So after months and months of substandard reality fare, of copycat cookery shows, of pulling the wings off flies, it’s time once again to sit down and watch the top 50 amateur chefs in Australia (apart obviously from all those who participated in series one and two who didn’t go one to become professional chefs or sell Pizza Hut pizzas) go head to head and amputated finger to amputated finger. It’s like meeting up with old friends, or, in George’s case, it’s like meeting up with that kid down the street with the funny smell that no one could get rid of.

The show started with the contestants standing on Cockatoo Island when a Black Hawk helicopter hove into view carrying an enormous crate. What would the crate hold? Masterchef’s most audacious secret ingredient yet, Rosie O’Donnell? 1700 monkeys all infected with the Ebola virus? Matt Preston’s collection of religious iconography? Or perhaps what was in the crate wasn’t the important thing. Instead, the crate was meant to represent the crushing of the dreams of each of the contestants, as the crate literally crushed each of the contestants under its weighty weight. Perhaps not.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to sit on my own making random guesses for too long, as it was soon revealed that the crate contained enough food stuffs to enable even the most inept water burner to cook up a gastronomical delight. So long as that gastronomical delight was meat balls. And, fortuitously, that’s exactly what everyone decided to make. Well, except Rachel, who, in a gutsy first up move, chose to make slightly smaller meatballs, imaginatively entitled “beef bites”.

The ten contestants with the worst balls (meat balls that is) had to face off in an elimination challenge. The challenge involved cooking chocolate and Adriano Zumbo, thought not necessarily in that order. For the last two seasons we have seen Zumbo represented as some kind of high priest in culinary circles, striking fear into the hearts of contestants as they were forced to recreate one of his many ‘creations’. This time, however, Zumbo’s classical skills and inventive mind were called on to lift a cloche and taste some food.

This part of the show introduced one of the most memorable characters seen in three seasons, Sarah. Not so much because of her personality, which seemed about as dry as a meeting of the Temperance Movement the morning after each of the members had gone on a bender to celebrate their respective decisions to swear off the demon drink forever. Not so much because of her cooking ability, because, let’s face it, anyone who makes a chocolate pudding so runny that it slips off the plate, down the table and runs out the room has no cooking ability at all. And not so much because she looked like a spinster approaching late middle age whose dreams had died a hideous death at the altar she had been left at by her one true love when she was 19. No, the reason that Sarah was so memorable was because she brought with her a symbol of good luck, a talisman to help her on, and to possibly prolong, her journey, a spirit guide to … well guide her I guess. I’m talking, as you may have gathered, about the Lucky Cock. Now of course, it’s tempting to debase oneself and make one of many obvious jokes about the “cock”. Well I’m here to say that I’m not going to do that. I’m going to try and make ALL of the obvious jokes about the “cock”. For example:

  • You should never run with your cock in your hands – you could have someone’s eyes out.
  • Is it the kind of cock that you have to rub for good luck?
  • Rub it and it will come good.
  • I couldn’t distinguish between Alex and the cock.
  • You shouldn’t handle your cock AND THEN handle food.
  • “Sarah! Put away your cock and get back to your dish!”
  • Sarah: “Anyone lays a hand on my cock and they’re dead!”
  • Cock, crack, fat, all in one scene. *Insert own joke here*.
  • A cock in the bush is worth etc etc.

But the reality was that, just like oil and water don’t mix, just like cheap nylon pajamas made in China and radiant bar heaters don’t mix, running on a wet floor with a novelty cock on your hands is a recipe for disaster – much like running on a wet floor with a real cock in your hands is a recipe for disaster. And the whole point of Masterchef is that the recipes ARE NOT disasters. Anyway, the irony is that, had Sarah not been clutching her cock along with sundry ingredients, she probably wouldn’t have slipped and fell, breaking her cock. Of course, in a further irony, if she hadn’t been a mad old spinster, she probably wouldn’t have needed the novelty cock in the first place.

Of course, all of the usual elements (or alamants if you’re George) of Masterchef were there from the start. Gary’s cheeky smile. Matt’s outlandish dress sense. George’s resemblance to an overfed chimpanzee . The contestants all making it appear that the only way anyone can break into the restaurant industry is to win a reality television show rather than actually undertake a four year apprenticeship and work one’s way up from the bottom. The contestants all sharing the same dream of opening a restaurant in some quaint little location, where they cook modern, yet rustic, fare at reasonable prices, all the while traveling the world selling their latest Asian/Middle Eastern/African/French inspired cookbook and hobnobbing with the Blumenthals. the Zumbos, and the Beers, but hopefully not with an inspector from the New South Wales Health Authority.

There was one contestant who was able to rise from the cooking show chaff. John, living with cerebral palsy, shocked judges, contestants and viewers alike when he failed to present anything for the judges to try in the scone making challenge, stating that he was too ashamed to provide them with what he had made and had instead decided to provide them with a dish which was literally a ‘breath of fresh air’. You could tell from the looks of some of the other contestants that they’d wished they too had provided the judges with empty plates, a wish in some cases shared by the judges.

By the end of week 1 we got to know some of the characters. Some we liked (John). Some we hated. Some we hated a lot (Sun, Alex). The one we liked got eliminated. The ones we hated didn’t. Oh sure, Alex was eliminated on Sunday night, but because RAAF pilot and possible superhero Paul has been called away to save mankind, Alex has been pulled back into the show. On the bright side, at least we get to watch him stuff things up again.

So after one week, I guess there are many questions for us to ponder. Who will take risks and try unusual ingredients, like ox cheeks, pigs ears, and Trevor Gillmeister? Who will break down and cry whenever things go only slightly less right than the person next to them? Who will shave their head, take George hostage, and demand the release of all 7 of the Guildford 6?

Hopefully, the answer to all these questions will be the same.

 

MasterChef Australia – Sun/Mon/Tue/Wed/Thu/Fri 7:30pm, Ch10.

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