“Cooking doesn’t get any tougher than this”

Ah, Masterchef. A bit of a guilty pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless.

In the past, when Loyd Grossman was in charge, it always felt a little bit aloof, a bit too upper-middle-class. These days it’s all extreme close-ups, fast cuts, dramatic music and shouty fat men bellowing at each other, their faces no more than two feet apart.

Neither my wife nor I are particularly experienced cooks, and indeed with a four-year-old in the house we don’t get as much time as we’d like to really take our time to make meals that require serious preparation. But we’ll happily watch this every time it’s on, as formulaic as it’s become. You know exactly what to expect, you’re rarely – if ever – surprised at who qualifies each time (there’s very little misdirection and that which you do get is very easy to read) and John and Gregg repeat the same phrases over and over. There’s even a MasterChef drinking game which shows how clichéd it has become.

It’s a competition, but unlike most TV contests, the contestants really put a lot of effort in. It’s particularly noticeable in the celebrity version – outside their comfort zone, it’s interesting how often you find yourself rooting for famous people you may not have previously been particularly fond of. The ante is regularly upped, as the celebs cook for increasingly sniffy critics, in harsher conditions, or for more and more customers. There’s a strong sense that each cook is improving as they progress through tougher and tougher tasks.

So when Gregg yells “cooking doesn’t get any tougher than this”, you begin to believe him.

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