As I sat in front of the TV screen last night savoring the final episode of Masterchef Australia 3, rooting for Kate and her Orange Snowman and getting my last eyeful of Hayden, I was reminded of what someone asked, “What the hell is so good about goodbyes?”
I was also jolted by the fact that I will have absolutely nothing to look forward to on weeknights for the rest of the year. Over the last couple of months, I have become so used to planning dinner dates, holidays, movies and yes — I’m not ashamed to say it — my child’s bedtime around the show that now, I find myself anchorless, adrift in an endless sea of time, grappling with the fundamental question: What will life after Masterchef Australia 3 look like?
I can imagine that life in the bedroom will become more peaceful as the remote control is finally relinquished to news channels while in the living room guests will once again be admitted and conversations beyond ‘Dani is a mean cow’ and ‘Micheal is a cry baby’ — will flourish. But it’s only in the kitchen that the full impact of life after Masterchef will be felt.
Now instead of slapping pasta onto the plate, you may find yourself heaping the fork with one hand and gently twisting the plate with the other to achieve the wonderfully tight and compact mound of spaghetti. Now the chunkiness of the vegetables your cook cuts may grate on your nerves and you will search frantically for the Hindi equivalent of juliennes to explain it to her. Now you may think twice before heaping the beans with masala, wondering if a simple stir-fry with garlic might help them ‘shine through’. Now when you serve a pedestrian chocolate cake as dessert, you may be tempted to whip up some creamy sabayon to contrast the cocoa. Because now, food ambition has been born. Thanks to Masterchef Australia.
I first started to get this feeling at a recent mommies’ get-together organised at the son’s school where a couple of Masterchef addicts confessed to graduating from making rare appearance in the kitchen to the kind of people who search for quality knives when they travel abroad. These urbane women had happily surrendered control of the kitchen to the cook who was phone-trained by a remote mother/mother-in-law. And now, they are stepping in, experimenting, creating, innovating and giving their cooks a mighty migraine in the process.
My neighbour knocked on my door last week with her first batch of homemade scones and creme fraiche. This was a woman who had done nothing more ambitious than mix a bottle of pesto with a boxed spaghetti as a weekly treat for her kids. She had, till date, displayed far more interest in the new wrap-dress from Zara than a saucepan from Le Creuset. And finally, when I caught myself ‘wiping’ sauce stains from a plate of stir-fried veggies, I knew that Masterchef Australia had done more than fill a 9 pm slot; it had succeeded in creating a ‘food ambition’ in even the most indifferent of cooks. And Kate Bracks’ victory last night just sealed the deal.
Nobody expected Kate to win. Least of all Kate herself. Kate Bracks is not young like Ellie, ambitious like Alana or gifted like Hayden. She didn’t win any Immunity Pins while Dani won two. When it comes to cooking, we’ve been led to believe that either you have it or you don’t. Masterchef has always been about the stars — the flamboyant cooks who come ready with raw talent, winners you can usually spot right off the bat. Adam Liaw was always a shoo-in for the title in Masterchef 2 — he had outshone, out-cooked his competition right from the start, leaving no doubt that he was winner-material. No such certainty emanated from the stay-at-home mum Kate Bracks. And yet, she won.
Her journey could so easily be ours. Starting off slowly with comfort country food she transitioned to a rich but safe Raspberry & Kahlua ice-cream, graduating to an innovative Pumpkin & Bacon Dessert Cake and finally completing her transformation with the intensely technique-driven Quail Ballantine with Roasted Garlic Custard. And hey presto! A restaurant chef is born from a home cook. Her journey has been steady. Not brilliant, not certain, but steady. Her winning assures us that even though we can’t cook a really moist chicken breast, we may, with a little bit of encouragement and a dimpled grin from George, emerge on the other side with an exotic Skordalia Spatchcock on our hands! That wonderful sense of possibility is what Masterchef Australia leaves behind as it closes it’s doors for this season.
The time to watch may have gone but the time to cook has only just come.
As a blogger, ex-marketer, evangelist of socialfootprint.in and would-be novelist, Saisha wears many hats, none of which really fit her.