Sunday, July 19, 2009

Julie wins Masterchef

The Australian version of Masterchef is over, with NSW mum Julie Goodwin winning the final against Adelaide artist Poh Ling Yeow. It is the climax of a remarkable series that has been the ratings hit of the year.

I have to say its not a series that I have followed religiously in the way that some have. Partly because I was over in Malaysia for a couple of weeks, partly because I tend to watch SBS news around that timeslot, and mainly because I have an aversion to reality TV and all that involves. Yet as it came down to the last few days of the competition, it somehow wormed its way into my consciousness to the point where it became essential viewing.

It helped for me that Poh was still in the competition, since I am a die-hard devotee of Chinese and Malaysian cuisine. And also because I find her to be, if you'll pardon the pun, a bit of a dish. I also liked that she had the guts to use ingredients like pandan essence and century eggs in her cooking, which totally befuddled some on the show and plenty of the viewing audience no doubt. The reaction to some of these things showed how "real" Asian food is still a mystery to the vast majority of Australians. Century eggs are actually commonplace in Chinese cuisine, yet two of the judges had no idea what they were. Personally I can't stand them, although I'm possibly willing to reevaluate them after watching Poh make dumplings out of them.

I'll say this for Julie, our winner: clearly lacking the polish in the kitchen as some of the other contestants, her victory was primarily about the taste of the food, as opposed to Poh's knack for attractive plating. Which is comforting to me actually, since top-end restaurants often spend so much time on the superficialities of their food that the all-important flavour is somehow forgotten.

Much has been made of the overwhelming niceness of the show as a key to its success. And you've got to give it credit for that - judges Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston were constantly full of empathy and encouragement. Perhaps the producers sensed that audiences had reached a tipping point with the nastiness of most reality shows that are designed to bring out the bitch in their participants. And instead of giving fame to the usual suspects of dubious talent, Masterchef rewarded expertise, hard work and dedication. It's important to remember though that the winner is not necessarily the best chef; merely the one who manages to scrape through the series of challenges best, with the luck not to slip up at the wrong time.

One final thought. Matt Preston seems like a lovely guy, and I do religiously read his restaurant reviews in Tuesday's Epicure section in The Age newspaper. But after watching this bejowled character lick his lips as he ingests the tasty morsels served up to him, I think I'm going to have nightmares of him trying to eat my liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti. There's just something kinda scary about him.


  1. i share your aversion towards century eggs. nasty, toxic chemical-y things. and i'm chinese. :D

  2. Yeah. Eggs should not be black and grey. Too funky for me.

    At the same time, I kinda feel like i SHOULD be giving them a go, since I'm fairly adventurous with me eating (despite not eating meat, I still eat pretty much anything else). And since so many of my Chinese friends love them, I wonder if I should try and acquire that taste.