By Molly Fowler
As this time of year approaches I find myself tingling with anticipation and beaming from ear to ear at the thought of the comedy foodie duo that is Gregg Wallace and John Torrode gracing our screens once more.
So you can imagine my shock when I settled down with a steaming plate of food and the phone off the hook to welcome in the new series of Masterchef, only to be greeted by a gleaming metallic warehouse that would make IKEA drool and a confused sounding India Fisher trying to make her voiceover more American sounding. Where was the shagged out kitchen? Where was the complete lack of pomp and pretension which made me fall in love with the show in the first place?
Being a dedicated fan I decided to give the new format a chance, against my better judgement, with the familiar phrase “It will change their life!” acting to reassure me. It is true that they have kept many of the old favourite rounds such as the ‘invention test’, where the contestants must cook a meal from a mystery box of ingredients, and ‘cooking for the critics’, which always involves Kate Spicer making catty comments and pouting a lot and Charles Campion wolfing down any dessert set in front of him, in order to placate any seasoned veterans of the show.
However, I, as well as many of my Masterchef-loving companions, felt that the essence of the show – its ability to have real amateurs cooking good food for two down to earth and genuinely kind presenters – has been somewhat lost in translation. There is no need for the initial auditions a-la-American Idol, where contestants have to sweat it out cooking solo for the judges in a room big enough to comfortably house Kate and Will’s wedding reception. The second chances given to those contestants who just weren’t quite good enough also struck a sour note with me – obviously intended to strike a chord with the more sensitive of the viewers, I found myself questioning why slushy parsnip puree or a pudding that refused to set should be granted a comeback.
But worst of all are the sob stories that can be found popping up all over the place. You know the signs; the music suddenly becomes melancholy and the lights are dimmed whilst one of the contestants tearfully admit that they are doing it ‘for their sick mother/dead relative/lost dog’ who they know are going to be so proud of them. Cue much shouting at the screen informing them to get a grip.
I know this is a rant but it’s only because Masterchef has built up such a dedicated and appreciative fan base over the years that people like me feel they are being cheated out of something they genuinely love. If I were ever to meet Gregg and John, after most likely screaming with excitement and immediately asking for autographs, I would repeat John Torrode’s rather sinisterly whispered warning to contestant Alice: “next time, don’t bite off more than you can chew”.