookbook based on the early series. I can actually cook some of the dishes for myself. But now, by round one alone you’ve got people offering up macro herbs, froths and foam. I have a kitchen, not a science lab.
Which is why I think MasterChef needs a bit of a reality check. We’ve had MasterChef the Professionals, Celebrity MasterChef, Junior MasterChef and MasterChef Goes Large (although mostly it was Greg and John who got large from all the food sampling). Why not MasterChef Gets Real?
Round one is the ‘Calling Card’ round. Contestants turn up at the studio and cook a well-rehearsed dish that inevitably involves intricate playing strategies and multiple pans in order to reflect their personalities.
In MasterChef Gets Real round one would require contestants to cook the dish they’d serve up as a standard evening meal. Nothing too pretentious. Just good, honest food. I’d serve my Cottage Pie, which no one can eat without going for seconds.
Round two is the ‘Invention Test.’ Rather than choosing between mystery boxes of either sweet or savoury food; food that invariably comes from the more specialised aisles of the supermarket and deli counters, in MasterChef Gets Real the challenge would be to come up with something from a realistic fridge and store cupboard, reflecting one of those days when you can’t get to the shops and everyone needs feeding. Inevitably it would use either pasta or rice. Contestants would have the further challenge of having to check the ‘Use By’ dates on dodgy-looking packets at the back of the cupboard.
In proper MasterChef contestants have to come up with a two-course dinner to serve to previous winners whilst Greg and John heckle nearby. Nerve-wracking.
In MasterChef Gets Real contestants would need to cook a two-course meal for their family. Except little Johnny would have only just got back from football club and little Jane would need taking to gymnastics in an hour. Various children would pop in and out of the kitchen to whinge about what was cooking or to whine ‘I’m hungry. When’s tea ready?’ The other half might wander in to prod at a pan with a wooden spoon before returning to Facebook.
Bonus points would be available in this round for the following:
– Multi-tasking the cooking with putting the washing/feeding the baby/clearing out the kitchen cupboards;
– Having the entire family seated at the table at the same time;
– Everyone putting their tablets/phones down and removing their headphones;
– Everyone willingly eating the same food without complaint.
Unfortunately at this point some of the contestants would be eliminated, presented with a box of ready meals as they go.
The taste test. As it stands, contestants currently have to recreate John Torode’s signature dishes. Whilst he watches over them being all sarky about their efforts. They then get a food critic in to guest judge their choice of dish.
In MasterChef Gets Real, however, the challenge would be to recreate the taste of chain family restaurants so that the picky eaters of the family, who will happily tuck into a Nandos, McDonalds or Pizza Hut will eat similar offerings at home for far less expense.
Part 2, the kids would invite their most food intolerant friend round for tea. Those eliminated would be the ones who end up in A&E when a forgotten-about allergy comes to light.
The remaining contestants would be through to the semi-finals where they would be presented with increasingly frantic challenges, including:
– Providing the children with a packed-lunch that passes government healthy eating standards, whilst still appealing to the kids;
– Catering for a kids’ party whilst simultaneously entertaining 30 5-year-olds;
– Cooking four different dishes to cater for a host of faddy-eaters, all to be ready at the same time;
– Mass-catering for the school fete with inadequate equipment and an ever-increasing queue. Without swearing;
– Barbecuing during a torrential downpour.
The Finalists would end the competition creating a Christmas dinner for 16, including their harshest critics: the in-laws! All preferences would have to be catered for whilst trying to find enough chairs to seat everyone and keeping their personal Prosecco stash a secret from everyone else. Along with keeping their opinions to themselves and not launching into a drunken tirade about ‘Why It’s Always Down to Me’ and bursting into tears when the gravy doesn’t thicken.
As for the prize? There would be no prize. No book deal or spot on a daytime magazine show or leg-up to starting a restaurant. Instead it would just be the same relentless slog, day in day out. If lucky, the winner might find someone offering to do the washing up once in a while, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Still, at least there’s always dessert.