Sunday, 20 September 2009

How to become a Master Chef


There are not many programmes I really enjoy watching on the TV. A couple of "soaps" one being based on where I grew up called "East Enders", although it does not really have a lot to do with where I grew up, and another a German version of an English soap based on Coronation Street, known as Lindenstrasse.

Now and again something might catch my eye and then I like to watch it, one of these programmes is known as "Master Chef". You have the television studio complete with a modern kitchen and two experts, one who is himself an authority on cooking and the other owning one of those "top" restaurants where you pay a lot of money for something original and excellently cooked, although a matter of taste I suppose. In any case I could not afford to eat in his restaurant.

So the stage is set and then you have the contestants, four young men or women who are cooks in their own right and compete against each other to be the "Master Chef". They have to carry out various experiments in cooking to suit the observant eye of the two judges. That is where the fun begins. The first task is usually something they all have to cook, and the three best win, the fourth going home. I am looking at this programme with a Swiss husband, so the discussion revolves a lot upon "What is that?". This week they had to cook a guinea fowl. So Mr. Swiss asks what is that, and my answer was some sort of chicken, not really knowing what it was. In any case it did look like a chicken, but a bit on the yellowy side and a little bit smaller. I had to look it up in the German-English dictionary and found it in German. Then I knew what it was (a Perlhuhn - sort of a game bird). In any case the four cooks did their presentation. One got quite a black mark as he did not trim all the feathers from the leg, although you really needed a magnifying glass to see them.

Then there was the case of preparing a squid. The squid was fully grown and you saw the four contestants do their tricks with it. Three passed the test but the fourth. He was really a disgrace, he did not skin it and left the quill in the body. Are you with me, I think I would have left the quill in the body as well. It seems that none of the four cooks had ever prepared squid before, but naturally no. 4 had to go home.

Another grave mistake was when cooking a dish containing potatoes, I think it was with fish, but cannot remember. However, that is not important, but again a crime was committed. They all had various ingredients to work with and one of the contestants made an orange salad to go with the meal and actually, most unforgivable, put it on the plate next to the potatoes. It seems, according to the experts, you never, ever, make an orange salad with potatoes in a meal. I was so glad that I had never made this mistake.

Actually I really feel sorry for the on-going master chefs. The young men are mostly in their twenties, and could be my sons, so probably I develop maternal feelings when they get told off for their mistakes. They are asked how they would feel if they fail and have to drop out (only one can win of course) and the usual answer is that they would be devastated and really, really (mostly said twice) want to win.

One of the tests is to cook for the critics. That is not easy, as cooking critics seem to have only one purpose in life, to destroy any self confidence that the cooks might have left after the preliminary tests. Such remarks as "I could not taste any sugar in that desert" or "I would not even serve that to my dog" are often heard. I remember this week, one of the contestants decided to cook a king sized ravioli with some sort of expensive rare filling. Alas he only had ten minutes to go, and had not even made it. He was ordered by one of the experts to go now to the critics and apologise that the next course would be ten minutes late, which he did almost with tears in his eyes. It was a wonder he did not kneel down as he gave up his apology. One of the critics naturally had to say "let's hope we can eat it when it arrives". Luckily it turned out perfectly and the meal and reputation of the young cook, was saved.

Oh, how I love this programme. At the moment the quarter finals have been shown and next week we have the semi finals. Probably the cooks might be shipped to another destination in some sort of exclusive eating temple to be even more insulted and stressed in the kitchen.

When asked, the cooks usually have the target of owning one day their own restaurant and becoming famous in the cooking world.

There is just one problem I have now, when I cook at home, being told that presentation is just as important as cooking. I do find I now harvest praise when the meat or veg is cooked to perfection, which it usually is. I suppose the programme does influence certain people. I just ask myself what they do with the meals cooked on the television. The two judges in the studio really only take a few bites of the expensive exclusive food that is cooked. Perhaps the cameramen and studio workers enjoy the five star menus afterwards.

This programme just gets me thinking.

No comments:

Post a Comment