Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Master Chef? Meh…

Last night Americans were treated with the first episode of Gordon Ramsey’s amateur cooking competition Master Chef. The show has already proved successful in both the UK and Australia. Last night was the first of two ‘audition’ episodes, reminiscent of the American Idol auditions.

We were introduced to a bevy of 100 hopefuls who hoped to become one of 30 Master Chef contestants. The few that passed the auditions were given an apron to show that they made it.

We were treated to the flirty, the spastic, the arrogant. Of course, there were the obligatory sad stories. Tracy, a 42-year old physician, learned to cook from her mom who recently passed. Since her mother’s passing, cooking and recreating her mom’s recipes were her passion. All three judges loved her story and more importantly, they loved her Smothered Chicken With Grilled Brussels Sprouts. Then there was the young married father who put his culinary dreams on hold for the sake of his family. While I get the point of these stories, they bored me.

I was intrigued however by the two gentlemen who will be joining Ramsey in the judging. Chef Graham Elliot Bowles is a Chicago-based chef, who owns his own restaurant and has the distinction of being the youngest four star chef in any major U.S. City. He got that honor at the tender age of 27. He’s a ripe old 32 now. If we were to continue with the American Idol analogy, he’d be the Paula/Ellen of the group. In other words, he’s the nice one. Joe Bastianich is a restaurateur and wine maker with dozens of restaurants across the country. Surprisingly, is shaping up to be the Simon Cowell of the group, showing less mercy than Ramsey himself (who was actually pretty nice to the contestants).

Outside of just one cook, Mike, a server from California who made Duck Ssam With Orange Miso Sauce, most of the fare was very simple and basic – almost too simple and basic. Macaroni and cheese, ‘funeral potatoes” (creamy cheesy potato casserole) and catfish with pasta. Chris, who didn’t make the cut was a fan of cooking with beer and attempted to wow the judges with his beer cheese soup. It didn’t work.

I’m hoping the ones who make it through have more complex dishes in their arsenals.

I will stick it out through the audition shows however, because after they have chosen the top 30, I think that’s where the real fun will begin.

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