“Masterchef” or “Wheel of Fortune”? by Braam Smith

Posted on June 9, 2011



This television addict just scored roughly six hours of his week back. Thank you MasterChef producers for … yet another … MasterDebacle.

The fiery Masterchef Australia logo...

Let’s get the record straight. I’m a bloke. Cooking has never really interested me – there I said it. Oooh, Good! I can feel you judging me already!! That’s fine, it’s probably nothing less than what I deserve. It is what it is, though.

Since MasterChef arrived two years ago, the missus has had it on. Religiously. If the kids aren’t in bed by 7:30pm sharp, they have to sort themselves out. “Character building” we call it.

So, as an aforementioned addict, and in spite of my ambivalence to the cooking genre, because the box has been flickering at me, I’ve sat down and watched more than I’ve cared to admit until now. It turns out I’ve watched enough to know who can cook and who doesn’t know their cassoulet from their sorbet.

The regulare Masterchef judges: Gary, Matt and George, and their sometimes ally Matt Moran

I therefore know when contestants have been ripped off. This week, it was “Three Strikes and Off to the Blogs!”

Now don’t go waving your skillets threateningly at me just yet … I do get it … It’s a game show. People win, more people lose. If you don’t make the cut, you’re gone. At the back of my mind though is the promotional tagline:

“The search for Australia’s best amateur chef”

There is one key word here:


The top 24 for Masterchef 2011

Now I’m going to show my age here, but back in my day there were two quintessential game shows on the box (yes, the addiction started early):

Sale of the Century (pre-dating all this ‘millennium’ business), was your Spicks & Specks or Rockwiz, sans music, avec questioning on “general knowledge” that was general knowledge to a fraction of us.

Quite simply, the best contestant won. Fact. There were some elements of chance, but by design they gave merely fleeting glimpses of glory to those who would, 10 minutes later, return to the mediocrity from whence they hailed. Great television. To the winners went all the spoils: cars, boats, holidays, grand pianos … and piles of cash like you’d never seen in your life (until Million Dollar Drop).

If you were the best, you won, and boy you won good. Your right to continue wasn’t judged solely on your answer to the last question asked.

Very retro Sale of the Century logo.

Wheel of Fortune, as the name would suggest, involved a far greater element of chance. If you’re thinking Hangman meets Roulette, then you’ve got The Wheel. Ultimately, if you could avoid spinning the dreaded ‘Bankrupt’, the low degree of difficulty that the ‘skill’ component of The Wheel brought meant that you’d invariably get over the line in front. Ability to spell? Ability to spin the sparkly top-dollars? Inconsequential.

Spoils? There were some.

Tony Barber and Adriana Xenides on Wheel of Fortune

So why the trip down Retro Lane? Perhaps the romance of Jay, the Former Used-Car Salesman, beating the more-likely to the MasterChef title instilled some sentimental favouritism in me. Don’t pretend you aren’t with me. It sure seems as though this week Jay went from spinning up top-dollar after top-dollar, to spinning two Bankrupts.

In The Wheel, the second bankrupt was much less destructive than the first; in MasterChef, cue the presentation of packed bags and a Cabcharge docket.

Jay, the Former Used-Car Salesman

For however long I’ve wasted on this season of Masterchef, Jay has repeatedly delivered amongst the top dishes of most contests. Come Sunday, he was required to cobble something together from someone else’s shopping basket of horrors. Bottom three? Fair enough, perhaps. “Australia’s best amateur chef” should probably demonstrate some more innovation. The playing field was hardly level, though.

Come Monday, the infinitely wise producers deemed it necessary to task him with something well known to regular viewers to be his prime weakness. No doubt some very deliberate editing in the preceding weeks’ episodes assisted our sense of shock.

Gary and George, the 'wise' judges.

Was his product materially worse than that of his two (more television-friendly) competitors?


But he has demonstrated that he is clearly a better Australian amateur chef, right?


For me this was strike three…

I’ll call a spatula a “spatula” here, a matter of weeks ago, contestant Sun delivered an abomination of an elimination test. Curiously though she now survives both Jay and Cleo, the latter regarded as at least a Top-5 contender. “The esteemed” however deemed Cleo’s infringement of one of the rules of the challenge to be a more dismissible offence than a blatant inability to cook, even when following instructions.

So just how the two remaining decent cooks, Michael and Hayden, will be prematurely sent packing, I won’t know. I, for one, am done.

Our judges, again.

Good luck to those who will clench their teeth and stick out the rest of the season in …

“The search for Australia’s least unlucky amateur chef”

Posted in: Food, Opinion, Television