It's an urban Nukkad resurgence with all seats warmed for primetime 9 p.m.

In my book, it is the Coconut Cherry Bombe Alaska that tipped the scales in MasterChef Australia's favour this season. Seeing that television is chock-a-block with cookery shows across regional, national and international channels, you have to separate the chaff from the grain. And MasterChef Australia seems to be that Ghanaian cocoa bean that would make a Bournville.

So how can Kylie Kwong's stir-fried noodles, the sultry Nigella Lawson's chocolate peanut butter cheesecake, slick Padma Lakshmi of Top Chef, or that intrepid traveller with an annoying monotone called Anthony Bourdain compete against a generous slice of the bombe Alaska with its cherry underbelly layered with sponge cake coated with coconut ice-cream and topped with a meringue, and blow-torched? Phew!

It's easy to see that this reality cooking show is hitting the TRP ratings big time. It's an urban Nukkad resurgence with all seats warmed for the primetime slot of 9-10 p.m. on Star World. Miss that? No worries, you have a re-run at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. the next day. Already into its third season, avid watchers now know how to bake bread, what goes into a consommé, how to flog an octopus without batting an eyelid and how contestant Hayden looks in swimming trunks!

Our vocabulary has expanded so that we sound like veteran gourmets when we splatter our conversation with ‘reduction, cloche and en pappillote'. We take extra care while poaching an egg, look with disdain at a steak that is not well done and serve up generous helpings to guests, just like exuberant judge George Calombaris. More, we all bet on the moment George will bounce on his heels and say “Boom boom, shake the room” or when judge Matt Peterson will wear his pink pants and cravat next. Incidentally, Matt is on his way to India and in a recent interview said the best Indian dish he likes is Vidya Balan. Gary Mehigan, as dapper as ever, makes the third bastion as judge.

What is healthy about the show, and not just the food, is the excitement built up with pressure tests that end with a contestant being eliminated. There's neither a bitchy word uttered between contestants nor are the judges cutting, snappy or Gordon Ramsay-like severe.

Those who return their aprons on being eliminated, leave with a hug, a warm word of encouragement and a spring in their step.

In this universally appealing backdrop, we shudder at the travesty of what was MasterChef India.


Couch Potato March 9, 2011