TV Time: MasterChef

She Said: MasterChef

Several years ago, when the cooking reality show boon was first beginning, I used to watch Hell’s Kitchen. I gave it up because it’s so stressful and upsetting. Not that I don’t know that cooking is very stressful. I’m just a home cook in a tiny kitchen with little counter space and I know cooking is stressful. I love cooking, but when I’m pulling together a lot of new dishes or a holiday menu, then it’s a lot of work with a small amount of resources in a very warm place. I thought the show was too stressful because of how awfully he talked to people. Screaming at someone they are stupid or a cow doesn’t make them a better cook and it doesn’t make you a good leader. I couldn’t abide watching Gordon Ramsay anymore.

When I first heard about MasterChef last year, I wasn’t sure about it. I like Graham Elliot. He’s interesting and a good chef so that was a plus. I didn’t know anything about Joe Bastianich except that he was the son of famed Italian cook Lidia Bastianich. (I would later find out that he’s even ruder than Gordon Ramsay!) I didn’t know if Graham was enough to temper ( not pun intended) Gordon. I watched two episodes last year, but I thought it was just another frustrating show with a lot of censored words (and honey, all that bleeping gets annoying) and mean judging.

I think my biggest problem with MasterChef  (airing on Monday and Tuesday nights at 9:00pm Eastern on Fox) and many other cooking shows of its ilk (and very rarely but sometimes my favorite cooking competition show Top Chef) is that there’s too much weirdness about the challenges. I get restricting chefs in a real ways (time, budget, ingredients) to a degree. You never know when a kitchen will have fewer tools, or you’ll need a vegan menu last minute. I understand how the challenges stretch a chef’s creativity while pushing the at home viewer. I don’t understand what goes on during some of these shows. Why would I want a meal where you used only a pizza stone if you aren’t a pizza restaurant? (That was the requirement of the long challenge being restricted on what tools you could use) That tells me that you need to wash some dishes or buy some cookware; it doesn’t impress me with your creativity enough to watch it again. I love food and cooking. When I watch a food show even if it’s a competition show then I want to be entertained and inspired.

I also need to confess that I slept for a half hour during this show. How often do I sleep through TV shows or movies? Well, let’s just say it’s a really good barometer of how boring I find them. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does we move on.  The short challenge at the beginning was a mystery box challenge. I’m very rugged about butchering and it doesn’t bother me at all. Well, except for one thing. I can’t stand to see rabbits being butchered. It freaks me out. We used to have bunnies and I can’t even think about Forrest and Jenny like that. I was really grossed out. Graham did the challenge with the contestants, which was kind of cool, but because it was rabbit it still looked gross to me. I woke up to find people making some really nasty food. I agree that I wouldn’t have wanted to eat most of the food, but slamming and throwing away dishes is acting like a child.  The judges, especially Joe really annoyed me. I didn’t think the judging was fair either. It was not a good night of television for me.

I won’t be watching MasterChef anymore. I just can’t deal with all the ugly negativity. I’m not always good about discerning the good in every program and I watch plenty of things that I shouldn’t. But, if I know something isn’t fun and is just destructive to people’s hearts than I’m going to steer clear of it.

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He Said: Master Chef

As much as I like professional reality shows, and cooking competitions in general, I really don’t like Gordon Ramsay.  The chefs I respect the most, and tend to make the best food, respect those around them enough to treat them with respect.  Most celebrity chefs are known for their food, but Ramsay is known only for yelling at people (primarily amateurs, by the way) and dressing them down.  I liked Graham Elliott when he appeared on Top Chef Masters, and recognized the pedigree of Joe Bastianich, so I was interested in trying this show in the hopes that it’s nicer than Ramsay’s other properties.  Kari and I had tried this show before, but it hadn’t connected with us. We hoped it would this time.

It didn’t.  There are a lot of barriers to enjoying this show.  First off, it’s on two nights a week.  I know this is a pattern for Fox, but that’s a pretty big investment for a show that you aren’t voting for the winner.  It’s an improvement over how it used to be done, two hours all in one night, but I still feel like it’s missing something.  The show is less mean, but that’s not hard, and in the episode we watched, someone still had their dish thrown in the trash, and a couple of contestants had to endure profanity.  I still was very uncomfortable with the way people were being treated.  This show was so boring that I fell asleep for a still undetermined amount of time.

I did enjoy the chance to watch Graham Elliott cook side by side with the contestants.  Much like a quick fire during Top Chef All Stars, it’s always fun to see a judge give a cooking demo.  It’s great to see why their at the top of their game, and why you care what they think.  I came away with a much greater respect for Graham as a chef.  He’s also the most respectful of judges.  He’s not without his flaws, but he’s a real chef.  Joe Bastianich mostly just finances Mario Batali restaurants, and Chef Ramsay at one point was on the brink of bankruptcy due to spending too much time on shows like these, and not enough time managing his own businesses.

MasterChef for me is a case of two strikes and you’re out.  We’ve tried it twice now, and both times, it felt disrespectful, and disorganized.  I won’t be watching again, unless I need a nap.

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