Under the pump and over the moon, with lamb, prawns, and pavlova
March 23, 2017 6:12 AM   Subscribe

Notes on Masterchef Australia, by blogger Adam Cadre (17,500 words)
posted by rollick (30 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I can confirm Masterchef is big, although I'd say it's no longer quite as big as in its heyday. Anyhow, I enjoyed the stuff about our accents - it always takes me by surprise every list like this they point out what I consider to be standard turns of phrase as uniquely Australian or at least non-global.
posted by Peter B-S at 7:16 AM on March 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Although I should add that Mr. Cadre points out we call it drink-driving instead of drunk-driving, but I never took to be a localisation. It's not just a crime if you're drunk, it's also a crime if you've just been drinking but wouldn't consider yourself drunk but are still past the legal limits. Furthermore, as someone who works in liquor retail, its also because some people are drinking on the road, illegally. Drink-driving.
posted by Peter B-S at 7:20 AM on March 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I left Australia seven years ago, but still download Masterchef Australia to watch instead of the US version. I like it because, unlike most reality contests, it is a really positive show. The judges really seem to want the contestants to do well and seem genuinely delighted when they do, and there is minimal interpersonal drama. The show focuses on the food and less on the personalities, and you come away excited about cooking.

I think that's why the first few seasons were such phenomenons (well that and the fact that Australia has so few TV channels, everyone watches the same thing) and had the whole country attempting croquembouches. It's more "Great British Bakeoff" than "Hell's Kitchen."

By contrast, Masterchef US seems to be all infighting and villains and the quality of the cooking is low.
posted by retrograde at 7:52 AM on March 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

I like it because, unlike most reality contests, it is a really positive show.

For a blissful time, entire seasons of MC Aus were on youtube, and I loved watching them because everyone on the show was so kind. I also loved all the tutorials.

But then they were all taken down. IF I COULD WATCH THEM ANY OTHER WAY I WOULD, AUGH. >:(
posted by a fiendish thingy at 8:07 AM on March 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is my addiction. It's gone beyond guilty pleasure. I've watched multiple seasons of MasterChef Australia, NZ, UK, South Africa, USA, Asia, Spain, Canada and Peru. I'd watch others, but I'm limited to spanish and english. Australia is by far, far, far the best, NZ is the only one that's even close. The level of cooking is so far above most of the others. A USA winner wouldn't even make it onto the show in Oz or NZ. MasterChef Spain hardly showed the food, it was even more about the interpersonal drama than USA and I can't take that level of sustained histrionics. Peru is a blank in my mind. Canada was OK, but I find the host a slight bit slimy, not sure why.
The new season must be starting soon, I just finished this season of Top Chef and I'm ready for the marathon of Masterchef Australia!
posted by conifer at 8:09 AM on March 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

I like it because, unlike most reality contests, it is a really positive show.

So it's the flip side of My Kitchen Rules? God those people are awful. And does the name mean, "These are the rules of my kitchen!" or "My kitchen is superior!"? I have never managed to watch more than 30 seconds of that show, so I will never know.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:23 AM on March 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Good essay, and the sudden Bush-blaming at the end made me nostalgic for the early lights, when reality TV was still relatively novel. Yes, people used to buy DVD box sets of, say, the first season of Survivor.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:42 AM on March 23, 2017

TL;DR - "Masterchef Australia"
posted by pashdown at 10:14 AM on March 23, 2017

Masterchef AU is best Masterchef. By miles. I normally don't get enjoy that kind of TV but I get so into Masterchef, every year. My wife thought it was weird that I was getting excited about a reality TV show because that's totally not my thing but then I had her watch some and now it's a family viewing activity complete with whoops and cheers and yells and boos at the screen as required.

It's interesting how much of the language he picks up on as not being part of US English. A lot of it is common in British English, but not all. I've always assumed "outside the square" is a cricket reference. The central part of a cricket pitch is referred to as 'the square'.

Also "[adjective] as" is the most Aussie verbal construction ever. That's the most reliable shibboleth for antipodean English that I know (yay, I got to use shibboleth in a sentence today!)
posted by auntie-matter at 10:18 AM on March 23, 2017 [5 favorites]

Masterchef Aus is just the goddamn best. The season with Ben and Andy's bromine might well be the best TV I've ever watched.

The UK one is boring by comparison, and I can't watch a minute of the US one because of the bonkers way they've directed Ramsay to. talk. like. his sentences. have. been. spliced. together. from. other. material. Seriously, what is going on with that??
posted by ominous_paws at 12:21 PM on March 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Other slang I have enjoyed on the show: "far out" as a euphemism for "oh shit", the word "beautiful" in every sentence, and the constant observation that a certain food presents cooks with a challenge, because can be both under- and overcooked.
posted by ominous_paws at 12:23 PM on March 23, 2017

blogger Adam Cadre

*cough* interactive fiction superstar Adam Cadre
posted by juv3nal at 1:27 PM on March 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

I would quite like to know why the images in the article are actually small slices of images, stacked up.
posted by Wolfdog at 1:59 PM on March 23, 2017

It’s so the text will flow round them nicely Wolfdog.
posted by pharm at 2:07 PM on March 23, 2017

17500 words but none of them are "croc-ambush"!? (Err, I mean croquembouche.)

Also, meat and 3 veg is not just an AU thing, it's common in the South (Carolina etc).

Otherwise, this matches everything I could say about MCA, and then some. (I never knew, or wanted to know, about Adam's perfect non-culinary spheres..)
posted by joeyh at 3:04 PM on March 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I love how Masterchef Australia's chief innovation was 'what if we had... no mean judges?' The Amazing Race was also quite the success here for the same reason, other than the travel adventure part which is still exciting but when everywhere is equally far away nothing seems particularly exotic.

I don't really understand where the Greek influence comes from but I think it has something to do with a big immigration push right when Greece was not a great place to live.

I can explain 'claggy', though: Clag is a brand of cheap liquid glue that most Australian kids will have experienced at school. It is applied with a brush that comes in the bottle, and you desperately hope you'll graduate to stick glue at around Year 3, maybe even the cool stuff that goes on purple and dries clear.

I will cheerfully concede that, etymologically, of course the entrée should be the first course, and the fact that in the U.S. it has somehow come to mean the main course is an abomination.

This is correct. Americans are degenerates.
posted by Merus at 8:00 PM on March 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

So it's the flip side of My Kitchen Rules? God those people are awful. And does the name mean, "These are the rules of my kitchen!" or "My kitchen is superior!"? I have never managed to watch more than 30 seconds of that show, so I will never know.

Yes! It is the exact opposite of My Kitchen Rules, where the contestants are bonkers and always fighting (and are edited to seem even more bonkers and fight-y) and the judges are mean (and bonkers *coughpeteevans*) and the food is generally bad. I still kind of like MKR on its own merits, though, because it is sooo silly and campy it seems like everyone is in on the schtick rather than being genuinely mean.

I can't believe I know this, but My Kitchen Rules is technically a spin-off of My Restaurant Rules, a relatively short-lived show hosted by Curtis Stone and then Dicko, where couples had to conceive and then open and run restaurants. So I think in that case, the "rules" were meant in both senses.

I can explain 'claggy', though: Clag is a brand of cheap liquid glue that most Australian kids will have experienced at school.

I also thought this was the origin of the word until reading this article, but then I looked it up and it turns out "claggy" is a real word that means "sticky; tending to form clots". So I think the glue actually got its name from that. Man, I ate so much Clag as a kid.

One thing I will add to this discussion: I do not like Masterchef US but I do like Masterchef Junior US, because it has the same positive "let's celebrate cooking and achievement and have fun" attitude as Masterchef Oz.

Masterchef Junior Australia was a flop, however, because they seemed to cast only for cooking ability and the kids were just too boring for TV and mostly not young enough to be entertaining. I think this article explains well why you need to cast some really young kids because they're less self-conscious, but also Australian kids are just generally less outgoing and camera-ready than American ones.

Masterchef Oz also did one season with professional cooks, and I think I was the only person who liked it. It was definitely more like traditional reality fodder -- there were villains and the judges were harsher and there was too much Marco Pierre White* --- but the food was good.

* I think there is also too much MPW on regular Masterchef Oz, too. One episode is plenty.
posted by retrograde at 8:48 PM on March 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

Also, no discussion of Masterchef Oz is complete without this First Dog cartoon from season one, when Australia's obsession was at its peak.
posted by retrograde at 9:04 PM on March 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

Oh man, now I have to find and watch Masterchef Australia, this sounds AMAZING.

I like Masterchef US -- it's not TOO fighty (as reality shows go) and I don't mind the judges laying down a little smack when things are cooked poorly, and the contestants are mostly pretty supportive of each other after the first couple of rounds. I mean they all want to win but the trash talk is mostly pretty rote and good-natured once they're down to 8 or 10 cooks. But Masterchef Junior US is truly a thing of beauty. Gordon Ramsey (who has four children) is preternaturally good with kids; this is obvious if you happen to catch an episode of one of his other shows where the adult-chef-competitors have to cook for children; Gordon's always out whooping it up with the 7-year-olds, and he's down on their level and listening really intently and enjoying the shit out of it and the kids really light up and love talking to him because he's one of those adults who knows how to listen to kids. And his enjoyment of working with kids and food really comes across in Masterchef Junior US.

Julie Bowen, the actress, was the Masterchef Junior US guest judge last week on OH MY GOD SHE IS CHARMING AND LOVELY, she had something so lovely and encouraging and personal to say to every kid when she tasted the dishes, and she found true, sincere, supportive things to say even to the kids whose dishes flopped, you could watch them start feeling better as she talked, she must be a great mom. (My husband doesn't like her character on Modern Family and was mocking her being on Masterchef since she started off her appearance by being like "so I basically don't cook and know nothing about food" and at the end of the episode he was like, "Um ... so actually she seems pretty great? That was a really good episode and she might be the nicest person on the planet?")
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:07 PM on March 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I will cheerfully concede that, etymologically, of course the entrée should be the first course, and the fact that in the U.S. it has somehow come to mean the main course is an abomination.

This isn't really true. It derives from a time when a formal French dinner had many more courses. First a soup, then hors d'oeuvres, then the entrée[s], then a big roast dish, then deserts.

So the entrée was a dish early in the sequence, before the roast (which was the main event of the meal) which mapped to the "starter/appetiser" in a three course sequence but it was also one of the "main" dishes so Americans mapped it to the largest and most important course of the meal.
posted by atrazine at 3:03 AM on March 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

17,500 words on Masterchef Australia is never enough. I am eagerly waiting for Season Nine (?). Some great trivia in this article too. It was huge fun to read.

As a UK watcher I am indebted to Masterchef AU for teaching me just how fabulously different and diverse Australian cooking is. I had never heard of an Anzac biscuit or a leamington and I had no idea about the heavy SE Asian influence and all the seafood. Every episode was a bit of a cultural education too, with the number of people from really rural backgrounds or from outside Australia.

My only slight disappointment is that the article did not namecheck the CWA, the feared Country Womens' Association, which judged a couple of challenges and savaged contestants' attempts at pound cakes, etc. very memorably.

(I adore this show despite feeling a little lingering loyalty to the UK version. The UK version amateur version is rather lacking in imagination although, the Masterchef Professionals UK is a bit livelier due to the awesome judge Monica Galetti. If you've never watched her eyes widen in disapproval as a professional chef completely fails to make a simple savarin or roux, you are missing out on so much. Nobody can disapprove like Ms Galetti.)

thanks for posting!
posted by NoiselessPenguin at 5:56 AM on March 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

The way the contestants are sort of locked away in a house for such a long time is a bit odd, but it does add to the sort of FOOD SUMMER CAMP FOR ADULTS thing they have going on, with the friendly counsellors who want you to learn new skills and sometimes get stuck in with you, even if one of them only knows how to do "cheat's" versions of dishes. The skill level of the contestants is seriously impressive too, it feels like even the worst one would walk all over anyone on John and Greg Shout at Food UK.

(Seconding that Monica Galetti is the best thing about Masterchef Professionals, here's a supercut of her reacting to things)
posted by lucidium at 6:06 AM on March 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

Not only is Masterchef Australia awesome, Adam's piece of writing *as a piece of writing* is fucking fantastic. I loved the tone and honest, engaged admission of his fandom depth, his love of things we find hard to admit we love (seeing people cry), the 'othering' of Australian-ness coupled with a growing awareness of the show's capture of some very Aussie attributes. I think he gets us, even as we are are strange: It's about that hallowed notion of identity we have bred or beaten into us, the mateship thing. The names, the idiomatic language, the code words for suffering stress that are farm-y and British-y and working class-y, they grab at the battler mentality and why-but-we'll just-pitch-in attitude. He gets that the de-nuding of class with everyone having nicknames is important to us. No one is Australia likes the posh or the privileged.

The thing he kind of gets to but doesn't quite say is that MCA is inspirational to its viewing population. I have to admit that, even as it is a barely disguised moving advertisement for the duopoly food giants, it has been shown to have caused sales upticks in each line of produce foregrounded on the show each week. People talk about food and 'having a go' at the recipes.

I really can't believe he didn't mention Poh, who narrowly lost (robbed!) to Julie Godwin in Season 1. Travesty.
posted by honey-barbara at 8:15 PM on March 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

I used to run a small online business dealing in hard to find niche kitchen equipment. Blini pans were mentioned once in the early days of MCA and, dear god, I got inundated with requests for freakin' blini pans that I ended up keeping two varieties (non-stick and plain carbon steel for the curious). I ended up watching the show in self-defence so that I could figure out what weird item I'd be asked for next. It wasn't my favourite show because I felt they spent more time on drama when they could have gone into more detail about technique or ingredients, but I'm clearly in the minority here.

Watching non-Aussies talking about an Aussie show has been weird and really cool because you guys are picking up on stuff I totally wouldn't even consider "a thing". If you like MCA, then I recommend shows by two MCA alumni - "Poh's Kitchen" and "Destination Flavour" with Adam Liaw (particularly the Japanese series). No links, because I have no way of figuring out what you guys can access.
posted by ninazer0 at 9:20 PM on March 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Having rewatched a few of s1 recently, the skill level has definitely rocketed over time. In the last season, contestants turned up with skills that s4 would have made a big fuss over them learning through the season,that were barely remarked on. S1 had contestants still really at Tuesday Night Dinner level quite late into the game, it was quite jarring to see.
posted by ominous_paws at 9:58 AM on March 25, 2017

On another note, tastes clearly differ, because the ultra-hipster girl who ended up as a kid's TV presenter made me want to smash myself in the head with a pressure cooker.
posted by ominous_paws at 10:00 AM on March 25, 2017

What a fabulous article. I'm Australia and my wife is American and we've both watched almost as many episodes of Masterchef as Adam, so I can appreciate this from both a native viewpoint and an outsider viewpoint. Very entertaining and perceptive.

And the quality of the cooking on the show has increased hugely over time, and I'm convinced that this is largely due to the show itself. Some of the dishes contestants have to replicate in pressure tests in later seasons are truly ridiculous.
posted by nnethercote at 12:40 AM on March 26, 2017

I stopped watching MCA because of the judges' insistence on making contestants cry, not by being mean, but by asking them to tell sob stories about their lives. What if someone doesn't want to share about their dying father's favourite food, or that their parents don't respect their passion for cooking? What if an excellent cook had actually had a nice life with no trauma? It seemed like they'd lose points for not seasoning with their own tears.

But this article has reminded me what I do love about the show, and that's the amount of time you get to spend watching people cook, compared to the renovation shows which always introduce weird challenges that don't involve renovating. And how the contestants usually get along pretty well, instead of the "I'm not here to make friends" of other competitions. It's a good format.

I think Adam Liaw's nickname might have been "Ads", not "Azz" though. At least, that's what I call my friends Adam, Adrienne and Aiden. I only call Aaron "Azz" and that's when I'm too lazy to call him "Azza".
posted by harriet vane at 7:45 AM on March 26, 2017

Oh, and souvlaki, if you were wondering. I'd have thought a kebab would be more usual fast food, but I'm not one of those Melbourne hipsters so I might just be uncool :)
posted by harriet vane at 7:48 AM on March 26, 2017

Yeah, in the UK Masterchef Professionals is definitely the one to watch. It’s a *little* too straightlaced for its own good though.
posted by pharm at 8:48 AM on March 26, 2017

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