Masterchef Season 7 Review

mastechef 2015 review

 

 

So at the end of last year’s Masterchef Season 6, I didn’t think it could have been topped. The contestants were the best yet. The food was seriously delicious and the plating was the best by far. The family feel of the show and from the contestants was palpable. The challenges were the most difficult yet. How could Masterchef seriously do any better?

Then comes season 7, and wow…  Reynold Poernomo’s ‘Forbidden Fruit’ in the invention test… in the second week… and I knew we were in for a mindblowing season.

As a short review of this year it seems the same things that were great from last year was also great from this year, only amplified.

  • The contestants, the best of any season ever – especially the top 10.
  • The selection process of the top 24 was replicated perfectly from last season – predictable, but still wonderful to watch.
  • The family feel was maintained – probably the best change from the previous 5 seasons. The contestants all sticking around to tearily farewell eliminated contestants has been one of the best additions to the show, IMHO. It really allowed the group to bond together more, and also showed a greater level of fellowship and humanity between the contestants. Masterchef consistently beats out its main rival (My Kitchen Rules) for this very reason.
  • The eliminations continued to be challenging on a number of levels – I especially liked the ‘Name that Herb’ challenge as it really did prove difficult.
  • Speaking of which, the challenges in general were really inventive. My hat off to the producers for constantly coming up with new or creative reused ideas.
  • Travel was kept to a minimum. There were some location based events – such as the cross country drive across Victoria’s King Valley to pick up ingredients for the Pizzini Wines challenge.
  • The challenges themselves were impressive in scope and grandeur – and kept getting bigger until we really did have a finale pressure test befitting the series and the contestants capabilities. 5 hours for a Heston dessert. #wow.

Random thoughts:

  • There seemed to be less celebrity chef weeks this year – there was Marco week, but not much else.
  • Shannon Bennett worked out brilliantly as a chef mentor. He seemed more helpful than Kylie Kwong from last year. It was also brilliant to watch him take on Georgia in the final immunity challenge – he had a really good rapport with the contestants so the banter was that much more enjoyable.
  • I read a great article from Matt Preston with his thoughts on the season so far – and one thing he mentioned was that there was more invention in the mystery box challenge than in the intention test itself. I think that was true generally – though I really did like those invention tests which were completely out of the box (eg the Heston liquid into a solid invention test).
  • It’s weird that in the driving challenges the contestants were squeezed into little Alfa Romeo’s and during the elimination challenges the three contestants would arrive individually in large Jeeps.
  • It was rather satisfying when some of the contestants left. Philipino John Carasig became a bit of the loveable villain this series with his penchant for creating great dishes while at the same time ruining team challenges with his individualism. He brought tension to the show which was relieved when at last he bowed out at the end of week 7.
  • Returning past contestants for a week was great. It was good to catch up with Poh (season 1), Kylie (s4), Callum (s2), Ben and Andy (s4), and Justine (s1). It was also great to see how far they had come up against the current contestants.
  • The lack of masterclasses was a surprise. I can only remember two of them the whole season. I didn’t mind that, but it would have been nicer to do a couple more – perhaps not weekly but at least every third week or so.

Improvements?

So did Masterchef improve on its formula from last season? Well, let’s take a look at the four issues I had last year.

First, I complained that the selection process for the top 24 was predictable. It was the same this year. But after some reflection I realised that the current set up is probably about as good as it’s going to get.

Next I complained about the clichés and real time commentary. The cliff hangers were again utterly predictable, they were, however, a little less often – or at least I felt they were (I haven’t done any statistical checks!). The real-time commentary from the contestants was a lot more focused and also felt less trite than last year. The after-ad breaks, however, often remained far too long. They could be paired down so as to not take up too much time. But overall I’d say there was improvement across the board on this complaint from last year. Previous seasons felt like they were being dragged out, this year felt tighter and succinct.

Finally the major issue I had was the overrun timeslot. The start times seem much more predictable now, and thanks Channel 10 for sticking to that. But the overruns were still there. It’s something learned to live with – making sure I’d always overrun the recording on my PVR by 30 minutes each night… just in case.

So overall I thought this year was about as perfect a season as you could get. Masterchef is on a winning formula. Bring on next year!

Masterchef Australia, Season 6 Review

masterchef

 

So it’s no secret that we love Masterchef in this household. And this season reaffirmed why.

It really doesn’t feel like it was only three months ago that I live blogged my way through the first episode of season six of Masterchef. That feels good – the last few seasons of Masterchef always felt like they were being dragged out, but this year was such a fun ride (even with the many familiar elements) that the time passed relatively quickly.

But then again, I could just be getting old with time feeling like it’s moving by quicker.

So here’s my basic review of the season. I hope Channel 10 sees this as I think some of the ‘Needs Work’ section really needs addressing:

The Great:

  • This season had the best contestants of any season so far.  When the advertisements had George Colambaris spouting his praises I was interested to see whether it was puffery or the real deal. The contestants exceeded expectations – seriously, their plating skills and food quality was just amazing. Oh for smell ‘o vision!Sure, there were not-so-great contestants. When Brendan Langfield served up medium-rare pork thinking it was perfect (what the?) for the first time he’s ever cooked pork, that was bad. But even then, in the ‘return’ episode where the eliminated contestants could cook off for a place back in the competition you could see that he had worked really hard on the outside. This was a special group.
  • The selection process for the top 24 was probably as good as it was going to get. I liked that there was warning to the contestants that if they weren’t up to scratch then you wouldn’t try to fill in the top 24 for the sake of it – which might have been a lesson learned from last year?
  • There seemed to be a much greater sense of a family feel within the group of contestants this year. I think this was partly aided by the nice addition of having the main group stay back at the Kitchen during the elimination to be able to say their goodbyes as a whole group. Previous years had a secret reveal to the remaining contestants back home, and a final toast to the eliminated – which always seemed hollow in their absence.
  • Marco and Heston weeks. Marco week, again, was good. He’s such a fatherly figure! When he took Byron aside at the end and gave him some final encouragement there was a real sense that the viewer was there with Marco encouraging Byron – fantastic stuff. This season also enjoyed the company of Heston Blumenthal for a whole week and that was worth it. And how can you not love that ultimate season winner Brent woke up to Heston at their house in a onesie.
  • Last season’s battle of the sexes was not replayed. Thankfully.
  • Cutting down the viewing from 6 nights a week to five nights made sense – combining the final elimination with a Masterclass was thoughtful planning.
  • Speaking of eliminations, it was nice to see that eliminations included more cooking and food knowledge. The disaster of the ‘voting’ system of season one has thankfully never been returned to. But with an extra round for the contestants to participate in this mean that one slip up didn’t mean all was lost. So the shock exit of Marion from season 2 hasn’t been repeated. When Sarah, a strong contender, went this year it was because the wheels were falling off her wagon and not because she made one small mistake to send her home.
  • This year lacked any spectacular travel locations. Steph and I were waiting for it to happen… but it never did. There’s something ok with that, because the show itself is so focused on the contestants that the viewer’s ability to be immersed into a location just couldn’t go deep enough. Location shooting works better for shows like Luke Nguyen in France or Vietnam – spending a whole series there, travelling, seeing some sights, allowing us to immerse ourselves into the culture and place of location. Last seasons’ regular travelling never achieved this immersion experience, and just seemed gratuitous and over the top.

That’s the great stuff. Now here’s some things I think need work:

  • The selection process of the top 24 was predictable. For evidence of this, see my live blog post on the opening episode. The editing of the show generally makes for non-exciting viewing – with predictable outcomes.
  • The clichés need to go. The puns are still there, but they didn’t seem as intrusive, or as overused as previous seasons. But the cliff hangers are utterly predictable and annoying – as soon as anything remotely dramatic happens I know we’re going to an ad break.The ‘real time’ commentary by the contestants can often be trite. There’s got to be better ways of doing that, or at least some coaching.And please sort out the after ad-break recaps. I’ve complained about this before. They are still unnecessarily long. What’s the point – do you honestly believe that people are tuning in late, or do you believe your audience is so forgetful they can’t remember what happened two and half minutes earlier? Neither is true.
  • But here are my two biggest bones to pick this season. Steph and I have a young family and I have a busy evening schedule during the week. So we regularly watch the show as recorded by our PVR. The first bone I have to pick is this: the start time of the show changed slightly night to night. I don’t seem to have this problem with other programs we record – but it seemed fairly regular that one night our recording would start half way through the intro song, and other nights we’d be catching the tailend of The Project. TV shows used to be clockwork when they started. I used to be able to set my watch to them. Now, more than ever, it’s totally unpredictable.But my biggest bone to pick is the overrun finale. It was advertised to finish at 9:30pm. I knew that the show would run a little over, so I overran the PVR setting by 15 minutes – yet STILL missed out on the winning announcement. I get why you overrun programs – it keeps people on your channel – but seriously, with so many people using PVRs to rewatch programs later, or skip advertisements quicker, it’s time to rethink this whole strategy. Don’t be jerks about this.

 

Some other random thoughts:

  • We haven’t seen a Kid’s Masterchef – that would be a nice return – and perhaps make it a little less daunting for the contestants.
  • Need a Jamie Oliver week!
  • Bring back the professionals. That was one hell of a series.

 

That’s it from me. What would you add? Put it in the comments below…

 

 

Masterchef Australia 2014: Live blogging

masterchef

 

So Masterchef Australia is back! The ads make it sound like this year’s contestants are the best ever. Perhaps they have found a way to clone Rishi? Either way, when it hits screens later tonight I’ll be attempting to live blog my way through it. So, bookmark this post and refresh during each ad break, for superbly written, possibly humorous, but quite probably inane commentary on tonight’s kickoff.

–oo–

Opening montage has it all – everything we are familiar with. Lots of talk about this group being the best group of contestants for a long time – possibly to make up for last year’s poor turnout of contestants.

Asian faces! Instant crowd favourites in this household.

White chikky talks about not wanting her children to be doctors or lawyers so long as they follow their dreams. High execptations Asian Dad would not approve… “You want to dream? Good, dream about being a doctor!”

Gary, George and Matt come out. Gary reminds us that this is masterchef 2014 – thanks for the reminder!

Matt informs the contestants that they are looking for 24 contestants – perhaps 23 or less. Another stark reminder that if you can’t make the cut then you won’t make it full stop. If I was a contestant from last year who left early I’d be a little embarrased…

Emily from Brisbane first up! Sounds Malaysian, making Laksa…yup.

Family connection from a previous year – Ben’s little brother!. Hopefully he knows a few more dishes than Mexican…

Emily first up with her dish to the judges. Making Sarawak Laksa – a non-coconut drive laksa. From Engineering to cooking, from Asian expectations to following her dream. I’m a fan. And the tears flow already – and it’s only been 15 minutes! The judges debate. All I’m thinking is, ‘How are they going to get throuh 50 contestants at this rate?’

Well, neat start, let’s see what happens after the break…

–oo–

Ben’s brother sounds like Ben… the judges agree. Was chuck steak the right one to use? Which could be his undoing… and the feedback is all negative. Back to teaching then. If he can find another job…

Now we’re flying through the contestants. Asian girl cooks raw fish :( Lots of no’s in this lot…

Laura from McLarenvale South Australia. She’s going to make it in. Why else would they name her when five other contestants have just been given the 10 second no? AND we have a home montage… she’s definitely making it through. Her family is there in support…and they all look the same! Cooking isn’t the only thing in their blood. She reads out a letter from daddy, and cries. They can’t say no to her now! And she’s made it through. Did I say I thought she was definitely going to make it through?

Music change, a little more tense, a little more suspense. Filleting snapper, I see a sieve for mash, his orange peeling skills on display… I have no idea what he’s cooking! The dish is pan fried snapper, with fennel mash, orange miso reduction. Matt says that everytime he’s ordered snapper it tastes like wet cardboard. Inspiring words while cooking. And there’s a bone! Probably…

*explosion* and out comes Jack Bauer… thoughtful transition into the ads..

–oo–

No bone, perhaps a scale… Matt whips the apron away with flair, just to remind everyone that he’s a judge.

Depali is up, 30, a Dentist, from Melbourne. She’s in, and that was fast. They take a selfie and Steph loves that :P

Why Masterchef? ‘I know that every moment in my life, the good ones and the bad ones, the bad ones in particular, have brought me here.’ Brian was right – you gotta talk about your hardships.

Steph asks, ‘How did George lose so much weight and keep it off?’ Good question Steph. Celebrity Biggest Loser to follow Masterchef?

Next old lady is up, who wants to open up a cafe at night. George has a lightbulb moment. George sets up a date for Gary and Matt. George doesn’t eat – he’s too young to know what Crepe Suzette is. She gets another chance because her food was too simple. Not sure she has much else up her sleeve?

–oo–

Up next, another foodie fotographer. How in the world did she make all of that in one hour?!

That chickky with the white hair seems like she’s been cooking forever. When will she be up?

Steph asks, ‘How do the judges have room for all this food?’

The most important cake he’s ever cooked. Messy, unorganisd, tart is a gooey mess.

What? Ad break already? I haven’t written anything!

–oo–

Nick is hoping that taste will get him through. Better hope so, it’s a mess. No sob story, shared with the judges. Possible mark deduction for that. But, the judges clean up the dish even though they give negative feedback? George goes to grab Nick’s nanna. They bring her in to give the judges something more to think about. Note to future contestants – bring in your loveable grandma to plead your case. Nick gets a second chance. More disorganised messy cooking tomorrow.

Passion. Watch this word’s overuse tonight. I think we have an obsession with finding our passion in life to pursue.

Nicole, a flight attendant but not passionate about it, wants to start a catering business. Winning masterchef will bring that dream closer for her. She’s the 12th Apron of the night. She can’t run… that’s not going to bode well for cross country challenges!

Judges dilemma. They’ve handed out the 12th Apron, which calls for an explosion into ad breaks. Bah.

–oo–

And we’re back. The prior-to-the-break recap is mercifully short. Thank you!

So they are changing the rules. Never seen such great food. So, blow us away and you’ll still make it through. So… how does that change the rules?

Cecelia up. Asian Math’s teacher who went through traumatic brain injury and can no longer add numbers up. Yikes. The right side of her brain has compensated for the loss of her identity as a teacher. Her Macrons are compared to Zumbos, and the tears come streaming. Matt says it’s better than anything he’s ever tasted – even from Zumbo. Zumbo isn’t not going to like that me thinks when he brings his pain in some challenge if she’s still there.

Finally, the guy in the purple shirt and tatts is up. So much commentary from him so far, and now he’s finally up with a steak. Though the description of his future restaurant sounds rather appealing. George starts cutting into the rare – I like my steaks very rare – and he’s taking his time. Gary reminds us that some steaks need a bit more time to break down the sinew… maybe this guy in purple should have cooked it longer in the explosion now englufing the screen…

–oo–

And that sinew looks as tough as when the cow was cut up. The judges look conflicted. For a guy who loves his meat, Matt says he has done the veggies proud. Burn. He gets a second chance. More burning of meat my friend.

Last dish of the day – wow, lots of people we haven’t seen.

Rachel, doing up an Asian dish. Lovely family moments. She’s in. Only emotional investment for winners.

Ad breaks coming thick and fast. Channel 10 really knows how to milk their shows.

–oo–

Lucky last, perhaps. My bet is yes. Crab and Prawn Wonton in seafood bisque. Gary picks out a shell, then drinks out of the gravy boat. Classy. Rachel makes it through. Told ya. Feel’s like she’s run a marathon. Ha. Wait till the weeks pile on…

Tomorrow night’s montage contains somsone who does a smear. Didn’t they hear Gary say last year that’s old hat now?!

Anyway, neat first start. Not much fun blogging as the contestants are genuinely nice – it’s much easier to have fun with someone who is a caricature…

Masterchef – how I (am beginning to) love and hate you

So Season 3 has just finished and what a long, drawn out season it was. I love cooking, but apparently not as much as the contestants over the past few years. This is probably why I’m so drawn into the show – I want to believe that I myself, a regular cook at home, could achieve the same dishes as what I see. So this season I was a little miffed at a number of things that happened during the season which, though daring, rubbed off quite a lot of the shine Masterchef has built up over the past two seasons. Let me put this into a pros and cons historical perspective:

Season 1 (part 1) – the regular season.

It all kicks off.

Pros:

  • Cooking! That’s what it was all about.
  • Masterclasses were also great – apparently not a regular feature of the English version of Masterchef?
  • The challenges seemed full on but manageable
  • Auditions – some good, some quirky – and like Australian Idol it was the worst auditions which were the most interesting (and funny) to watch

Cons:

  • The voting off system sucked – I really didn’t like it (but this was fixed well in season 2 – below)
  • The winners of the Chef cookoffs disappeared from the show and into professional kitchens – but when they came back you didn’t know who they were (episodes didn’t follow them and so there was no personality development) and their skills didn’t seem as good as contestants who had stayed behind

Season 1 (part 2) – Celebrity Masterchef

More cooking action but with people we know a bit better

  • This was interesting a number of levels – primarily because it also showed that celebrities were also normal
  • Challenges were great
  • Show wasn’t on every night

Season 2 (part 1) – regular season

Probably my favourite regular season so far.

Pros:

  • They got rid of that female host – so we get to know the Chefs better
  • new challenges that were bigger, harder, and better – big and hard enough to wow the audience, but still achievable for the contestants
  • Guest judges were good and varied things up a bit
  • Immunity challenges – I liked the idea of the immunity pin a lot more than just heading into a professional kitchen – plus it also meant that contestants could stay around and we could grow with them (a big positive)
  • Eliminations became about cooking skills rather than votes (probably the best improvement over season one)

Cons:

  • Immunity challenges still felt really hard. Simply going up against a professional chef with a 10 minute head start still wasn’t an overly even playing field
  • Shows ran over time often – and the reason why would be clearer in season 3

Season 2B – Junior Masterchef

Umm…wow.

  • There was probably no con in this series at all – I was totally suckered in
  • Not on every night like Masterchef regular season – also good
  • Those kids had personality and even showed lots of adults what skill in the kitchen looked like

Season 3

The latest and probably the most disappointing season.

Pros:

  • Locations galore – fantastic, especially when it focused on the cooking (ie Margaret River challenge)
  • The challenges were even bigger, harder and better – and more down to earth (like heading out to Matt Moran’s dad’s farm – which was nice)
  • The immunity challenges became a more level playing field – and more interesting: ie. Eamon Sullivan (which I liked!) and the grandmother-baking-queen challenge
  • The show as less predictable, mixed things up a bit – so it wasn’t the same challenges every week
  • Great challenges as well – especially brining in guest judges and cooks – like Heston Blumenthal
  • I liked the ‘fix your own failed dish’ elimination challenge – more of these would be good.
  • Adriano Zumbo deserves his own mention as this guy is just pure genius, even if he does look like he just walked out of prison
  • Michael’s reaction on getting into the Finale – it was honest and genuine, nice

Cons:

  • There were no second chances. I would have loved to seen some of the eliminated contestants back after being out and working on their skills (like my early favourite: Jay)
  • Platitudes and puns galore… yuck – it treats the audience like children.
  • Locations – make it more about the cooking and less about the location
  • Cross promotions. Let me illustrate it this way: heading to Malaysia = good; Kate, while shopping, asking, ‘Do you accept Westpac?’ = dumb.
  • Mean spiritedness/negativity. ‘Lock down’ in NY was just mean and stained a positive show with a fairly negative stroke, as was ‘mining losers stay back to cook’. This show makes itself different from ‘My Kitchen Rules’ because the latter just feels more catty (eg – the Tasmanian couple from last season). Plus much was made of continuing to lock up contestants away from home and family contact – surely you could add a few more home visits or phone calls to make contestants more comfortable.
  • Matt Moran – great chef, but not a great host. He always looks a little scary (even when he was having fun with Billy and Michael in the final masterclass…).
  • Some shows ran waaaaay over time and often – I get why you do it, but please stop it. I don’t stay on your channel because you run things overtime, I stay on your channel because you have good programming.
  • I’m going to go out there and say it: the Dalai Lama. What was the point of having him on the show… especially since his beliefs do not allow him to pass judgment on the food put before him (not that this stopped the judges from quoting him on what he liked…)?
  • Seriously, what’s up with splitting the finale in two – it achieved so much hate posts on Twitter and FB that it wasn’t funny (though some comments were funny). The only good to come out of it was that some people got to make dinner (and clean up) during the break…so they weren’t watching Renovators as Channel 10 would have liked.

See what I mean? So where to for Season 4?

  • Less platitudes and puns – please! Make intelligent comments rather than wanting to appear witty.
  • Less repetition of phrases and thoughts. Each week it seemed we were being told by the winners of the team challenges that while they were enjoying their winners’ meal and there was a touch of sadness because somebody was leaving. That’s fine to let us know – but vary up how you say it rather than carbon copy your words each week. Same goes for the judges and ‘It all comes down to the dish you cooked.’
  • Work out what to do with those first few weeks of pairing down the top 50 to top 24 – it’s hard to feel emotionally invested early on
  • Stop the 30 second recap because our memories aren’t totally erased during the commercial break
  • Stop the cliff hangers and cutting to commercial breaks. It’s plain rude and doesn’t treat your audience like adults.
  • Don’t milk the show so much – Season 3 was constantly in danger of this as everything got dragged out – the silly commercial break cliffhangers, the gratuitously over run episodes, the silly long pauses where we know the judges are just dragging it out for the sake of dragging it out, the constant inane-present-tense commentary (ie, ‘Lobster can’t be overcooked…and they can’t be undercooked…’ – well…duh!)
  • The show needs to be stripped down a little – there’s too much of everything going on

So there are my thoughts. What would you add?

His Holiness, and other divine titles of Jesus

I’m a day behind Masterchef. Life has been fairly busy of late and it’s been hard trying to keep up, especially when so much of the show annoyingly runs way overtime and my HDD recorder doesn’t get the full episode which then requires trawling through the Masterchef website to catch final moments of each episode. Ahem.

I’m a day behind, so it came as interesting reading tonight that I learned Kate, one of the final seven contestants in the competition (and, admittedly, one I haven’t been rooting for) had a bit of a run-in with the Dalai Lama. Apparently protocol dictates that his official title be used when addressing him, that is: His/Your Holiness. Kate, revealing for the first time that she is a Christian, refused the title on the grounds that she believes God is the only one we can call ‘Holy’ and instead opted to simply refer to him as ‘Dalai’.

Many of the comments on the various news sites which have run stories on this issue reveal how deeply misunderstood Kate’s actions were. So while I haven’t actually seen the show, nor read enough of her specific comments on her actions, let me offer up some observations.

First, in direct answer to a comment which seems to keep coming up: biblical Christians will not be offended if others do not refer to our leaders by their title. Nor would biblical Christians use the titles often given to the Pope – such as ‘Great High Priest’ or ‘His Holiness’. So it’s not just a matter of saying, ‘Well if the shoe was on the other foot things would be different.’

Secondly, this issue isn’t new. In fact, this issue of Christians clashing with men who use these sorts of titles stems back to the first century church. The Caesars of Rome, since Augustus, consistently used terms that Christians reading the New Testament would be familiar with. For instance the titles ‘Son of God’, ‘Saviour’, ‘Great High Priest’, and ‘[bringer/giver of] Peace’ were often used by the Caesars and can be found in many inscriptions (I did a lengthy essay on this issue in first year bible college for those interested in reading). The pressure to conform, and the temptation of escaping persecution, pushed most to either join the Imperial cultic worship or, at least, pay lip service. But Christians, choosing to honour the One worthy of these titles, chose not to participate under the pressure of persecution.

Third, no matter what everyone says, we are living in an increasingly intolerant world. I’m amazed at some of the comments and the questions being asked in polls on this matter – particularly whether or not Kate should have simply followed protocol no matter what she believed. This clear betrayal of the fundamental right to express what one believes is staggering. Beware of the Thought Police.