I applied to be on the next series of MasterChef this week. It was a decision driven by my love of cooking and food, what else? Not for a split second do I imagine that my over-flavoured and slapdash dishes would pass the taste test of the two-headed monster; nor do I imagine that I am definitively typecast enough in my role as a cook to be able to string me along through the series. Let me explain the latter: I am neither the Nigella-esque domestic goddess, searching for that complex dish comprising of four of the five of the world’s most expensive foodstuffs; I am also not the bashful, grafting creator of traditional, home-cooked food who has to be taught fine-tuning. In such traditional situations as slaving away in a restaurant kitchen or serving to hardcore restaurant critics, I’d be stranded at a laughable medium.
Despite this, similarly to its reality TV counterpart the X-Factor, there is still the small obstacle of the judges – in this case Gregg Wallace and John Torode. See, this was the one reservation I had about the limp likelihood of me getting on the show: the fact that I’d have to face not one, but two Simon Cowells. And unfortunately, such people are part and parcel. In this age where the reality TV format is fast turning into the steadfast diet of twenty-first century living, the very definitive characterisation of the tell-it-like-it-is, pantomime villain judge in these kinds of programs is ultimately one that is going to sit well with an audience hungry for constant melodrama.
Then, I wonder, how well a Sharon Osborne or a Louis Walsh type figure would slot into the Masterchef frame? Maybe a female critic who would always succumb to earthly food that tugged on her heartstrings or some impish guy who would see a dish’s potential and tried to mould it into his own creation. The fact that only the discerning Simon Cowell type - casting aside whether you like him or not- is evident here ahead of other industry players more intent on battling it out amongst themselves makes this competition a lot more credible than its musical equivalent; the lack of public voting too, means that it will ultimately be a question of one encyclopedic mind noting one thing’s excellence rather than one hundred thousand noting another thing’s inoffensiveness.
This idea is clear in the X-Factor: the democratisation of music enabling hundreds of Saturday night phone-hoverers opting for an act on the grounds of god-knows-what - certainly not musical ability. I’m not naïve enough to overlook MasterChef’s ulterior motives, but at least my product will falter at the hands of the experts rather than at the fingertips of the image-conscious masses.