Marco’s Kitchen Burnout is long finished, yet the post on that has been my most recent here for over a month. It’s not that I haven’t been watching any TV, it’s just that I’ve been uninspired to write about it. There are some recordings from weeks ago on the IQ that I saved there so I could write them up, but… it just isn’t happening. Here’s why.
Unlike the previous two seasons, I’m not watching this every night. When the cast list was announced I was really looking forward to tuning in. The presence of two (some people have suggested more, but Billy and Mat were the ones I had read) food bloggers and George in the same space promised a volatile mix. The launch publicity indicated a return to the “basics”, which I misinterpreted to mean “this lot have a really firm grasp on the basics of cooking so will be presenting a high standard of food”, rather than “we’ve had to teach them how to separate eggs”. My level of frustration is such that I only watch now when Reality Raver asks if I’ll recap1. Otherwise, I read her site to keep in touch with how things are going in the Masterchef kitchen. It’s not about food, it’s about drama and manipulation. But it’s also about influencing how people talk about food, and how new Food TV is framed. Which brings me to…
There are obviously people out there who get something out of this show – it’s the number one post on this site and my blog stats take a leap at around 4.25 when her show finishes. Justine is a direct product of Masterchef and her show picks up where that leaves off. Every product is strategically placed, every ingredient is described as “beautiful” and recipes are presented in a vague manner that I can only assume is a deliberate tactic to drive people to the web to continue being bombarded by advertising. I’ve watched it a few times, mainly after seeing outraged tweets from athena_here, and I haven’t been persuaded to alter my original assessment. In a recent episode in which Justine made chile con carne, she dissed “prepared” spice mixes, but used pre-ground sponsor product to “mix” her own. I would have been far more convinced of the flavour improvement over pre-mix had she toasted whole spices and ground them – it’s not that difficult.
Secret Meat Business
I was really looking forward to this one and I do need to sit down with a clear head to give it a proper go. Adrian Richardson won my heart when I first saw him in Jamie’s Kitchen Australia – he came across as a wonderful mentor to a young man who seemed to really thrive under his care. I have watched a couple of episodes of the show but I haven’t sat down to watch it, if you can understand the distinction. I was disappointed that the “beautiful” virus has spread to Richardson. Seriously, what does it even mean in relation to food? There are dozens of adjectives to describe flavour, texture, quality… “Beautiful” is meaningless, particularly on television where we can see what is being described and can make our own judgements on superficial appearance. So, sorry Adrian, but I’ll have to wait until my cliché meter has been recalibrated to ignore “beautiful” before I can be objective about the show.
The Cook and The Chef
I have been watching reruns of this on Lifestyle Food and I wish TV executives would sit down to watch, as Maggie and Simon serve two purposes simultaneously. One is that they showcase a diverse range of ingredients, use them in creative ways, and share techniques and tips from a vantage point of being experts at what they do. The second is that each episode is a masterclass in how a good food show should look. I want more of this. Perhaps Secret Meat Business fulfills the brief – I promise I will try to overcome my aversion to meaningless adjectives in case I’m missing a gem here.
It does make me wonder what I look for in food television. Like all things, it’s a matter of preference. I prefer my food television to offer something new: a new cuisine, new techniques, new recipes, a new point of view. Not all of those things in the one show, necessarily, but retreads just don’t cut it for me. For people who are already armpit deep in sustainable living, the River Cottage shows might be a bit ho-hum, but I am captivated by Hugh F-W’s enthusiasm for his various projects.
Whilst we are not all perfectly satisfied with our lives, becoming a chef is not a universal aspiration. Perhaps it’s my age – I learn from people whose experience I trust, not a blow in from a casting call for ‘x-look-y-age-group, must love food’. If it’s a competition to find good cooks, I want it to be about the food they prepare, not the hoops they jump through to get the sponsor’s product on a plate. I’ll restrict my banging on about the superiority of “real” Masterchef (UK, natch) to this. When I first fell in love with that show, it was for people who were good cooks. Perhaps you know people like them – you’re invited to their place for dinner and you count the days down until the date because they always put on lovely food and you have a spectacularly good time. Contestants knew the format of their challenge and were able to showcase their skill. I can’t remember talk of food dreams and journeys and wanting to quit [insert job here] for a life in food. That was the beauty of the show, and – even though it has evolved and recent contestants have been looking for a new career – participating in the program does not require an employer who’ll grant an extended leave, or unnecessary isolation from friends and family. It’s about cooking.
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1. So, yes, I’ve been writing… just doing it more there and on Les Vaches du Tour then here.