Last night’s finale of Masterchef Australia was meant to be about finding Australia’s “best home cook” – and sure, they produced some pretty amazing stuff. But how did it compare to the challenges that Australia’s real home cooks face each and every night?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that last night was the finale of the ninth season of Masterchef Australia. For the final challenge, the two remaining “home cooks” had to produce a complicated dessert called Trio of Fruits. It was a recipe with 106 steps. Of course, it wasn’t really fruit, but other stuff made to look like fruit.
This is all very well, but isn’t Masterchef meant to be about finding Australia’s best home cooks? I don’t know about you, but the only part of that challenge that resonates with my experience of being a home cook is the bit about disguising something to look like something else, so that people will eat it.
I’ve devised a spinoff that I think will resonate with the real home cooks of Australia. I’ve called it Masterchef: Parenting – and despite its lack of dry ice, it’s not for the faint of heart. Here are the crucial elements.
In Masterchef Australia, Monday nights are the Pressure Test. But in Masterchef: Parenting every night is a Pressure Test. The time allocated for cooking differs every night, and is unpredictable. Contestants may feel like they have a whole afternoon to present a dish to the judges, before realising that somehow, that time disappeared and they really only have 20 minutes. If the meal is not completed in the allocated timeframe, all the judges will fall apart, demand to be picked up and the contestant will spend the next three hours dealing with the fallout.
Masterchef: Parenting contestants would do well to remember that their toddler judges (see below) don’t like “anything spicy” – which they ought to translate to mean, anything with any real added flavour at all. Also, unlike Masterchef Australia contestants, who can rely on the fact that all the judges love crispy pork crackling, Masterchef: Parenting contestants should keep in mind that their judges’ tastes are extremely fickle. Just because they once ate something happily is no guarantee that it will be a winner this time.
Visiting the pantry
Masterchef Australia contestants race around the pantry area selecting everything they need for their cook, and they need to get in and out quickly. Masterchef: Parenting contestants also need to get in and out of the supermarket quickly, but as they select the ingredients for their dish, they have added challenges. They’ll be forced to take a baby and a toddler with them. The baby will scream the whole time and the toddler will add unexpected items to the basket, and remove some crucial ones as well.
Halfway through the process, the contestant will have to abandon the basket to take the toddler to the toilet. When they return, there’s a good chance their basket won’t be there anymore and they’ll have to begin the whole process all over again. Regardless, whatever they find in their basket once they get back to the bench is what they’re going to have to work with.
Masterchef Australia contestants choose their ingredients from a dedicated pantry area filled with choice cuts of meat, poultry and seafood; a never-ending array of herbs and spices and the freshest, widest variety of fruits and vegetables. But Masterchef: Parenting contestants can’t afford those kinds of ingredients. They’ll need to work out how to hero mince.
In every Pressure Test, there are unexpected complications, and this is no different for contestants in Masterchef: Parenting. As part of the challenge, they will realise ten minutes into the cook that their protein component is actually still frozen – and they’ll have to decide whether to ditch the whole meal and come up with something else, or to try and microwave it without accidentally cooking the edge bits.
Vegetables? Mostly, the judges won’t eat vegetables (except potato) – but out of guilt, the Masterchef: Parenting contestants will feel forced to include them, all the while with the knowledge that most of it will end up in the bin. If they’re lucky, their toddler will have left something edible in the basket from when they visited the supermarket, but if not – they’ll need to make do with whatever they can scrounge out of the crisper drawer in the bottom of the fridge.
Spoiler alert: It will not be crisp. They’ll need to just cut off the dodgy bits and hope nobody notices.
Interruptions to the cooking process
Just like in Masterchef Australia, there will be plenty of unasked for, unhelpful commentary on the cooking process from onlookers and judges. But the commentators won’t be a decent distance away in an overhead gantry – they’ll be right there holding onto the contestant’s leg as they pepper them with questions – What is it? That doesn’t look nice! Do I have to eat it?
During the remaining time allocated for the cook, the contestant will be interrupted at crucial moments – to break up fights over the television remote, to find a toy that one of the judges needs RIGHT NOW and to get another episode of Peppa Pig lined up on iView. Just as they are ready to plate up, they’ll need to put the whole dish on hold for 20 minutes while they breastfeed the baby.
Presenting the dish to the judges
When the time runs out on Masterchef: Parenting, the home cook will present the dish to a panel of toddlers and preschoolers for judging. Due to that breastfeeding interruption, there’s a high chance that (just like in Masterchef Australia) the food will be cold by the time it’s actually tasted. Fortunately, the judges are used to taking so long to eat their meals that they are used to cold food.
All of the judges will cry, throw the food on the floor and moan about why they can’t just have a bowl of ravioli WITH NO SAUCE.
The contestant will tear up. But this time we won’t judge them for it – they aren’t just putting it on for the cameras.