MasterChef Review

Did you watch the reality show Masterchef?  Yes, another cooking competition, as if there weren’t enough already.  Let’s see, there’s Top Chef, Chopped, Hell’s Kitchen, Iron Chef, BBQ Pitmasters and dozens of others if you include the lineup on the Food Network.

MasterChef is another one of those Gordon Ramsay concoctions on the Fox network.  His mug is everywhere and he seems to be quite popular, not to mention successful with a string of world class restaurants all over the globe.   MasterChef is like a cross between Survivor, Chopped and Hell’s Kitchen without all the theatrics.   The purpose of the show is to find the best amateur chef in America.  The chefs cook for Ramsay and two other judges.  Along the way, the chefs are given challenges and find themselves cooking for guests from the culinary world – critics, chefs, restaurateurs and the like.   One by one, the contestants are eliminated until the champion is left standing.

The first season of MasterChef featured teachers, students, bartenders,  software engineers, a doctor and a construction worker.  In the end, Whitney, a 22 year old student from Mississippi won.  She was clearly a Ramsay favorite from the beginning.  She specialized in pastry and good ole down home southern style cooking with a sprinkle of Cajun influence.  That someone so young could cook so well with such skill was a bit of a shock to Ramsay.  He was truly impressed with her culinary gift.  The runner up was David, a software engineer from Boston.  Both seemed highly skilled as if they had worked in the industry for years or had attended a first class culinary institute.  That they were amateurs was truly amazing.

Ramsay is much better behaved and civilized on MasterChef.  There’s no kicking the waste bin, no “shut it down”, “you donkey”, or intimidating in your face “get a grip” moments.  He’s critical, but constructive, firm but encouraging.

Though I liked the show, I have some suggestions for the next season.  One, there are too many contestants.  I’d audition maybe 20 and pick 10 for the show.  Second, I’d be careful to screen out anyone with culinary school experience, or those who had worked as a chef before; maybe they did, I don’t know,  but it is important for the contestants to really be amateur chiefs.

I liked the judging format, but I think Ramsay may have had too much influence.  My gut is that the other two judges preferred David’s food based on their reaction to the final cook-off.  David, however, made the mistake of preparing a Beef Wellington, Ramsay’s signature dish, and not cooking it to “puhfection”.  He also served an appetizer that had too much jalepeño juice for Ramsay though the other judges loved it.  Whitney’s main dish was a simple 7 minute pan fried chicken over a bed of greens.  With 15 minutes or so to go, she dropped her fried chicken on the floor and had to make another one in just 7 minutes time.  With seconds to spare, she plated the chicken, not knowing whether it was cooked through.  Ramsay warned that if the chicken was pink, they could not eat it.  And it was not pink; it was “puhfectly” cooked.

All 3 judges cast a vote for a winner, but my guess is that Gordon’s vote was the one that counted.