In theory the show is based on the original Masterchef from the UK, which I enjoyed watching when I lived in London in the early 90s. I have to admit my enjoyment was at least 75% because of the host Loyd Grossman and his outrageous drowning in the mid Atlantic accent and the VERY highbrow nature of the show - all of this on a very hyper modern set. It was not about the food or the cooks.
The Beeb revamped the serious a few years back to become much more of a competition show, though I have not seen any of this program. What I did find, and this courtesy of the Eating Victoria blog, is Masterchef Australia.
We have been watching season 2 for the last week and I am intrigued and impressed by the format. They are seeking the top 24 amateur chefs in Aus to take part in their long and extensive process to find the Masterchef of Australia. But they do not even start there, the first six episodes are the final round of auditions, the whittling down to 24 from 50.
The series is running right now in Australia on Ten. They are on their 41st episode and there are still 12 cooks left! The episodes run six nights a week and are of varying lengths from 30 minutes to an hour an a half. The format changes on different nights of the week.
- Sunday - Challenge: There is some sort of challenge for all the chefs compete with the winner goes to the celebrity chef challenge. The bottom three are up for elimination
- Monday - Pressure Test: The bottom three from the challenge compete to replicate a seriously hard recipe. Worst goes home
- Tuesday - Celebrity Chef Challenge - winner of the challenge on Sunday cooks off against one of the top chefs downunder. Winner gets a pin that they can use to avoid elimination.
- Wednesday - Off Site Challenge - the chefs are broken into two teams and do some sort of challenge off site (ie run side by side restaurants). Winning team gets a reward. Losing team has two members that will compete to see who is eliminated
- Thursday - Elimination night - the two nominated people from the losing team compete
- Friday - Masterclass: I am impressed with these, I am learning new styles and techniques from chef hosts George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan.
The 'Loyd Grossman' effect is still in the Australian version in an interesting homage through the third judge Matt Preston. His dress style could be called subdued Don Cherry.
I have been impressed with the show and look forward to watching it through to the end. It certainly is one of the better cooking competition shows I have seen and in some ways better than my favorite Top Chef. There are moments when the editing of the show leaves something to be desired, normally around commercial breaks and the attempt to build more suspense. What I would say to them is to use the same thinking that goes into the food, keep it simple and keep it good.
The part that really does capture my interest is that these people are all interested amateurs and not professional cooks. These people are like myself which makes it easier to relate and to always watch with the eye to "Can I do that?"
I wish that the Food Network would choose to do a Masterchef Canada. If they did I would put my name in and see how I do.