Michele Hewitson: Into the frying pan

By Michele Hewitson

Cooking couples Karena and Kasey (left) and Jaimie and Bec make double the drama on MasterChef NZ.
Cooking couples Karena and Kasey (left) and Jaimie and Bec make double the drama on MasterChef NZ.

It's hard to be really rude about MasterChef NZ because, for one thing, I've got to cook tea tonight. It takes a lot of energy to cook tea, even when I'm fairly sure we won't be having beef done two ways, with pickled vegetables and leaves cut into perfect circles. And I'm almost certain I won't be making steak tartare and bunging oysters into it, or searing and sous-viding a chunk and serving it with crumbed, deep-fried bearnaise sauce and pea puree and cream with horse radish. What do you think I am? A show-off? Also, even writing all of that has made me extremely tired. So, beans on toast again, dear?

Actually - show-off alert - I made a perfect bearnaise sauce just the other night, although the idea of crumbing and deep-frying it somehow didn't occur to me. That would have been showing off. Is cooking about showing off? It must be, given that you don't now just cook the tea every night, you cook it, then fiddle with it, (crumbed and deep-fried macaroni cheese, anyone?) then plate it, then get out your smartphone and take a picture of it, then post it to your food blog.

Then you eat your tea, which is by now stone cold but, boy oh boy, it looks fabulous in that pic on your blog. Or you go on a telly cooking show to show off. My bearnaise sauce might not have been showing off; saying it was perfect is. I did resist the fist pump, however.

This season's MasterChef NZ - the final pairs slug it out with frying pans tomorrow, TV One, 7.30pm - had a gimmick. There were duos instead of singletons. Why? Oh, double the drama, twice as many tears, perhaps. But if anyone bashed their cooking partner over the head with a frying pan, I missed it. I might have been busy cooking tea.

I swore I wasn't going to watch MasterChef NZ, or any country's version of it, again but it is pretty easy to watch in lieu of, say, Game of Thrones, the very idea of which makes me want to flambe my own head. I'd rather like to flambe the head of whoever writes the scripted bits of MasterChef NZ. I'm not sure that it's not written by a patented robotic writing machine that turns out the same script for every season. Or possibly the script is arrived at by cutting up past season's scripts, throwing them in the air, and pasting them back together to create a new script, which is not new at all. These are the sorts of idle thoughts I have when I'm watching MasterChef NZ, when I should be concentrating on figuring out just how, or why, one would crumb and deep-fry bearnaise sauce.

There are words which must, contractually, surely, be used in an episode of MasterChef NZ and they include: Godfather (as in godfather of fusion cuisine, to introduce Peter Gordon, a man who could not be further from the idea of a godfather - unless it is meant that he'd be a nice one to have for your kids); pressure (to be used at least 100 times), epic (self-explanatory); f*** (never heard, alas), and journey (which should never be heard unless you are, say, watching a documentary involving an actual journey). But the endearing thing about MasterChef NZ is that it never gets any better or slicker. The judges are as wooden as ever and still can't string together a sentence that doesn't sound as though it has been constructed by a robotic writing machine. Sample: "You've been the master of your own miracles ..." Somebody stop feeding that machine crumbed, deep-fried candy floss.

That is another reason it's hard to be rude about the thing. It's so amateur, for all it pretends to be otherwise. It could only be made in New Zealand.

The last reason is that the contestants are usually lovely.

Although if anyone was going to whack anyone over the head with a frying pan in the final, it's going to be one half of the Jaimie and Bec duo. You know which one. The scary blond one. The sisters, Karena and Kasey, are gorgeous and immensely likeable and could only be New Zealanders. "It'll suck," said Karena, about the prospect of getting the heave-ho from the show.

It'll suck if they don't win. We all want them to win. Go harder, girls! Fight to the very end! Be the mistresses of your own miracles! Work hard and fast and clever! (Copyright: The writing robot.) Then let it be over. Until next time.

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