Edited by Aneesha Chandra
“You have ten seconds to go…nine, eight, seven, six, fi ve, four, three, two, one… that’s it your time’s up!” The thrill of this line can be felt through the television screen as contestants of MasterChef Australia run around in havoc, using the last few seconds to add final touches of perfection to their dish. Tension is high at this point, as every second counts to make sure all components are on the plate in perfect balance and captivating beauty. As the contestants step away from their benches, you let out the breath you have been holding all this while and continue waiting for the final verdict, as if you are in a courtroom. This is how MasterChef Australia made me feel, countless times, in all the ten years I have watched the show, and it doesn’t fail to excite me till date.
As the name suggests, MasterChef Australia is an Australian competitive cooking show, inspired from ‘MasterChef’, which is the British version of the show. From the many applicants, around get selected to have a run at the title. The competition involves an intense few weeks consisting of individual and team-based challenges, where after a round of tasting, the judges decide which contestant’s dish was good enough for them to be safe and to have another swing at the title. The rest of the contestants, who did not make it into the safe group, have to fight it out in an elimination round; one of the contestants goes home at the end of the cook. As the show progresses, the number of contestants reduces and the challenges become tougher. Each challenge is different and interesting — a mix of creativity, time management and precision in taste, texture, and balance. The winner of the show gets the chance to train under professional chefs, a shot at their own cookbook, a cash prize, and of course, the MasterChef trophy and title.
This show always manages to keep me hooked. From the very moment they announce the challenge to tasting the final dish, there is a roller-coaster of emotions — excitement on hearing the challenge, fear when something goes wrong, ecstasy when something turns out better than was hoped, and the final bout of nerves as the judges taste the dishes. It actually feels like you are one of the contestants in the show. One of my favourite episodes involved a challenge where the contestants had to work in pairs and create identical dishes. The catch was that between the contestants in a team, there was a huge wall that hindered their ability to communicate with their teammate. So, they had to shout across the wall to get the recipe, balance, and plating precise and identical. As you can imagine, it was chaos. Other challenges include mystery boxes – the contestant has to only use at least one ingredient in the box, service challenges – contestants have to come up with a three-course menu and serve many people, re-creating challenges – the contestants have to re-create a professional chef’s dish, sometimes even without the recipe, just relying on the taste and their understanding of the food! What fascinates me is the intricacy that goes behind making a dish and the tasting that follows. The dishes are made with so much thought that the uniqueness of the contestant is visible in the dish, in terms of flavour and textures; it stems from their homes, their childhood and their store of knowledge. The judges have to taste each component separately, and then all of them together to understand the effort and the idea that the contestant wants to put forth.
While MasterChef seems like a show for complete entertainment, I actually learnt a lot from it, not only about food and the effort that goes into cooking a unique dish, but also many life lessons. One of the first lessons I learnt was the art of picking oneself up when things look tough. During the challenges, while the contestants put in their 100 percent to achieve success, things do not always go as planned. Given the time constraint, they learn to accept their mistake and do not let it hinder the rest of the cook. If they allowed that mistake to affect them, they would not even have a dish to put up. There is a certain beauty in the courage taken to accept one’s mistakes and move on, and I learnt that through MasterChef. Another lesson I learnt was that stress can also be a choice. We can choose to be stressed and let ourselves waver, or we can learn to stay calm and fight it out without clouding our mind. One of my favourite contestants on the show, Reynold Poernomo, taught me this. He never let his nerves get to him, even if everything went wrong. Finally, I learnt about the importance of confidence in oneself. The show is filled with aspiring chefs, where the competition can get very tough. It is easy to lose self-confidence after a single cook, when you find that you did not perform well at the end of the day, or even the week. But confidence makes all the difference between a good dish and a great dish, and almost all contestants prove it in every cook. If we don’t have confidence in ourselves, how can we expect others to have confidence in us? The winner of season 12, Emilia, was a great example of the importance of self-confidence. Her increased self-confidence as well as love for what she did helped her gain the title of MasterChef.
MasterChef Australia manages to bring together people from all walks of life and food from all over the world, providing us with a unique experience that has captured my attention all these years. The show is truly entertaining and inspiring in many ways, and it will never get old!