TV kitchens used to be nice places. The sort of environment where the air was light as soufflé and the language soft boiled. Where the only pressure was applied to a citron pressé. Then Gordon Ramsey invented the idea of kitchen-as-hell, where everybody and everything was fucked, if they didn’t get the fucking fucked chicken out of the fucking oven and onto those fucking plates you fucking fuck fuck. Where passion for food was synonymous with a limited vocabulary. It made you wonder how on earth Delia Smith managed to pick up a whisk, as she couldn’t even say the word ‘bum’.
The results of this change can be seen across all channels, and nowhere more clearly than the newly reanimated “Masterchef”. This used to be a gentle Sunday afternoon show, where keen amateur chefs cooked interesting menus in a competition to decide who was the best. Now the show has been given “an edge”, as “Masterchef goes large”, a title as painfully obvious as its preposterous new premise. The oleaginous Loyd Grossman has been replaced by two mildly threatening experts of mysterious provenance – all black suits and trendy glasses who sneer over the soup as if to say: “call that bouillabaisse, you slag??!”
Each week, our trio of amateur cooks not only take part in the traditional Masterchef “cook offs”, but are given some ludicrous catering challenge to test them – this week it was organising lunch for a TV crew in less than three hours, using the by now familiar ingredients: a needlessly truncated timescale, wise “experts” to ladle on the pressure, a pinch of panic, heightened by “edgy” camera work, and a splash of fighting between the contestants. Grill for two hours.
Little wonder the British diet is lamentably high on processed foods and low on fresh produce – no one wants to spend any time in the kitchen because of the stress.
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