I am a big fan of the BBC’s cooking programmes. I’ve watched the past few series of The Great British Bake-Off and earlier this year I watched every single one of the 45 or so episodes of the latest series of The Great British Menu. I’ve even interviewed one of the Great British Menu Judges: I’m that big a fan. (Read my interview with Prue Leith here.)
Bearing this in mind I decided to give the current series of MasterChef: The Professionals a try. So far I’ve watched every single episode and have found it getting more interesting as it has progressed. I found the format initially too fragmented with 10 new chefs each week not allowing you to get to grips with the personalities of each chef. This is something which GBO and GBM do much better. This means that the MasterChef judges get a bit too much attention early on and although Michele Roux is pretty good value, cheeky-chappy Greg Wallace and the unfeasibly miserable Monica Galetti do get a bit trying.
As the series has progressed and the chefs get narrowed down, then, the series has become far more interesting. This week’s semi-final episodes have been by far the best by virtue of the fact that the semi-finalists had to cook in kitchens belonging to elite chefs. Cue incredible amounts of fretting by the three elite chefs anxiously hoping that their dishes aren’t screwed up. The three elite, Michelin starred chefs in question were Marcus Wareing, Daniel Clifford and Tom Kerridge, all of whom I was already familiar with from The Great British Menu . It was really interesting to see the contrast between the aspiring MasterChefs and the three who are already at the top of their profession.
However, I couldn’t help wondering whether, if I were a contestant, I might be put off attempting a shot at the culinary big-time due to having worked with the big dogs. Wareing, Clifford and Kerridge all shared a frightening intensity and drive to sacrifice absolutely everything for their profession. In a particularly intense and inadvertently hilarious moment Marcus Wareing looked down the camera and said he’d ‘Sacrificed my friends. Sacrificed my family and sacrificed my youth’ for his precious stars.
I suppose what ultimately separates a Michelin starred chef from a normal chef is this determination. Programmes like MasterChef the Professionals and The Great British Menu are compelling because they offer us a window into this dedication.