Masterchef Recap: What Dreams May Come

It’s hard to believe it’s been less than a year since Masterchef left us with that familiar empty ache inside, after the 2016 finale in which whoever it was won. It seems like so much longer, especially with the time dilation effect of MKR. But thank the gods, here we are again, ready to enjoy some world-class cooking transmitted to us via an electronic medium that makes it impossible for us to judge anything that is cooked, which will in no way prevent us from judging it.

Obviously we begin with emotive piano music and a slow-motion montage of some of this year’s contestants at home and work. They all love cooking and are pursuing dreams and going on journeys and obviously hate their lives with a deep and abiding passion.

Also later on they’re going to go to Japan.

But before we can go to Japan, or even get stuck into some hardcore emotional manipulation, obviously we have to choose our contestants. And that means gathering a huge crowd of amateur cooks and their families, lured to a large industrial shed in much the same way that a psychotic mass murderer might attract his victims. The crowd enters the building and feverishly awaits the arrival of the Judges. The Masters. The Best People In The World.

And here they come! Gary, looking fit and jolly. George, looking energetic and exploitative of low-income workers. And Matt, looking like a man with a big white beard. This is messing with the Masterchef formula Matt. You are playing with fire. Is Australia ready for a reality show judge whose beard is an entirely different colour to his hair? Only time will tell.

The judges now talk for several hours to the contestants without saying anything much. George says “blood sweat AND tears”, as if trying to emphasise to the amateurs that if they don’t cry, they won’t get anywhere.

The rules are simple: the amateurs make their signature dish. If all three judges say yes, they’re in. If all three judges say no, they can piss off back where they came from. If one judge says yes, they come back tomorrow to try again and elongate the process as much as possible. If George says maybe, they can offer to do unpaid overtime to get a chance.

The first to cook is Michelle, or “Mish”. Everyone applauds as they watch her approach the bench and pray that she fails. She is going to make a golden ball, which popped into her head one day — this surprised her as usually the balls that pop into her head are a totally different colour. She makes the golden balls by the devilishly clever method of making some balls, and then making them golden.

Next to cook is Pia…I think she said Pia. She might have said, “Peeyeah!” She’s here with a ridiculously large number of family members, including her husband and her children and her mother who is Italian, so we’re in for a lot of nonna talk this season, and a lot of agonised soliloquys about passing on recipes to the next generation. It’s going to be hell. Pia’s mum has told Pia many useful cooking tips, such as, “There’s no such thing as one spoon or two spoons.” What does this mean? Who knows? But I guess what we can take from it is that Pia’s mother believes that spoons never occur in groups of less than three.

Evidence

It is time for Mish’s golden ball to be tasted. George is so amazed by it he starts talking to her as if she’s three years old: he senses an easily-tricked employee in the making. Gary cracks the ball open and it is full of stuff, which seems to please the judges. It turns out it tastes as good as it looks. Or better than it looks, given it didn’t actually look edible, what with the gold and all.

The judges have all multiple-orgasmed over Mish’s ball, so really there’s nowhere for them to go from here. The emotional crescendo of the series has been reached, and there is no point continuing. Mish returns to the main room with her apron, to rapturous applause from hundreds of people who now hate her.

Meanwhile Pia is making a gorgonzola sauce, and nobody cares.

Pia believes receiving an apron will mark “a very important time of my life” — to be divided, I guess, from the time in her life when she had no apron. It seems unlikely she won’t get one, after all the time we spent seeing her home life and talking to her mother and everything.

Pia serves her gnocchi and Matt informs her that the three judges “endlessly debate what makes a good gnocchi”, so there’s an insight into the wild times these guys have together. It’s always a furious debate too: Matt claims good gnocchi needs to be the size of a human head, while George believes gnocchi must weigh less than air, and Gary refuses to eat gnocchi that is not shaped like dinosaurs. They like Pia’s gnocchi, though — although you can sense they’re suffering a major letdown after Mish’s ball.

The shooting schedule is held back by Matt getting sauce on his shirt, which necessitates a three-hour break for the judges to laugh in. Meanwhile a bunch of people who are obviously either no good at cooking or not very interesting rush across the screen. A blonde woman awkwardly speaks Chinese, but gets in anyway, proving that being annoying is no barrier to Masterchef stardom. An old woman lies about her age and then laughs hysterically and then also gets in: maybe being annoying is actually an advantage. Then a chubby guy gets an apron…geez is everyone getting an apron? Let’s see what this insufferable hipster and his kangaroo meat gets…yep, an apron. Boring.

Next up is Zetta, a professional singer who clearly loathes music so much she simply has to get into cooking. She swears she is not going home without an apron. This is exciting, as it promises the potential sight of Zetta being forcibly removed by security while she screams for an apron. There also seems a good chance that she wandered into the wrong warehouse while trying to find the Voice audition.

Indeed, disaster has struck. Zetta has left off the crusty bit. Which is apparently vital to whatever this thing is that she’s made. Without the crusty bit, she’s nothing. Zetta is devastated. She hasn’t felt this low since Delta refused to turn her chair. She has committed sins against rice and must be punished.

Zetta swears she will not let the judges down, even though she already has. She begs for another chance, based on the fact that while she has cooked badly today, she would really really like to cook well someday. The judges, hard-nosed bastards that they are, all say no and don’t even let her sing.

Interesting that the room applauds just as much for a loser as a winner.

Here are some more people who don’t deserve a TV crew visiting their house. One woman gets kicked out for a less than parfait parfait. Another gets booted for being lovely to an insufficient extent. A man needs to practise more. Several others are eliminated on grounds of inadequate eccentricity.

But here comes Pete, the crane operator from Perth who will nicely fit into the “humble plain-speaking blue-collar bloke” slot on the show. They sent cameras out to shoot him driving his crane, so his prospects look pretty good. He’s not passionate about crane operating: in fact it sounds like working on a site where Pete’s driving a crane is insanely dangerous, as he’s just thinking about confit salmon all day. “What got you into cooking?” George asks Pete. Pete explains that it was mainly the need to sustain metabolic processes.

Pete gets an apron, and the day spent filming the crane is not wasted.

A True Hero

Wow, there’s nearly an hour to go.

We now enter the stage of the show called “Very attractive people are shown cooking for brief periods of time”. Ben gets an apron. Louise soaks her cheesy donuts in whisky and claims they taste “like a burning pirate ship”. Luckily, they actually taste like food, and she gets an apron. Ray, a doctor who cannot stand the thought of another day spent helping people, gets an apron. Some blonde lady gets an apron.

Now comes Josh, who was going to enter last year but was prevented from doing so by the fact that, night before audition, his car was stolen and he was hospitalised with traumatic brain injury. He cooks duck and gets an apron, and the rest of the field quivers with dread at his mighty backstory.

Emily has entered Masterchef in order to escape her relentlessly yelling grandmother. Her dish is called “lychees on the floor”, and looks it. “I’m gonna let you down gently,” says Gary, but doesn’t. George objects to the sugar overload, and has heard that Emily is a union member. But Matt, as big a sucker for a childhood anecdote as he is for surprising facial hair, gives her another shot to cook tomorrow.

We have, obviously, entered the Second-Chance chapter of tonight’s epic novel. The judges are always at pains to explain to contestants that there’s been an incredibly high standard today, because it hurts their brand to vomit on camera. A succession of almost-losers romp through the kitchen and are offered the chance to double-down on their mediocrity the following day.

Jess is 29 and a nurse from Melbourne. We get to see a montage of her caring for people at their most vulnerable, something she hopes Masterchef will allow to her give up forever. She’s using matcha in her pannacotta, which is a bad idea objectively. She is also using beetroot, so apparently she’s insane. “No risk, no reward,” she says, ignoring that other popular saying: “Lots of risk, horrible failure”.

She brings in her revolting dessert and babbles incomprehensibly at Matt about tea ceremonies for about six days before letting the judges actually eat it. When they finally do, as the rest of us grow old and grey and lose our tolerance for Mitsubishi’s end of financial year sale, they proclaim it: good. Which proves they are dirty liars because it’s matcha pannacotta with beetroot and there is no way it’s any good.

George then blathers about the way Jess talks, and apparently “what this competition is all about” is being able to talk a lot? Lot of timeslots to fill I guess.

The next guy is Rashidou…or Rashenou? I don’t know how to spell his name and I am sorry. But he’s nice and he has an adorable son and a big family and an old guy with a neckbeard, and he gets an apron without even having to deliver a lecture on tea ceremonies.

Then some more people get aprons but very quickly because they’re boring. Then there’s a lawyer, who hates being a lawyer so much he spends all his time walking in slow motion outside a courthouse while wearing his robes. He loves food because of “the way it brings people together”. Real original, Hipster Matlock. “Every spare dollar I have I spend on food,” he adds, which just makes you feel a bit scared of him.

The judges say the lawyer’s dish is delicious, and he bursts into tears. He must be a terrible lawyer.

As the episode draws to a close — probably — we come to an odd young man called Callan who talks about Willy Wonka and is making Japanese-inspired salmon tartare and wasabi caviar against all the rules of common decency. He is only eighteen, yet has the pretentiousness of a much older man. When he’s made this dish at home it’s taken him exactly an hour, so with exactly an hour to make it under much more pressure, he feels fairly confident in his stupidity. Also he thinks foam is called “air”. You can tell that Callan is going to go on to do great, unsettling things in this competition, just from the way his face contorts as he whisks. This is the closest thing to sex he’s ever known.

In the judges’ room, Callan reveals that he wants to own a restaurant that “incorporates theatre in food”. So he wants to own a theatre restaurant. He cannot be allowed to succeed. Gary tastes his dish and immediately soils himself with pleasure. The judges can’t believe Callan is only eighteen, and consign Michelle to the dustbin of history, a tired old has-been.

By my count, fifty-seven people have received aprons, but my count is wildly incorrect. Actually it’s, I dunno, twenty or something. And if they’re this excited about getting an apron, imagine how excited they’ll be when the apron is taken from them and all their dreams collapse into a smoking pile of rubble!

Tune in tomorrow when twelve people get a chance to be disappointed again.

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