Sunday night. I wallow in a nicotine cloud as I pick through the last dregs of the chicken catastrophe I prepared for dinner. It was meant to be a glorious Sunday Roast, eaten just before MasterChef NZ, a show you should never watch on an empty stomach.
This is not the worst dish I have concocted. I do a good soggy salad, and something a friend dubbed "pork angina", but I have yet to master the chicken roast in my aging fan-oven. It's early 90's Scandinavian, and the controls are still mysterious and highly unpredictable.
The cloud of nicotine is harder to explain, as there are no smokers in the house, so it may be time to clean the oven.
Perhaps it's because my chef status is at the other end of the spectrum from 'master' that I enjoy food related shows so much. I struggle with home-reno TV, save for one series of House Rules which I liked. I can do a reveal, but refuse to watch people nailing things, and you can piss right off if you think I'm going to endure a "challenge".
Dancing about and flashing your undies doesn't hold my attention either, but Food TV is another matter. I like MKR, CDWMNZ, anything with Anthony Bourdain, Nigel Slater and Gordon f-ing Ramsay. I can get excited by Mike van de Elzen blanching broccoli as he did last week on Kiwi Living. My depravity knows no bounds.
That said, MasterChef is typically viewed enthusiastically in the beginning, avoided in the tediously repetitive middle, and rejoined as it heads to the final brûlée.
TV3 has taken over the show that was once a TVNZ staple so it was with slight excitement and wonderment that I sat down with greasy hands poised above my laptop to wrestle some words of judgment into something digestible. How would this dish stack up?
My first mission was to find a moment in the show that could be frozen and photographed by a Dom Harvey type for electronic dissemination and outrage.
Would the new judges fare better than the low wattage bulbs of MKR NZ, or be as good as the ones on MasterChef NZ of old? How could I tie in the Serco debacle? And most importantly: Will there be someone to hate?
These questions hung in the air like a dream-catcher made of prosciutto. I could hear a fly buzzing, but it was only me.
Within seconds the voiceover guy is off and running: "Ordinary people with extraordinary dreams ... an absolute passion to change their lives!" Oh boy, they are laying it on with a trowel. "They will be tested like never before!"
New judges, Al Brown and Auckland restaurateur Mark Wallbank, join OG MasterChef NZ judge Sam the Eagle. I mean, Josh the Emett. The guest judges coming up later in the series look pretty good too, Marco Pierre Bastard and that nice little baldy one from MasterChef Australia.
The contestants range from "my friends told me to do it" to the dreaded, "I have the passion" and, "My grandmother gave me the recipe on her deathbed."
First up it's the old "signature dish" challenge. Chris, a young builder, goes for a snapper ceviche. Jess, has a "passion for it" and wants to "share her passion with everyone else", so I hate her with a passion already.
Ten minutes in and I realise that I'm not missing Simon Gault at all. Al Brown has the same level of genial gush and surplus bonhomie to boot. Wallbank makes a good Ray McVinnie. Judge crisis averted.
The ceviche looks amazing. Chris is in. Jess's pepper crusted beef fillet with garlic mash, mushroom sauce and asparagus, looks a bit rough, but she scrapes through. She is so pleased that I struggle to maintain my hatred of her, which fades to a dim suspicion.
Musical notes: There was some pan-seared duck matched with moving lilting piano music, and some plinky-plonks, backing some steak and chips - both got through.
Some show-off tries to do two dishes and gets the boot, as does a madwoman who makes a goat-topped pizza. An old guy makes a fish dish that could be prison food, so that's my Serco moment ticked off.
A guy called Tim says "passion" three times and says he "sacrificed" stuff to be on the show. I'll keep an eye on him.
And then Liz makes my night with the words: "To be honest I've never watched MasterChef before". At this the music stops as if she had just sharted in front of the Pope. Emett gives a Gestapo stare. No apron for her, just the purgatory of "maybe".
At the 80-minute mark the "maybes" are forced into a cook-off to the death. Liz, the apostate who has "never watched MasterChef" will surely get her comeuppance. Some things cannot stand. She just f***ed with the wrong franchise.
It's the new boy Wallbank who is forced to pull the trigger, a sort of initiation into the carnage to come.
"Liz, your journey finishes here", are the last words she hears as she trudges out the door. Age shall not weary her, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, the rest of us remain, at home, on the sofa, one more MasterChef closer to death.
* MasterChef NZ, Sundays 7pm TV3.