Photo Credit : FOX
If you were to use the ingredients of Fox competition shows “American Idol” and “Hell’s Kitchen,” you’d have a dish called “MasterChef.” Like “Top Chef” on Bravo and the various Food Network cooking competition shows, “MasterChef” attempts to find the next great chef in America.
By : SHAWNA BENSON
If you were to use the ingredients of Fox competition shows “American Idol” and “Hell’s Kitchen,” you’d have a dish called “MasterChef.” Like “Top Chef” on Bravo and the various Food Network cooking competition shows, “MasterChef” attempts to find the next great chef in America. The interesting component to “MasterChef,” the one that makes it intriguing to the casual viewer is that all of the competitors are amateurs. In “Hell’s Kitchen,” Gordon Ramsay bullies and badgers his chefs, most of who come from restaurants and cooking schools, to break them down and build them back up to his standard. Here, Gordon shares the stage with two other knowledgeable and skilled culinary greats – Joe Bastianich, a restaurateur who partners with Mario Batali and Graham Elliot, an impressive young chef from Chicago who is familiar to anyone who has watched “Top Chef Masters.”
Photo Credit : FOX
I don’t make a habit of watching all of the various cooking competitions on cable. I willingly admit that I don’t really “get” the enormous popularity of these shows. I watch “Hell’s Kitchen” more for Chef Ramsay and the crazy personalities, the cooking really being an afterthought to my enjoyment. That isn’t to say I haven’t learned a thing or two from watching these shows, but I don’t consider myself an avid cook. I’ve also been mystified by the allure these shows continue to attract, as clearly, there is a large audience for them. You wouldn’t think there are that many foodies in this country, and yet, the Food Network and Bravo have built entire franchises with these audiences. My own personal concern is that unlike a talent show like “American Idol,” where I can hear the talent and form an opinion as to whether I think they are good or bad, or a show like “Project Runway,” where the finished product of the contestants is clearly viewable, and I can judge for myself if a garment looks well made and fashionable, I can’t taste the food any of the contestants on any of the cooking shows make. I cannot personally judge someone’s ability as a chef, and must rely solely on Ramsay’s or Elliot’s or Bastianich’s opinions as to the worthiness of the dish.
That said, the real allure of “MasterChef” is the element of the Average Joe or Jane, someone who just loves to cook and has never had formal culinary training, perhaps marveling these experts with their cuisine. The best competition shows invest you in the contestants, sharing their stories and their lives. Most of the stories we connect with as an audience are filled with tales of hardship, overcoming obstacles, and above all, allowing their passions to shine as a beacon in their lives when they are most dark. We all have the dream of not only sharing our passions and our talents with others, but maybe even making a living from the things we love most in life.
The truck drivers, lawyers, single moms and even mother/son competitors from all walks of life each display their talents and their hopes to the panel of judges. The first three episodes are the audition phase, or, in Idol-speak “Hollywood week” – they’ve searched the country to find one hundred people to narrow down the selection to just a few competitors for the “MasterChef” title. In coming weeks those who pass the first test will go on to other challenges, all in the name of winning the title and the cash prize attached.
It’s a well produced show that does a good job of making you care about the outcome. Whether you are an avid fan of cooking shows or reality competitions, “MasterChef” has a lot to offer everyone. I’m hooked on Ramsay’s FOX machine, and “MasterChef” is a great member of the franchise.
MasterChef premieres on FOX Monday June 6 and Tuesday June 7, airing Tuesdays at 8 PM Eastern/Pacific.