How MasterChef Australia season 12 has been the perfect antidote to lockdown blues
MasterChef Australia has brought back some semblance to my life and healed me more than I can give it credit for.
Mumbai went into lockdown in March and has remained so since the past four months. At first, we tried to take it in our stride. Banana breads were baked and online yoga classes were taken to deal with the anxiety of having to stay at home all the time. Some people lit diyas, some people made fun of people lighting diyas, some people were confident we’ll get over it soon enough, while some decided that coronavirus can be cured by homeopathy.
None of this helped me. I’d lie in bed all day, stare at the ceiling, get up and do some work, and lie down again till somehow it was 8 pm. Sex and The City would just be playing in the background and I’d randomly scream at Carrie for constantly getting back with Mr Big.
It was during one of my countless SATC rewatches when I stumbled upon the new season of MasterChef Australia. I remembered a friend insisting I watch the new season. The last time I was invested in MasterChef Australia was back in 2012, when Andy Allen was a contestant in season 4. I was young, the TV was always on, he was cute and he cooked so well! And now, in Season 12, 2020 — Andy returned to the show as a judge and I returned to the show as a viewer.
Two episodes into the new season, and I got over his good looks, and fell hook, line, and sinker into the glorious world of food. The new judges — Andy, Mellisa Leong and Jock Zonfrillo were a sight to sore eyes (my love for Andy was soon replaced by my surprisingly intense feelings for Jock but that I’ll save for another essay).
There was no unnecessary drama about the judges berating the chefs, there was no sad backstory packaged with a sympathy inducing background score. The series focussed on one thing only - the beauty of cooking a meal. But not just any meal. The all-star contestants have had to face some insane challenges like making the black box - a dessert described as “terrifying” by its creator Chef Peter Gunn. In that episode, the cooks had to make 11 elements from scratch and prettily fit them inside a black box made of white chocolate mixed with ash. It was stressful to see the two Sarahs — Claire and Tiong absolutely lose their mind over tempering chocolate, with someone as chaotic as Poh calling this a ‘trainwreck’ from the gantry. The judges were eating the dessert by smashing the tight black boxes with their little hammers (I know how this sounds but I swear I’m not making it up). Eventually it was Sarah Claire’s box which didn’t have the right balance as per Mellisa’s assessment. Side note: if I had a shot whenever Mellisa says “balance” I’d have a liver failure and you’d all feel bad for me.
I also vividly remember a very pregnant Katy Perry turning up in pre-Covid episode. The challenge for that episode was to make a dish with a hot and a cold element, based on Katy’s bop Hot n Cold. Poh, Reynold Poernomo, Reece, Sarah Tiong and Simon had to cook for immunity. Reece decided to make a hot rum baba cake with a cold smoked honey cream. And while his dough was baking in the oven, he decided to down a few shots of rum... to you know… “cook better”. But enough about the food, I can’t forget feeling intense jealousy when Katy said “put it in my mouth Daddy” to Jock when he was cutting a piece of pork for her. My Jock! I mean, come on Katy. You already have Orlando Bloom, what more do you want?
Basically, a cooking based reality show was making me more emotional than anything else had in all these months.
I didn’t want to watch happy couples, I'm single and I'm quarantining. I didn’t want to see death, it's around us all the time, I didn't want to see people cry because that's what I do all day. MasterChef Australia soon became the chicken soup I needed for my soul.
Watching the contestants talk passionately about cooking potatoes made me momentarily forget about what’s happening outside. I watched (and giggled) as Rose, Poh and Ben struggled to make khandvi, which Australian based Indian restaurateur Helly Raichura rebranded as a ‘pasta not pasta’. I was outraged when Emilia and Laura made pani puri with raw scallops as fillings AND served the pani separately from the puri, which the judges consumed like they’d have a shot of tequila. I also complained to my friends about Poh’s penchant for drama and all the time she’d spend staring at the oven for her cake to bake. I cribbed about Reynold's predicament with his ganache not setting and spoke endlessly about that one episode where the contestants had to make desserts with meat in it.
I sobbed like a baby when these chefs made dishes inspired from their childhood. So many of them spoke about being immigrants in Australia and how they actively try their level best to incorporate their culture in the food they cook. My heart broke when Reece was eliminated and I know I’ll throw a fit if Laura wins.
MasterChef Australia has brought back some semblance to my life. I find myself waiting desperately for a new episode to drop and take comfort in the fact that I’m making jokes about a hibachi and Chichi (Govinda’s nickname). The finale is all set to air soon, and while I’m excited to know who will win this season, I am also sad that a show I’ve loved so much will end soon. But at least now, I’m curious to try out new shows, discuss random things with my friends and show mom that I can cook to save my life. MasterChef Australia has healed me more than I can give it credit for.
PS - I love Emilia, but I hope Reynold wins.
"You’re there with five other people, honoured for the work that you’ve done. What’s better than that?," says Glenn Close, who's earned eight Oscar nods in her career.
J Balvin, who was diagnosed with coronavirus in August 2020, shared his experience at the Global Citizen's Vax Live concert
South actor Pia Bajpiee's brother passes away hours after her social media post requesting for urgent ventilator bed in UP
Pia Bajpiee took to Twitter and posted an SOS call, writing that she urgently required a ventilator bed as her brother was "dying". She didn't specify if he had COVID-19.