TV Review: “MasterChef”

By Alexander Russ

Imagine if you will, a sort of reboot of the “American Idol” recipe. Instead of the contestants singing their way into the spotlight, they are cooking their way there. Remove Simon Cowell’s belittling of his hopefuls and add infamous hothead Gordon Ramsay (“Hell’s Kitchen”). Put that together and you have “MasterChef.” While this new FOX series (well, new to the U.S. anyway) does deliver on entertainment with the suspense of who might get eliminated, it falls short of what it could be. Many times it just feels like a soap opera, and it fails to let its biggest asset, Ramsay himself, do what he does best: yell and scream.

“MasterChef” brings together 100 random amateur chefs from across the country, all with different professions and backgrounds, to see if they have what it takes to achieve culinary perfection. By the end of the first episode, 70 of those contestants are eliminated. The remaining 30 have the opportunity to work with Ramsay, along with his two co-hosts: four-star chef Graham Elliot, and Joseph Bastianich, the owner of multiple restaurants throughout New York City and Las Vegas, as well as wineries in Italy.

If anyone has seen Ramsay’s other TV series, “Hell’s Kitchen,” they know exactly how he acts when the kitchen isn’t at its utmost perfection. Ramsey clearly has no problem swearing at his workers, telling them exactly what he thinks and even telling off angry customers who try to confront him. Unfortunately, in “MasterChef,” viewers do not see the same fiery Ramsay they once knew. Instead, they see his softer side, as he dispenses hugs and gentle words of constructive criticism—a stark contrast to the cold, harsh remarks that continue to break even the most confident of aspiring chefs on “Hell’s Kitchen.” It’s great to see that Ramsay has a soul and sense of compassion for fellow human beings, but let’s face it — it’s much more exciting to watch him scream and act like a complete jerk. It’s what the TV audience knows him for, and if its worked before, there’s no need to change it.

Looking past Ramsay himself, it’s understandable that emotions can run high for some of the contestants. They are trying to prove their skills to some of the best chefs in the world, and cooking in front of them is a lot of pressure. However, instead of finding a nice, warm medium for displaying multiple contestants’ emotions, “MasterChef” is charred and overdone in that respect. For example, one of the contestants, before she even begins cooking, takes up three or four minutes talking about how she’s here for her late mother, and used her mother’s old cookbook as inspiration for her recipes. Even though that’s a great reason to be on the show, it’s playing on emotions rather than ability — just like every other two-bit reality show. It’s like the makers themselves lost sight of what their show’s real goal is: to prove who is the best chef, not who has the most heart-wrenching story.

But, the “MasterChef” recipe may yet have some potential. It has worked in other countries like Australia, where the show has already run for three seasons, so perhaps it can work here as well. However, it needs to utilize all the ingredients of the recipe to succeed. If the show asks for a cup of Gordon Ramsay, why only put in a dash? The audience wants to see the Ramsay we all know and love, not one who looks like he just came out of anger management.

Read more here: http://www.michigandaily.com/content/masterchef-tuesdays-9-pm-fox
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