In its first episode, MasterChef reminds us that food is inseparable from family

Today is my birthday, and Channel Ten decided that it was the perfect day to bring back MasterChef. I completely agree. I had a great birthday. I went out for dinner with my family last night, I went to the Pancake Parlour with my friends this afternoon and ate so much food that I didn’t need dinner. I shared meals with people I love. Then I spent my evening live-tweeting MasterChef, and this beauty popped up in my feed because former contestant Alice Zaslavsky retweeted it.

It’s no secret that I don’t like MKR, it’s advertised as some sort of Mean Girls horror show. I only ever saw the last five minutes of an episode when I was waiting for Last Resort to start. In its least successful season, MasterChef tried to incorporate some more traditional reality show elements with its ‘Battle of the Sexes.’ When MasterChef tried to capitalise on what made MKR successful it failed, and when it went back to basics, people started watching again. This tweet got me thinking. I don’t think that MasterChef puts the story second. Yes, it’s a show about food first, but the stories of its contestants are woven into their cooking – it’s about balance.

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Things I loved in 2015: Cooking shows

I just went out for a work dinner, and I planned to watch Jane the Virgin when I got back, but my family was watching Sliding Doors on DVD. Last night it was When Harry Met Sally, the first half of which is great. I pretend that it ends when they play Pictionary, and it’s a much better film. So, in my lack of planning that’s consistent with this time of year (although I finished my Christmas shopping a week ago), I thought about what I didn’t include on my Top 10 list for the year. It’s my first time writing a Top 10 list, and it was a strange exercise. I’ve had a draft post for about three weeks now, with a number of shows on it. I was going to cheat and do 15, but in the end there wasn’t anything I felt really bad about leaving off, except that I really do enjoy cooking shows, and I left both MasterChef and The Great Australian Bake Off off of my list.

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Great AACTA results, but comedy still gets short shrift

The Australian Academy of Film and Television Arts (formerly the Australian Film Industry) hosted their annual awards last night in Sydney. Despite many Australians loving The Dressmaker (which I haven’t seen), Mad Max: Fury Road took out the top award for Best Film, as well as technical awards for director George Miller (this award was sponsored by Hyundai), cinematographer John Seale and editor Margaret Sixel. Having finally been able to watch Fury Road last weekend (mini review: I didn’t think I was that invested in it, but then I cried at the end), this is a great result, even though I haven’t seen any of the other nominated films. The Dressmaker didn’t go home empty handed, as Kate Winslet and Hugo Weaving both won acting awards for their performances. After last year’s (well early this year) controversial tie, it’s good to see the AACTAs are awarding good films and good performances. My knowledge of Australian film is very slim, but I have some observations about the television categories. A full list of the winners can be found here.

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Live Blog: MasterChef Finale 2015

7:30 pm: I predicted a couple of weeks ago that the top two would be Billie and Georgia, and I think that’s the first time I’ve ever made an accurate prediction about reality television. My decision to write about this finale may have been premature, given that it’s two and a half hours long. I think Billie is going to win.

7:40: The first challenge is a Mystery Box! This is great, because the Mystery Box is probably my favourite of all MasterChef challenges. Because it’s the finale, the judges have some of Australia’s best food producers to bring in fresh produce, and I want to eat it all. From Georgia and Billie’s reactions, it appears that they’re going to choose the same ingredients, so it’s a good thing that the judges send out the produce people so their feelings don’t get hurt when their ingredients aren’t chosen.

7:45: Georgia is making a dessert pasta, and Billie is doing strawberries three ways, and they’re using pretty much the same ingredients.

7:50: Gary and George come over to put doubt into Georgia’s mind about her idea, which is their job. However Georgia is the most anxious contestant I’ve ever seen on MasterChef, and she’s also great at Mystery Boxes, so you never know.

7:55 Matt comes over and asks Billie whether or not she’s nervouos about how much Georgia is doing, and suddenly Billie is adding four new elements to the dish. Both of these amateur cooks are good enough to win the competition, but MasterChef is such an artificial environment that the judges are able to get into the contestants’ heads because they know them so well.

7:58 Georgia’s pasta dough might be too thick, and Billie realises she has too many elements, just as they have one minute left.

8:00 They’ve just finished the last Mystery Box they’ll ever cook on MasterChef! Now it’s time for some reflection before the judges taste.

Billie: Gary loves some of it, but he couldn’t taste the strawberries in Billie’s parfait. George says there are some slight problems, but the textures are exciting, and flavour comes from texture. Matt says something about the produce and then nothing particularly amazing about the dish.

Georgia: The judges question sweet pasta dishes just before we cut to an ad break so we can learn about Sam, The Bachelor.

8:04 I’m really intrigued by The Bachelor from the promos, but I don’t really want to watch it, so I hope someone writes some good recaps. In the meantime, check out Matt Singer’s Bachelorette recaps over at Screencrush. I’m less intrigued by The Great Australian Spelling Bee. Bring on The Great Australian Bake-Off, Lifestyle!

8:07 Dramatic music as the judges taste Georgia’s dish! The editing on this show is fantastic. Gary thinks Georgia did a great job, and basically saved herself by putting the vanilla bean in the pasta dough. George says it’s more like a warm salad, and Matt says it’s fantastic, even though the pasta dough was too thick.

8:09 Round 1 Scores! Billie gets a 7 from Gary, a 7 from George and a 7 from Matt, totalling 21 points, for people who don’t know their 3 or 7 times tables. And people who do, I guess. Georgia gets an 8 from Matt, 7 from George and 8 from Gary, which puts her 2 points ahead of Billie with a score of 23.

8:11 The judges are talking a bunch before letting the contestants know that they’ve invited their families to the show. I can’t imagine being away from my family for so long with very little contact, that’s probably the hardest thing about the whole competition.

8:13 They introduce their families. Billie didn’t like milking the cows, and Georgia was a messy cook. We have our first misuse of the world ‘surreal’ of the night, although I did miss some of the introduction to brush my teeth.

8:15 Billie and Georgia are cooking for their families as well as for the judges. Georgia is going to cook with mushrooms, Billie is going back to keeping it simple afther the first round, and she’s going for scallops.

8:18 Georgia is doing a mushroom tribute; she hated mushrooms as a child, but her mum loved them, and the hero of the dish is a mushroom custard. The judges question Billie’s idea of making a scallop dish in a 90 minute challenge, and now she’s freaking out after the last challenge, concerned she’s made the same mistake. Now it’s time for some Channel Ten cross-promotion, with some sponsor ads thrown in.

8:20 There’s an ad for Meryl Streep’s new film Ricki and the Flash, in which one of her daughters plays her daughter. I’m not sure whether it’s Mamie (of The Good Wife fame) or Grace (of The Newsroom fame).

8:23 Billie has decided to only add two elements. Billie’s my pick to win this, so it had better pay off. Meanwhile, Georgia is adding a hazlenut granola (what is that?) to her dish because she’s worried about texture.

8:25 Billie’s dad says her vinaigrette is ‘alright’. He’s a classic country bloke. Georgia’s mushroom custard is perfect, but I’m not a fan of custard, and the mushroom colour isn’t great, so I’ll pretend I believe her.

8:27 Ten minutes to go! Gary comes to see how Georgia’s going, and questions whether Georgia’s oven is too hot. If they’re not cooked properly, she’s in ‘big trouble’.

8:28 Billie is worried that she hasn’t even started yet. She’s practiced with her scallops though. Georgia’s unmoulding her custards, which don’t look appetising at all.

8:29 Billie is disappointed with her plating, but I think it looks lovely until I see what Georgia’s done.

8:33 Sam, The Bachelor, obviously doesn’t watch UnREAL, because he didn’t consider that one of the contestants would already have a daughter.

8:34 Time for the second tasting of the night! Once again we begin with Billie. Her dad seems impressed, and everyone is nodding. The puree makes the dish special according to Matt, but Gary’s favourite thing is the roast fennel. George says this isn’t the best plating she’s ever done, but he ate the whole thing, which is much more important. The judges ask Billie’s parents if they’re proud, and of course they are.

8:36 It’s now Georgia’s turn. She’s happy with the dish, even though mushroom custard sounds super disgusting. The judges make fun of Georgia for talking while they’re eating, and they have a nice laugh with Georgia’s family. Apparently the custard is cooked perfect, but I still wouldn’t eat it.

8:38 Time for the Round 2 scores, and both dishes were ‘brilliant’. We all know that Billie is two points behind because she’s mentioned it 50 times. Billie gets an 8 from George, 8 from Gary and 9 from Matt, for a Round 2 score of 25 and an overall score of 46.

8:40 Georgia gets a 9 from Matt, 9 from George and probably 9 from Gary, who was talking about his custard concerns, and yes he gave her 9 for a Round 2 score of 27 and an overall score of 50. I picked Billie for the winner, my pride is on the line! There’s a pressure test coming up though, and Brent was behind before the pressure test last year before winning the whole thing.

8:43 Sam mentions the Blake controversy from last year. Is The Bachelor really the most talked about show in the country? Ugh, this ad is giving me strange UnREAL flashbacks. I’ll be reviewing UnREAL tomorrow.

8:46 Has Channel Ten had any original scripted programming this year? Last year there was Offspring, Puberty Blues and Party Tricks. All I’m seeing ads for right now are Spelling Bee, The Bachelor and The Biggest Loser.

8:47 It’s a Heston Pressure Test! We already know this from the ads, but the contestants are about to find out, except when you figure out that this was filmed months ago. Billie and Georgia find out how hard the Pressure Test is going to be and decide to split the money.

8:49 Matt finally announces that it’s a Heston Blumenthal Pressure Test. Georgia: “It’s Heston, he’s back.” Matt asks Heston just how difficult the test is. Georgia says that there’s no one who understands his flavours before she even sees the dish.

8:51 Gold baubles! Of course it looks amazing, and he seems to have given it a scientific name the way you would a plant. (The only scientific name I can think of off the top of my head is ceratopetalum gummiferum). Oh, he’s named it after a good rot that affects some breeds of grape. That caramel vine is stunning, how do you make it so tall?

8:53 Heston: “Some of these elements have sub-elements”
Georgia: “A babushka recipe”
Heston: “55 stages”

8:54 It’s a really good cheese and wine dish, so maybe this would be the perfect dessert for Jessica. Heston is leading them through the tasting of the dish. This dish sent a professional pastry chef to a clinic, so this whole thing is pretty ridiculous. The entire challenge is 5 hours of preparation and 15 minutes to assemble.

8:57 Heston is also judging this challenge, which means there are 40 points up for grabs. It’s at this stage the hyperbole surrounding the show starts to get to me.

8:58 The challenge starts, and the judges talk about how difficult the challenge is, just in case the audience hadn’t been told enough. I love this show, but the amount of repetition is frustrating.

9:00 They’re waiting for the temperature to reach 108C, so my guess is that someone is going to make a mistake with their thermometre. It took them both 20 minutes to do the first element.

9:02 Why aren’t you using a pipette to weigh the vodka?

9:03 Gary stops both the contestants to let them know they’re behind schedule, but at least they’re at relatively the same point. And now we get two ads in a row with Matt Preston!

9:04 I find it really disconcerting that McDonald’s use Zadok the Priest in their ads for the creations thing, I sang that for a school concert in Year 7.

9:06 The sky is already dark and they’re only half an hour into the challenge, this is ridiculous. Billie needs her four points back. She’s a fantastic multitasker, so I’m sure she’ll be great. Georgia has the advantage of being at the back bench, so she can see where BIllie is at.

9:10 Georgia is getting flustered as Billie is motoring on. No one has ever made up this many points in the finale before, but the way Georgia and Billie deal with stress gives Billie the advantage in this Pressure Test. It turns out that Georgia is so worried about how far along Billie is that she’s not thinking about what she’s doing.

9:12 I assume they each get their own fridge so that they don’t have a Great British Bake-Off style disaster of the wrong custard, or Bin-Gate.

9:13 Sara is doing commentary, and I don’t think I like her cape very much. Georgia is worrying a lot. Aaaaaaand she spills her gel. This is the last thing Georgia needs. In her defence, the judges have been incredibly cruel in setting this challenge. George gives a great pep talk and reminds her that she has a 4 point lead, which isn’t insignificant.

9:16 Why do they put on make-up if they know they’ll probably cry? I know it’s television.

MORE IMPORTANTLY: I’m very disappointed that Taylor Swift has licenced Shake It Off to The Biggest Loser, which is a show that encompasses everything that Shake It Off is not. It’s fat-shaming disguised as a health show, and it’s disgusting. The contestants on The Biggest Loser would be better off dancing to Shake It Off, because the haters gonna hate.

9:20 Georgia has halved the rest of the ingredients for the recipe, which is what I predicted she’d do. Billie is worried about Georgia, because she’s the best.

9:24 Billie is ON FIRE. She’s up to the sugar ball, and the music is dramatic as she takes a swig of water. It’s science time! Billie has put on her PPE and is ready to go. Of Course Heston has a special gold sugar, because of course he does. I bet Reynold is really jealous that he’s not making this. Billie is having trouble, and it’s a good thing she’s given herself a lot of time. Heston says it took him three days to get the sugar blowing right, so that’s where we’re at.

9:27 Georgia is spending extra time on her chocolate. There are 20 minutes left, and Heston is supervising Billie’s sugar work. She’s spent nearly 40 minutes on this one element, and this is when she gets stressed. Heston is helping her with it as she gets it right, and then it breaks as she takes it off.

9:30 Billie actually breaks down, and I can understand why this is so stressful. But she still has time! Come on Bilie! I want you to succeed! George is on pep talk duty, telling Billie that if it was easy, anyone could do it. WHich is half true, but also not everyone keeps glass blowing equipment and special Heston sugar in their kitchen so they can make a sphere of golden sugar. Billie has another go, and she gets it! She’s a champion, and now she’s getting all her elements in containers.

9:34 Georgia has finished her chocolate with 10 minutes to go, and now she’s doing her sugar ball. She ditches the sugar ball, which is understandable. Better to have one missing element than two.

9:35 Do they have to plate four dishes or just one? Time is up! Heston goes and gives them a hug. Billie: “It was really hard, Heston!” They have a right to be annoyed.

9:36 We’re at another ad break, and I’m wondering what on earth the judges are going to have Heston whip up for the finale next year. Who knows, maybe Reynold will have invented something that’s finale worthy by then.

9:40 I’ve debated whether or not to watch Have You Been Paying Attention?, but season two winner Adam Liaw will be on! The show is going to finish late though. BIllie is plating up, and it looks magnificent.

9:42 Okay, they only have to plate one dish, which is a relief. Heston is a Billie fan, because he’s a thinking person.

9:44 George already has his plating tweezers out, and the judges are so impressed with how well Billie has done. And they haven’t even tasted it yet! Heston is speechless and thinks Billie is “some kind of Superwoman”. Can someone please make a MasterChef parody where the contestants are all superheroes and Billie is Superwoman? Or maybe Wonderwoman, and the film is still directed by Michelle MacLaren.

9:46 Georgia plates up. She has two chocolate balls to make up for the missing sugar ball, and her gel doesn’t look as good. Georgia’s a little sad that this is the last time she’s going into the tasting room. Heston is impressed that Georgia was able to pull herself out of her doubt spiral. Now Matt is asking about her family, because this is MasterChef, and they need to make the contestants cry at least twice. Georgia’s always had great support but the issue was self-doubt. It appears that people find Georgia annoying, but I see a lot of myself in her, and I love that she never gives up.

9:48 Georgia’s dish is well-balanced, and the chocolate spheres are good, but there are serious issues. Billie’s won the challenge, but has she won the competition? I think yes, but I can’t be sure. Time for an ad break.

9:55 They’re revealing the final scores, which means that there’s going to be a lot of posturing before they actually get to the scores. Oh wait, all the people are already there! The judges are telling us it all comes down to the scores in these folders, which we already know. They’re scoring Georgia first, which means Billie wins.

9:57 Georgia gets 7 from Heston, 7 from Matt, 8 from George and 8 from Gary. That’s a round 3 score of 30, bringing her total to 80. Billie needs 34 to win, which she obviously did, because she’s getting at least 36. Billie gets 9 from Gary, 9 from George, 9 from Matt, and finally I’m guessing a 10 from Heston. Oh no, it’s a 9. Either way, she’s won! She got the 36 I predicted, which means she has a total of 82winning by 2 points!

10:01 This brings me to the end of my live blog, and it’s been fun, but I don’t know whether or not I’ll do future live blogs, this was just the best way for me to review the finale.

10:05 I thought it was over but then Heston Blumenthal offered Billie a job at the Fat Duck. Other contestants have been offered jobs at the end of their MasterChef journeys (TM), but I didn’t expect that.

MasterChef Australia, Season 7 Week 10

I was out all day today, so I haven’t had much time (or energy – tree planting is very draining) to watch anything to write about, which means it’s time for an update on MasterChef, which finished its tenth week last night. I’m not sure how many weeks there are left, but it’s usually finals week once we have a top six, and I’m almost positive that the show runs 12 or 13 weeks, not 11. Mysteries! Anyway, MasterChef is a much more interesting show once it gets down to the pointy end of the competition. This is probably true for most reality shows, but I only tend to watch cooking reality shows (I might watch The Bachelor this year, but more on that on Sunday). I have an acquaintance who only started watching this week. This is going to be a short one, because the keyboard on this tablet is really getting on my nerves – it keeps jumping into the middle of already typed words while I’m writing. Continue reading

How to judge a cooking reality show in multiple rounds

I’ve had a slight cold this week, and when I’m sick I like to watch cooking shows. Fortunately for me, MasterChef is on five nights a week, and I also spent much of Thursday afternoon watching old episodes of The Great British Bake-Off. This is one of those posts where I haven’t had much time over the past two days to watch anything, so I’m just putting up a few thoughts on my cooking shows. In The Great British Bake-Off, each round is conducted over a weekend, and the bakers have three challenges to complete. When Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood (the best names of judging panel members in television history), they take into account all three bakes. On MasterChef, this is less true, and eliminations can therefore be problematic.

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MasterChef Favourites Week was absolutely delightful

If anyone is wondering (or even reads) where the weekly review of The Americans is, the answer is that I was out all day and forgot to record it, so I’m going to have to find time to watch it over the weekend before I go house sitting. Even if I had recorded it, I fell asleep watching Scandal’s second season this afternoon, and that’s one of the best seasons of drama in the past five years. I wouldn’t have had the energy to review it. Instead I’m going to focus on what has easily been my favourite week of MasterChef this season, as the show found it wise to bring back some of our favourite contestants: Poh, Hayden, Kylie, Callum, Ben and Andy (portmanteau Bendy) and Justine.

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