Have we been Masterchef’d?

Reality TV has its shares of ups and downs. Some of us are massive fans of the ‘au naturale’ but there comes a point where we get tired of watching similar concepts, tones and plots. Yes there are your MTV specials which revolve around the fallacy of love, and other extremes like those buxom Kardashians who will sell anything in their family to get viewer numbers….. Oh I’m sorry, you’re a fan aren’t you?
But there are some shows that we don’t get tired of; you learn something off them and most often you keep coming back for more.
Cooking shows. Yes I said it, we all love food! Even you, the “I’m so healthy ones” out there, we all dig into the carbs because we’re human, and good food to me is paramount to being happy

The foodie that I am, I will confess, when I do have the time, I will spend time watching the likes of Nigella Lawson, the voluptuous ‘British food-porn artist‘ who, lets admit it, will probably make Lauki and Kaddu sound interesting, Jamie Oliver and how easy it is to apparently serve restaurant style food and even that tall Aussie ‘Take Home Chef’ chap.  Like many others, I do believe cooking is much more of an art then the regular rather absurd brush strokes on a canvas; an art which is far less appreciated in every aspect and I do find it extremely bizarre when people conjure these farfetched stories of ‘inspiration’ and ‘muses’ only to sound more convincing.  Ask them to make the identical painting once more, and a majority of them will suffer. Chefs on the other hand will reproduce the same plate all day. It is truly unfortunate though, animals like us devour such beauty in the matter of minutes after someone has created this landscape of textures and flavours with such precision, technique and maybe some love

One may wonder where this culinary love comes from. Now I wouldn’t go to the extent of calling myself a critic but I’d like to think that my family background allows me to at least talk about food. Presently though, this very family, their apparent connoisseur friends and fellow hoteliers cannot stop talking about how one such show that has literally caused a stir in the industry and might possibly change the way food is looked at in this country. A franchise nonetheless, the Australian version of this show is one of the highlights of a family’s day!

So here lies my question. Have we all truly been MASTERCHEF’D?

Believe it or not, those people in the masterchef kitchens and that wonderful house are ‘amateur’ cooks, or whatever the definition of Australian Amateur might be. What these so called amateurs put on a plate is tantalizing, jaw dropping really. Yes, the produce is superior from what is available locally here in our country but the fact that home cooks are able to plate up professionally, without tarnishing the aesthetics of the ingredient as well as replicate and sometimes beat professional, experienced sous chefs does not only depend on ability, I think it transcends from the cultural infusion in the country and its consequent exposure to cuisines and harmony with cultures and different nationalities.

Now am I saying, we need more foreign nationals to compete with, to make our home food better looking? Maybe not, but the format of shows like these allow for artistic expression through competition as well learning (something that may not be seen in the American, more aggressive counterpart). Another example is the much loved, Masterchef Juniors… ahh, I can see many teenagers and early twenty kids cringe when I type these words. Why? Because while we were studying and being juvenile, here we see 20 toddlers with highly developed palettes and  this passion for not only eating good food, re-creating courses that would put us to shame. In fact, quite honestly, I wonder what I did through my childhood…

So where is this borne from? Produce most certainly, but if some can afford exotic produce then why can’t they cook? Or is it say… cultural? I mean if they can cook, why can’t our kids?

On average in an Indian household, children do not cook. Yes there will be the exceptions, but it breaks away from the regular dal(pulses),roti(breads), sabzi(vegetables) that is cooked by the mothers and the house maharaj.
So this simple cooking isn’t fascinating right?
Which grandparent wants their 10yr old to make roti’s?
How many children are fascinated with Aloo gobi and paneer do pyaza? They all want the pastas and pizzas, which let’s face it, not too many mothers and maids have either cooked or know how to..

So yes, it would be safe to say it is slightly cultural. Yes the Indian culture is largely more dependent, and therefore you depend on the maid servants and the ‘elders’ don’t want their laadla child slogging it in the kitchen.
Now for argument’s sake let’s even through in temperature… Do you wanna be stuck over a stove for over an hour cooking tadkas and curries at 40C? Thought as much…

While we may not be able to have the resources or the structure that supports this, somehow this show has caused a stir even in the most basic of households. The Masterchef franchise runs in over 50 nations hosted and judged by the countries better known chefs. Now I’d be lying if I said I watched the Indian version, but there is a large population who does and wants to learn better ‘Indian Cooking’ and maybe even the odd ‘Continental’, Italian meal. So there is a market. The Australian version has gripped audiences in India, so it’s obviously milking the franchises the best possible way!

The 9PM slot on our teles has resulted in this excessive eating and drooling syndrome. Suddenly, our roti sabzi’s taste better or so our eyes make them out to be. In most cases, the kitchen keepers are now experimenting and getting better with what they cook.
This quasi phenomena, bordering an epidemic of sorts has hit this country so hard, it’s actually making ‘professional’ chefs look rather silly. With their array of imported produce, they are simply not able to produce food as good as what you and I get to see almost every day.

The regular Toms, Dicks and Harry’s are now asking the right questions and expecting knowledgeable answers.
In restaurants where the average meal would run into a Rs.2000-4000($50-80) one would assume they know what they’re doing. Now, I may be the exception who looks at cutlery placements, ambiance and layouts of the restaurants, there is still a large community, influenced by these shows who are asking the right questions:
How will this item be cooked?
Do you poach the chicken?
Can you add a different ingredient?
Suddenly, we know things about food, because we see it on the tele, and that is becomes the expectation. Critique on the other hand is pure human nature, what the show has enabled is some intelligent critiquing and not the regular, ‘ I didn’t like the food, it was salty’.
We have gotten into details of the item we cook, we understand whether the meat has been marinated enough, or if it’s under or over cooked, or whether a different cut on the vegetable will add texture.

Now, will it influence chefs and restauranteurs to produce food that they charge us large amounts for? Maybe, in fact hopefully. I can probably name between 5-10 fine dining restaurants that are really just all faff, and depending on what city you live in, the idea of eating in this obnoxiously expensive diners when they actually serve you rubbish food doesn’t appeal to my palette or my wallet. The restaurant industry , however risky, aims to reach heights of other countries and I for one certainly hope it does.

So it all comes down to this. Do I want to be served a beef-bourguignoin everyday for dinner? Maybe not, but I’d certainly want to have the option to, as well as maybe even develop the interest to know how to cook it. However this works out to be, watching the show might solve ‘the interest’ part of my concern, cooking it however, maybe ill leave George and Gary to help me out with that.

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