View from the Sofa between parted fingers: Master Chef
Series 8 2012
“Cooking does not get tougher than this”. Hmmm. I bet it does, in a pitching ferry in a storm, with a kitchen 4 foot by 4 foot.
The invention test begins – a wide range of foods, and contestants given a large wooden tray and some time to choose ingredients, then cook one dish. With a food display that looks like every dream of a cook – a wide range of fresh ingredients, no charge and no queues at tills. It’s a scenario unexperienced except by successful pickpockets. Then one hour and ten minutes, uninterrupted, to cook one plate of food.
Sanjay, psychotherapist, says “I’m like a child in a sweetie store at the moment, cos I want EVERYthing.” Yes, lie down on the couch and say that one more time, while I make notes in my little book. We meet contestant Charlie, young guy, blonde hair, advertising intern. He first cooked when 4 – helped out a great-aunt with baked beans but likes to think he has developed since then as a cook.
Super Confident woman said she’d “been quite ambitious” and announced she would make 3 dishes with salmon. John Torode said directly “And how are you feeling about the fact that you’ve got Sea Trout instead of salmon?” She tilted her head on one side, scarcely paused and amended her menu to “It’s going to be essence of sea trout.”
Indian psychotherapist is trying a new recipe he hasn’t ever made before. He also thinks he’s cooking salmon, when told it’s sea trout, he rubs his nose, laughs slightly unnerving and says “all the better”. He talks a good game.
Another contestant is Rachel (forensic scientist).So, at least she’ll know how to slice. Useful to have around in case one contestant is driven mad by the pressure and swelling music and kills one or both of the judges. She’ll be able to work out who did it and what implement was used. She’s doing pork loin stuffed with apples and dates. She was made redundant, so now she’s hoping to use her science skills in cooking, Gregg looks at her with a half-twisted smile, like the Joker in Batman. Frankly, I think that the more scarey thing would be a cook who decides to use those skills in forensic science….
Another contestant handy with knives and a corpse is Matthew, grandson of a gamekeeper, who skins a rabbit. would love to have his own restaurant. Gregg says “he’s the boldest cook in the room”.
Supply teacher Emma says with her job, she always looks calm, which she continues to do, right through til her graceful exit.
Afsanegh, is an Iranian lady, who has grown up kids and is now wanting to do something for herself – she has you rooting for her.
There’s a doctor, Ashvy, who claims she doesn’t wake up each day wanting to be a doctor, but instead spends the day yearning to get home to see what she can cook. Now there’s a blow for her patients. Next time they see her across the desk, they’ll know she’s looking after them when, quite frankly, she’d prefer the company of a dead fish and a spice rack.
Charlie is first contestant to provide finished meal for the taste test. He’s criticised for serving a dish that’s a bit dry, and given fairly average comments. As he leaves, one judge turns to the other and they both admit that they’d eat the whole dish. Which is certainly not the hardnosed impression they gave when he presented his food.
Next up is the confident woman. The silken-voiced narrator says “Lex chose Sea Trout and has cooked it three ways” – well, actually, she chose it thinking it was salmon but… anyhow, the point is moot, because right about now, the judges are discovering that her pastry is uncooked, and I’m finding John’s shoulder jacket seams are distracting. They appear to be ruffled at the top. It’s like he bought a jacket 3 sizes too large and it fits him at the front, but the shoulders were too broad, so someone with my horrifically poor sewing skills did something with a sewing machine that ruched his shoulder seams.
Calm-looking Emma is serving pigeon with blackberry sauce, stuffing and bubble and squeak. They give her a mix of positive and doubting feedback, she leaves, still looking calm. I was wondering why she didn’t remove the dish as she went. The dish is still on the table and Gregg reaches out with a fork.
John points out: “You are now eating the whole dish, Mr Wallace… which would signify something”. (No doubt Sanjay could help with this)
“One of the best dishes I’ve eaten so far”, said Gregg briefly, laying aside fork and knife and lifted up the whole pigeon with both hands, moved it to his mouth, waggling his head from side to side, like he’s gnawing at it.
The smooth voiced narrator is back to the microphone again, to breathily announce that “Matthew has served his rabbit legs with pigeon breast, sauteed potatoes and a tomato, fennel and date sauce”. Oh yes – well if he cooked his rabbit legs, how did he manage to carry his dish to the table? There’s a space here just aching for a laughter soundtrack and a “ta-dish!” on the comedy cymbals. At the end, the dish is summed up as ““this dish does not live up to its billing” – its billing – is it a duck now? Ta-dish!
Psychotherapist Sanjay is next in the door. John looked at the rorschach inkblot test of a dish and raised a quizzical left eyebrow at his fellow commentator. However, Gregg isn’t catching on, he’s too busy staring mesmerized at the plate. It’s been a long while since he was able to sink his gob onto that pigeon and, frankly, he’s hungry. “`Ugliness not just in the way it looks, but the way it tastes”, John judges.
Sanjay uses his right to respond to the judges’ comments: “I would put myself through – but then I would (laughs)”. Is this psychological mind games?!! A bell knells on the soundtrack.
The two pals gather to confabulate. John now has hair sticking up, obviously the emoting is getting to him. The cameras cut between the judges saying how disappointed they are with the contestant, against a nervy comment from the contestant telling the camera/world that there is now nothing else in the world they care about, that they are desperate to continue in the competition. Sanjay says “Just hope this is not curtains for me now,” and guffaws mirthlessly and with an edginess. He is beginning to look and sound more and more like a Bond villain. “Alas, Mr Bond, I am compelled to kill you as I object strongly to the way you tie your cravat…” He strokes the beard under his chin mysteriously.
The would be contestants are lined up in the manner of an identity lineup, looking queasy and ill. The two let go are Sanjay the scarey psychotherapist and Rachel, the forensic scientist. If this were a drama, they would be the two contestants left in at the final, circling each other with narrowed eyes and sharp implements. But this isn’t drama, it’s ‘reality’ tv. The survivors were the young guy, the Iranian woman, the guy with rabbit legs and pigeon breast, and the disenchanted doctor.