So the silly season version of Masterchef is over, the so-called ‘celebrity’ contest (or better named ‘People-Who-Are-Barely-Known-For-A-Different-Job-Chef’ but you’d have a job fitting it on the screen) . And they actually managed to produce a female winner this year! Ex-Pussycat Doll Kimberly Wyatt blew the judges away with her final meal and snagged the title.
But what exactly is a celebrity these days? I don’t think a jobbing actor or sportsbod constitutes one, although Masterchef does often attract a more superior version than ‘I’m A Big Celebrity Brother On Ice’ due to being posh and on the BBC and all. They also trumpet the magnificence of these people’s skills as being the best in the land. What, better than the nineteen others on the show? Pretty good odds, I’d say. It doesn’t compare with the several thousands who enter the regular version and don’t even make it to the screen.
I still enjoy Masterchef despite its pretensions, but its prevailing chauvinism leaves a sour taste, despite the gorgeousness of the food. Yes, women have won in the regular, celebrity and pro versions. However the fact is that across all the shows, the women have to be on top of their game ALL THE TIME to prevent elimination. Look what happened to Samira Ahmed, head and shoulders above everybody else, until a slightly off day near elimination. No worse than any of the others. The trouble was you see, not her cooking, but the fact that ‘she took charge.’ Oh my God, call the cops! The sight of the (male) kitchen staff, other (male) celebs and (male) judges all rolling their eyes and raising their eyebrows at her perceived bossiness made me blood boil.
Someone who wasn’t silenced a couple of years back was Janet Street-Porter, who noted that it would be a disgrace if there hadn’t been a woman in the final. A lot of people hated her, pouring bile from all sides on Facebook and Twitter: that she was rude, she moaned all the time and wouldn’t take criticism. This is partly true and her refusal to smarten her plates up did grate after a while. But hallelujah for somebody finally puncturing the pomposity that surrounds the whole charade, the ridiculous bigging up of critics, the reverential ecstasy over some spuds in butter. ‘It’s only cooking, not a vaccine for polio,’ she griped once. Another time, when they were shouting at her to hurry: ‘It’s not a UN peacekeeping envoy.’ The hysteria and hand-wringing that amasses if a dish is going to be, gasp, a few minutes late, is frankly ridiculous. It’s as if open-heart surgery is taking place and the diner will literally DIE, if their salmon remoulade is not delivered immediately. ‘I’m doing it, I’M DOING IT!’ she bellowed in a restaurant as a harassed head chef scuttled about.
Gregg didn’t like her one little bit, especially as she is miles taller than him (and everybody else – she’s like the scarily enormous Snow Queen from Narnia). ‘First rule, make friends with the judges’, Gregg ill-advisedly offered in the first programme. She fixed him with a steely glare and rightly so. Leaving aside the gross corruption this implies, why should she, who has accomplished a huge amount in her career, simper and kowtow to Toady and Shrek? I don’t know who came up with those brilliant nicknames, but hats off. And what exactly is Gregg’s cooking background anyway? In earlier series, they used to call him ‘Fruit and Veg man Gregg’, but this has been dropped now that he’s a bona fide ‘sleb’ himself, having been in the tabloids enough. He can certainly trough up half a plateful on one spoon quite impressively and lust over the luscious young female contestants, I mean, their delicious food, but can he make anything himself?
Torode may be a sanctimonious prig at times but at least he can cook. Shrek’s saucer eyes and salivating mouth bear testament to that when he’s rustling up one of his creations for the amateurs to mess up. And according to my mate who was on the show, Torode is genuinely interested and supportive. Where Wallace looks most out of place is on the Pro version sensibly avoided by Torode, who knows the edict of too many cooks. Monica (that’s how tough you have to be to get on as a woman) glides about chopping and sautéing and patronising Gregg gently and he is left marooned like the last coconut at a shy, his ‘deep and meatys’ resembling a soggy leftover on the plate. Presenting doesn’t get tougher than that.
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