One of my favourite programmes in Masterchef, and I avidly watch every series, amateur, professional and celebrity. Although I love the cooking aspect of it, and the different sorts of food we see, and recipes and preparation we watch, the thing which I probably enjoy most is the personalities.
The amateur series is on at the moment; as usual it started with a group of ordinary people who are gradually whittled down through heats of different challenges, cooking their own dishes, the dreaded invention test, challenges in professional kitchens and restaurants, as well as a really difficult challenge – this time cooking on a battleship in a howling gale! As the series progresses, we get to find out more about the contestants, not so much their private lives, at the moment it’s just mother-of-four so and so, company director someone else, research chemist a.n.other etc, but we find out aspects of their personality and how they manage to get to grips with the different things they are expected to do.
I’m sure all us viewers have our favourites, the one whose food we really like, the ones who seem to be interesting characters, those who are nervous, those who are cocky in a cheeky way. Many people also follow the programme on various forums and social media sites, where the programmes are discussed and commented on.
I shouldn’t be shocked, I know I shouldn’t, but it amazes me how unkind some of the comments are in these forums and sites, and how plain ridiculous. We the viewers don’t actually taste the food, so we can not comment on whether a dish is better or worse than another; the two judges, one a professional chef, one a foodie who knows a tremendous amount about food have the food there in front of them – we don’t!
In a way comments on the food and dishes isn’t so bad, but comments on the contestants is nonsensical – we don’t actually know them, we only see what the editors of the film allow us to see – and the different cooks are almost labelled, the dizzy one, the calm one, the eccentric one, the messy one… and we are shown ‘clips’ reinforcing those characteristics. They have to cook for sometimes up to three hours, they have the judges wandering around talking to them, camera crews, someone asking them questions… the programme is only an hour – sometimes only half an hour, so what we see has been highly edited and controlled. We don’t really know if a contestant is silly or stupid, nice or rude, or over-confident… we have no idea!
Whenever I see a nasty comment I just reflect on how shallow and thoughtless the person making it is – and if anything it makes me like the contestant more!