So here we are in the latter stages of the competition and we can all rest easy. Any competitor who isn’t young, white and male has been eliminated. Phew, that’s better isn’t it? It being the Pro version we need a man to voiceover it so here’s Sean Pertwee (not exactly the eponymous Doctor is it, Sean?) giving us the lowdown on the sou-vides, the purees and the foams. Ah yes, the foams, that irritate Marcus Wareing to such an extent that he’s in more of a lather than the foam is, which is puddle-like by the time the judges get to it. No surprise really. The strictures of the filming mean the food is always cold when the judges taste it (someone who’d been on the show told me).
The tone was clearly set in the first show of ‘knockout week’ (see, gladiators! They’ve also nicked ‘showstopper’ off of Bake-Off). The bottom four consisted of The Addams Family one, The Oasis one, The David Brent one (albeit with more piercings and tattoos, but with the same yeah-so shrugs). And the woman. Yes, no point even giving her an epithet. ‘Each man for himself’, jested one of the interchangeable men in the first section. ‘Oh, yes and Joey. Each man….’ Oh. Let’s leave aside the fact that Joey was easily one of the best from the early stages. Or that she made only minimal mistakes here, whereas Addams Family produced something nearly uneatable in the first section, then an erupted Vesuvius in the second. They had ‘upped their game’ those other blokes. They’d clubbed together and made one blood red sauce (sorry jus) that they all nipped out back for to scoop a ladle over their slaughtered pigs.
I still enjoy Masterchef despite its pretensions, but its prevailing chauvinism leaves a sour taste, despite the gorgeousness of the food. Yes, women have won in the regular, celebrity and pro versions. Yes, they have a female judge who is an exceptional chef, although it wouldn’t be the first time a woman presided over an all-boys club and not wanted to let another she in. The fact is that across all the shows, the women have to be on ‘top of their game’ (read: gobby and pushy) all the time to prevent elimination. Any slight hint of weakness, or if it’s between them and a man who’s at an equal level, they’re out.
Someone who wasn’t silenced a few years back was Janet Street-Porter, garnering the predictable amount of bile on twitter. She was very annoying at times. But hallelujah for somebody finally puncturing the pomposity that surrounds the whole charade, the ridiculous bigging up of critics, the reverential ecstasy over some spuds in butter. ‘It’s only cooking, not a vaccine for polio,’ she griped once. The hysteria and hand-wringing that amasses if a dish is going to be, gasp, a few minutes late, is frankly ridiculous. It’s as if open-heart surgery is taking place and the diner will literally die, if their salmon remoulade is not delivered immediately. ‘I’m doing it, I’M DOING IT!’ she bellowed in a restaurant as a harassed head chef scuttled about. Gregg didn’t like her one little bit, especially as she is miles taller than him. (And everybody else – she’s like the Snow Queen from Narnia.) ‘First rule, make friends with the judges’, Gregg ill-advisedly offered in the first programme. She fixed him with a steely glare and rightly so. Leaving aside the gross corruption this implies, why should she, who has accomplished a huge amount in her career, simper and kowtow to him? What exactly is his cooking background anyway? In earlier series, they used to call him ‘Fruit and Veg man Gregg’, but this has been dropped now that he’s a bona fide sleb himself, having been in the tabloids enough. He can certainly trough up half a plateful on one spoon quite impressively and lust over the luscious young female contestants, I mean their delicious dishes, but can he make anything himself?
Never mind his credentials, the ecstasy that he envelopes himself in over some of the reasonably simple things that Marcus and Monica produced for the skills challenge; for example, the ‘buck rarebit’ (souped up cheese toastie with fried egg on it) suggests things not in tins are new to him. And yet he eats out all the time. He even owned a restaurant. Oh yes. It closed after staggeringly bad reviews. Here he and his saucer-eyes go bouncing round the room. ‘What do you think you need to do at this stage?’ he pointlessly asks, over and over and BLOODY OVER. Ooh, I don’t know Gregg. Streak naked through the kitchen whilst farting the national anthem and juggling goats’ heads? Meanwhile Marcus and Monica glide about, chopping and sautéing and patronising Gregg gently. If he had hair they would ruffle it, but they resort to patting Greggy on his boiled egg head. There seem to be an increasing amount of episodes he’s not in, indicating he may be being eased out? I imagine him left marooned like the last coconut at a shy, his ‘deep and meatys’ resembling a soggy leftover on the plate.